2016 CENSUS HIGHLIGHTS: Factsheet 4

Families and Marital Status


  • A census family is defined as a married couple or a common-law couple, with or without children, or a lone-parent living with at least one child, living in the same dwelling. A couple can be of the opposite sex or of the same sex.
  • The 2016 Census enumerated 3,782,543 census families in Ontario, up 4.7% from 2011. Married-couple families constituted the largest group, but their share declined from 72.3% in 2011 to 71.0% in 2016.
  • There were 2,139,825 individuals not belonging to Census families in 2016, most of whom lived alone.

Common-law Couple Families Increasing Fastest

  • The Census counted 2,684,735 married-couple families, up 2.7% from 2011. In contrast, the number of common-law-couple families grew over five times faster, rising 14.7%, from 394,670 in 2011 to 452,835 in 2016.
  • The number of individuals not in a Census family grew rapidly between 2011 and 2016, rising 9.7%.
  • The proportion of common-law-couple families rose from 10.9% in 2011 to 12.0% in 2016, while the share of lone-parent families increased from 16.7% to 17.1%.
  • The number of lone-parent families increased by 6.7%, from 604,645 in 2011 to 644,975 in 2016. Lone-father families rose slightly faster (7.0%) than did lone-mother families (6.6%).
  • Four out of five lone-parent families were headed by women in 2016, a slight decline from 80.5% to 80.4%.
  • In 2016, there were 26,583 same-sex couples in Ontario, which represented 1.1% of all couples. Between 2011 and 2016, the number of same-sex couples increased by 13.7%.

Slow Growth in Married Couples with Children

  • The number of married couples with children in Ontario was the slowest-growing type of private household over 2011-16. By contrast, the number of common-law couples without children grew 16.7%.
  • The share of married couples without children rose from 33.0% to 33.3%, while the proportion of married couples with children declined from 46.0% to 44.3% over the 2011-16 period.

Marital Status

  • The share of Ontario’s population aged 15 and over who are married fell to 49.2% in 2016 from 50.3% in 2011.
  • However, the number of married people (legally married and not separated) aged 15 and over grew 3.1% between 2011 and 2016 (from 5.4 million to 5.5 million).
  • The 2016 Census enumerated almost 3.8 million Ontarians aged 15 and over who had never legally married, up from 3.5 million in 2011, an increase of 8.4%. They accounted for 33.7% of the population, up from 32.8% in 2011.
  • Those separated, divorced or widowed made up 17.1% of the population in 2016, up from 16.9% in 2011.

Divorced Population Grew the Fastest

  • Over the 2011 and 2016 period, the divorced population was the fastest-growing marital status, rising 9.6%.
  • The number of divorced Ontarians aged 15 and over increased from 792,460 in 2011 to 868,525 in 2016. They represented 7.7% of the population aged 15 and over in 2016, up from 7.4% in 2011.
  • The proportion of Ontario's elderly (65+) who are divorced is relatively low at 9.6% compared to younger age groups (e.g.,14.2% at ages 55-59).

Older Men Married; Older Women Widowed

  • Older men are more likely to have a married status and older women are more likely to be widowed.
  • In Ontario, 72.4% of men aged 65 and over were married compared to 47.3% of women in 2016. Even at ages 85 and older, a majority of men were married (58.5%), while only 16.6% of women were.
  • In contrast, 34.9% of women aged 65 and over were widowed compared to 10.9% of men in 2016.
  • The gender difference in marital status results from a combination of factors: (i) women live longer than men; (ii) women tend to marry men older than themselves, which, combined with the gender difference in life expectancy, increases the chance that a woman will find herself without a spouse in her older age; and (iii) older widowed men have higher remarriage rates than older widowed women.

September 5, 2017

Accessible Image Description:

2016 Census Family by Structure in Ontario

This pie chart shows that 71,0% of all Census families in 2016 were married couples, 12.0% were common-law, 13.7% were female lone-parent, and 3.3% were male lone-parent. Among individuals not in Census families, 62.7% were living alone, 14.7% were living with relatives, and 22.6% were living with non-relatives only.

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Census Family Growth Rate, Ontario, 2011–2016

This bar chart shows the growth rates by Census family type over 2011-2016. Total Census families grew 4.75%, total couples 4.3%, married couples 2.7%, common-law couples 14.7%, total lone parents 6.7%, female lone-parents 6.6%, male lone-parents 7.0%, and individuals not in Census families 9.7%.

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Distribution of Census Families, Ontario

This bar chart shows the distribution of Census families in Ontario in 2011 and 2016. Married without children increased from 33.0% of all families in 2011 to 33.3% in 2016, married with children from 46.0% to 44.3%, common-law without children from 7.1% to 8.0%, common-law with children from 4.8% to 5.1%, and lone-parent with children from 9.1% to 9.3%.

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Marital Status Distribution, Population 15+, Ontario

This pie chart shows the distribution of Ontario’s population aged 15+ by marital status in 2016. 49.2% were married, 33.7% were never married, 7.7% were divorced, 5.9% were widowed, and 3.4% were separated.

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Marital Status Growth Rate, Ontario, 2011–2016

This bar chart shows the growth rate by marital status in Ontario over 2011-2016. Never married increased by 8.4%, married by 3.1%, separated by 2.8%, divorced by 9.6%, and widowed by 4.0%.

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Marital Status Distribution, Population 65+, Ontario

This chart shows the marital status distribution of the population aged 65+ in Ontario in 2016. 5.2% of males were never married, 72.4% married, 3.0% separated, 8.6% divorced, and 10.9% widowed. 5.1% of females were never married, 47.3% married, 2.3% separated, 10.4% divorced, and 34.9% widowed.

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Contact: Alex Munger (416) 325-0102

Office of Economic Policy
Labour Economics Branch

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