A roundup of new insights and research on grandparents in Canada.
September 6, 2022
Grandparents have always been an integral part of Canada’s family landscape. Accounting for nearly half (47%) of the population aged 45 and older, grandparents in Canada1 often make unique, diverse, and valuable contributions to family life and wellbeing. They serve as role models, nurturers, historians, sources of experiential knowledge, and more.
September 11 is National Grandparents’ Day, a time to recognize and celebrate the significant contributions that grandparents (and great-grandparents) make to family life and family wellbeing across the country. As population aging continues and life expectancy continues to rise, they will continue to play a large – and quite possibly growing – role in family life.
Multigenerational households are the fastest-growing Census family household type
The 2021 Census release on Families, Households and Marital Status showed that multigenerational households (those housing three or more generations) have been the fastest growing census family household type in recent decades.2
More than 2.4 million people, or 6.4% of Canada’s total population, now live in multigenerational households, of which there were 442,000 in 2021. This represents a 50% increase since 2001 – much higher than the overall increase of 30% among all household types.3
The rates varied across regions, and has changed over time:
- In 2021, one-third (32.8%) of children aged 0 to 4 in Nunavut lived with at least one of their grandparents, more than three times higher than the national average (10.4%). This rate was also higher than average in British Columbia (14.1%), Ontario (13.2%), the Northwest Territories (11%), and Manitoba (10.6%).4
- Multigenerational households were most common in Nunavut (13.5% of all households), the Northwest Territories (4.1%), Ontario (4%), and British Columbia (3.7%).
- Since 2001, the number of multigenerational households has grown the fastest in Nunavut, Yukon, British Columbia, Ontario, and the Prairies. The only provinces in which the number decreased during this period were Newfoundland and Labrador (-30%) and Prince Edward Island (-14%).
Grandparents support younger generations in many multigenerational households
In an article published by the Institute for Research on Public Policy, researchers Katie Choi and Sagi Ramaj highlight findings from their recently published study exploring whether the increase in families living in multigenerational households reflects families reacting to Canada’s housing affordability crisis.
The findings from their study, which examined the association between grandparent co-residence and children’s odds of living in unaffordable housing using 2016 Census data, suggest that grandparents choose to share a roof with younger generations to assist with their housing and provide resources to their adult children and grandchildren.
They note, however, that this differed depending on family finances. Children whose mothers had a lower income, or whose grandparents had higher incomes, benefited more from living with grandparents. Some exceptions aside, they found that multigenerational living generally benefits younger families financially more than the co-residing grandparents (whose finances are sometimes negatively affected).
Read Multigenerational Living: A Strategy to Cope with Unaffordable Housing? (The Conversation)
Grandparents raising grandchildren highlighted in upcoming collaborative publication
An upcoming collaborative publication associated with the On the Move partnership will highlight the experiences of grandparents who are raising grandchildren.
Families, Mobility, and Work allows readers to experience and explore many of the challenges, opportunities, and effects of diverse forms of work-related geographical mobility through a family-centred lens. Bringing together findings from substantial research, rooted primarily in the Canadian context, this expansive collection explores intersections between family lives and diverse types of mobility across multiple populations of workers, regions, and sectors.
Several chapters share stories from grandparents who are raising grandchildren without parental presence/involvement. These skip-generation families, or grand-families, are home to a growing number of children in Canada and have unique experiences that warrant focused attention by policymakers.
- “‘Above Everything Else I Just Want to Be a Real Grandparent’: Examining the Experiences of Grandparents Supporting Families Impacted by Mobile Labour in Atlantic Canada” provides highlights from interviews and focus groups with grandparents supporting families dealing with extended mobility and the related absence of male partners.
- “A Hidden Chapter in Life We Did Not Expect or Foresee: Sharing the Stories of Grand-Families in Prince Edward Island” shares one grandfather’s personal experiences that led him and his wife to take responsibility for caring for their grandchildren.
Families, Mobility, and Work will be available by Memorial University Press in an open-access format via the Memorial University Press website on September 12, 2022.
Regardless of where they live and what their families look like, Canada’s 7.5 million grandparents make unique and important contributions to family and community life, and we wish all a happy National Grandparents’ Day!
- Statistics Canada. 2022. Family Matters: Grandparents in Canada. The Daily. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/190207/dq190207a-eng.htm
- Across all household types, however, those composed of roommates (two or more people living together, among which none is part of a census family) were the fastest growing household type (+54% since 2001).
- Statistics Canada. 2022. Home alone: More persons living solo than ever before, but roomies the fastest growing household type. The Daily. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/220713/dq220713a-eng.htm