Dual-income families with kids have doubled in Canada over past 40 years, StatsCan says

Between 1976 and 2015, the percentage of dual-income families with at least one child went from 36 per cent to 69 per cent, as more women entered the workforce, Statistics Canada says.

Alberta goes from having highest percentage of 2-income families in country to lowest

Dual-income families on the rise

8 years ago
Duration 4:29
The proportion of dual-income Canadian families with kids has nearly doubled in the last 40 years

The percentage of families in Canada with two parents working has almost doubled in the past 40 years, according to research released Monday by Statistics Canada.

Between 1976 and 2015, the percentage of dual-income families with at least one child went from 36 per cent to 69 per cent.

Over the same period, the proportion of families where just one parent earned a paycheque dropped from 59 per cent to 27 per cent.

Growth in the number of women in the workforce has been behind much of the change, Statistics Canada said.

"The increase has been driven mainly by changes in cultural attitudes, an increase in women's education levels and general labour market conditions," the federal agency said.

Flexible work arrangements and family support — such as child-care subsidies and paid parental leave — have also boosted the growth in two-income families.

Among the provinces, the change has been uneven, Statistics Canada said. In 1976, Alberta, had the highest proportion of dual-income families — 43 per cent. Since then, however,  the province has seen the smallest increase, leaving it with the lowest proportion of dual-earner couples (64 per cent) in the country.

The highest proportion of two-income families last year was seen in Saskatchewan with 74 per cent, and Quebec at 73 per cent.

Impacted by economy

Statistics Canada said the number of dual-earner families has gone up almost every year, but some years saw a decline, mostly as a result of economic stagnation.

From 1976 to 1989, the number of dual-earner couples increased by 60 per cent. This was followed by a period of slower growth from 1989 to 2005, when the number of families with two working parents increased by just 15 per cent. The period from 2005 to 2015 had the slowest growth, where the number of dual-earner families increased by only two per cent.

Periods of economic slowdown led to reductions in the number of dual-earner couples. From 1981 to 1982, when the unemployment rate increased from 7.6 per cent to 11 per cent, the number of dual-earner couples declined by four cent. 

Statistics Canada said similar trends were also seen from 1990 to 1992, and in 2008 and 2009.