Social Policy Trends: Home Alone

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Ron Kneebone, The School of Public Policy, University of Calgary
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The number of people living alone in Canada more than doubled between 1981 and 2016, from 1.7 million to 4.0 million. By 2016, one-person households had become the most common household type.

In March 2019, Statistics Canada released a study reporting on the number and characteristics of people in Canada who live alone. In this month’s Social Policy Trends, we look at some of the findings of that report, findings that carry greater significance because of the need for social distancing required for safety during the COVID pandemic.

In 2016, single-person households comprised 28% of all Canadian households, the highest share ever reported, and had become the most common household type, surpassing couples with children at 26.5%. The data provided in the Statistics Canada report shows that the number of people who live as a single household varies by age. Using those data, the figure at right presents, for 1981 and for 2016, the percentage of persons of every age from 15 to 89 years who were living alone. For example, in 1981, 5.2% of 45-year-olds lived alone. By 2016, that percentage had nearly doubled.

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