Once upon a time, Canadians were a bit squeamish about cohabitation before marriage, but according to recently released 2011 census data these traditional values are fading into oblivion…and fast. Thanks to the granularity of census data, allowing us to visualize common-law relationships at the local scale, we were able to map some striking patterns across the country.
Surprisingly, there isn’t much of an urban-rural skew in this dataset, but there are considerable differences in coupling patterns between the provinces and territories. About 12-17% of residents in most areas of British Columbia are in common-law relationships with that number increasing in pockets around the coast and spiking at 24% in Haida Gwaii. The number of common-law relationships is similarly high throughout the Yukon Territory and only dips below 20% in and around Whitehorse.
The Prairies appear to be a little more serious about marriage than their more westerly neighbours – or perhaps they’re a little more single? As you move east into Alberta you’ll encounter a large patch of a regions with a minimal percentage of residents (≤7%) living in common-law relationships and this trend continues right through to the western tip of Ontario (a province where the percentage is about 10% on average). There isn’t too much variation to this trend but, generally, as one moves further north in the country, one encounters more partnerships happening outside the bonds of marriage.
Once we hit Québec, however, a radical difference in cohabitation arrangements is seen – common-law status has been wildly popular since the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s, which saw the rapid secularization of society. Despite the fact that the provincial government has never recognized common-law partnerships as a form of marriage, a recent Supreme Court ruling jeopardizes the entitlement of a good portion of the province to certain benefits after a relationship ends.
This map has a lot more subtle variations than past instalments of our map of the week, so zoom in and take a look at how relationships vary across the country.