2016 Census Release Sheds New Light on Family Finances in Canada

Today’s Census release from Statistics Canada on income shows that just like families themselves, family finances are characterized by diversity and complexity. While conversations about family finances tend to focus primarily on income earned through paid labour, new Census data provides a fuller portrait that also covers income acquired through other sources such as investments, government transfers, benefits, social assistance and more. Two new Census in Brief releases provide analysis on children in low-income households and contribution rates for selected registered savings accounts.

This release, however, isn’t a complete portrait of family finances, which include many diverse and complex intergenerational exchanges not captured in the Census, such as grandparent investments in younger generations (e.g. RESP contributions, paying for summer camp), parents paying for adult children’s cellphone plans and more.

The Census data on income provides valuable insights into family finances in the context of broader trends that have been monitored and reported on by the Vanier Institute, including (but not limited to):


Canada is home to a growing number of working seniors…

  • 14% of seniors were in the paid labour market in 2016, more than double the rate in 2000 (6%).
  • Approximately 6 in 10 surveyed Canadians who expect to work past age 65 say they plan to do so because they need to, while 4 in 10 say it’s because they’ll want to.
  • The average retirement age in Canada in 2015 was 63.4 years, up from 60.9 years in 1998.
  • 14.5% of Canadian seniors reported living with low income in 2015, down substantially from 31% in 1976, but up from 12% in 2005.


Families play an essential role in supporting younger generations in school…

  • Half of graduating university students in Canada reported having student debt in 2015, with an average amount of $27,000.
  • 6 in 10 graduating university students in Canada said in 2015 that parents, family or spouses helped fund their education.
  • 4 in 10 parents in Canada surveyed in 2016 said that funding their children’s education is more important than contributing to their own retirement savings.


The Vanier Institute shares evidence-based, evidence-informed and evidence-inspired stories and research findings, working with organizations such as Statistics Canada to explore modern families through diverse resources, publications and public engagements. Read more about our relationship with Statistics Canada by reading their blog post Learning about Canada’s diverse families through Nora Spinks from the Vanier Institute of the Family.


Published on September 13, 2017

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