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Earnings and Incomes of Canadians Over the Past Quarter Century, 2006 Census: Incomes of families

Family types

Couples with children on top rung of income ladder

Couples with children, once the dominant type of economic family, no longer comprise the majority of families.

In 1981, couples with children accounted for 56.3% of all economic families with two or more persons; by 2006, this proportion had declined to 46.2%.

In contrast, couples with no children accounted for 30.3% of the total in 1981; by 2006, their proportion had increased to 37.0%.

During the past 25 years, the number of couples without children surged 67.9%, nearly six times as fast as the increase of only 12.7% among those with children.

Although their share has declined, couples with children have a large economic clout because their median income is much higher than any other type of economic family. In 2005, their median income amounted to $82,943, up 21.6% from 1980, mostly due to the increase in the number of dual-earner families. The median income for couples without children at home was $59,834, up 14.6% from 1980.

It is also possible to examine both of these types of families in terms of age structure.

Of the 3,252,990 couples without children at home in 2006, an estimated 808,310 or 24.8%, were senior couples, that is, both partners were aged 65 and over. The number of senior couples without children nearly doubled over the past 25 years. The median income of these senior couples was $45,674 in 2005, up 55.8% from 1980.

The census estimated at 2,444,680 the number of couples without children in which the partners were aged 15 to 64. The numbers of these younger and middle-aged couples (non-senior couples) increased 56.9% between 1981 and 2006. However, their median income increased a modest 13.0%, over the last quarter century, amounting to $65,789, in 2005.

Still, the median income for couples aged 15 to 64 with children was higher, running counter to the popular image of 'double income, no kids.' In 2005, their median income amounted to $83,306, up 21.9% from 1980.

The income gap between younger and middle-aged couples with and without children almost doubled during the past 25 years, from 17.4% in 1980 to 26.6% in 2005.

Table 15
Median total income, in 2005 constant dollars, of couples in economic families, Canada, 1980 to 2005

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