Canadian Fathers by the Numbers

What is a father?

One hundred years ago, almost anyone's definition of a father would have been a male parent living with his biological children or stepchildren. However, factors such as increasing rates of divorce and cohabitation, along with other recent trends such as parenting in same sex couples, have broadened the realities of Canadian fatherhood considerably. Today's fathers include:

  • Men who have children in common-law relationships
  • Gay fathers with or without partners or co-parents
  • Divorced or separated men who do not live with their children
  • Stepfathers or men who have become fathers by residing with a woman with children
  • Adoptive fathers, foster fathers, fathers in blended families and, of course, older men who no longer live with their grown children

How many of these different types of fathers do we have in Canada?

Strictly speaking, nobody really knows. The Canadian Census does not ask respondents to identify themselves as fathers, but rather whether or not they live with dependent children. If we define a father in census terms - a man aged 15 - 64 living with his own or his partner's dependent children under the age of 25 -- here's what the data from the 2001* Canadian Census tells us.

(Zenaida Ravanera, of the Population Studies Centre at the University of Western Ontario, is currently analyzing data about fathers from the 2006 Census. We will publish that information as soon as it becomes available.)

Basic Facts

Number of Canadian fathers (men aged 15 -64 living with dependent children - 3,805,370

Percentage of Canadian men 15 -64 who are fathers - 38 %

Percentage of Canadian men age 30 - 49 who are fathers 60%

Percentage of Canadian men age 15 - 19 who are fathers 0.5%

(all figures exclude fathers who do not live with their children)

Marital Status

Percentage of Canadian fathers who are:

  • married 81%
  • in common-law relationship 14%
  • lone* parents 5%

(*single parents living with their children)

Percentage of Canadian fathers age 20 - 29 who are:

  • married 56%
  • in common-law relationship 38%
  • lone parents 6%


Percentage of Canadian fathers who are immigrants 25%

Percentage of Canadian fathers who are Aboriginal 3%

Immigrant fathers

About one in four Canadian fathers (almost one million in total), are immigrants, born in countries other than Canada.

Percentage of immigrant men 30 - 39 who came to Canada 1991 - 1995 who are fathers 62%

Percentage of immigrant men 30 -39 who came to Canada 1996 - 2001 who are fathers 56%

Percentage of non-immigrant Canadian men aged 30 -39 who are fathers 54%

Compared to non-immigrants, immigrant fathers in Canada are:

  • more likely to be a university or college graduate
  • less likely to work full-time
  • less likely to own their home
  • more likely to live in a stable relationship

Aboriginal fathers

Almost 105, 581 Canadian fathers (three percent) identified themselves as Aboriginal in the Canadian census.

Compared to non-Aboriginals, Aboriginal fathers are:

  • more likely to be in the 20 -39 age group
  • less likely to work full-time or own a house
  • less likely to be a post-secondary graduate
  • less likely to be married
  • less likely to have a familiy income of $50,000 or more

New fathers

(fathers with at least one child under age two and no children over age five)

New fathers by age group

Percentage of new fathers:

  • age 15 - 19 1%
  • age 20 - 29 30%
  • age 30 - 39 59%
  • age 40 - 49 9%
  • age 50 - 64 1%

Most Canadian new fathers are in a relatively good economic position, which suggests that many men delay parenthood until they are fairly well established in life.

  • 72% have at least some post-secondary education
  • 58 % are college or university graduates
  • 91% work full-time
  • 58 % have a family income of $50,000 or over

Young Fathers

All figures in this section pertain only to "resident teen fathers" - (men aged 15 - 19 who rive in the same household as their children)

Percentage of Canadian males aged 15 - 19 who live with dependent children: 0.5%
Percentage of Canadian males aged 15 - 19 who do not live with dependent children: 99.5%

Percentage of resident teenaged fathers who are

  • Married - 13%
  • Common-law- 29%
  • Lone Fathers 58%
Compared to non-fathers in the same age group, resident teenaged fathers are less likely to:
  • Attend school full-time
  • Live in a home that is owned rather than rented
Lone Fathers (*Men who live in a household with children but who do not live with a married or common law partner.)

Marital Status of Canadian lone fathers

  • Never Married - 26%
  • Separated/Divorced 63%
  • Widowed 7.5%
Compared to married and common-law fathers, lone fathers are less likely to:
  • have young children
  • have a family income of $50,000 or higher (41% vs. 75%)
  • own a home
  • have a post secondary degree or diploma
  • be an immigrant to Canada
What the Canadian Census cannot tell us.
  • How many divorced Canadian men are fathers.
  • How many Canadian fathers do not live with their children.
  • How many Canadian fathers live with their children part-time.
  • How many Canadian fathers are gay.
  • How many Canadian fathers are living in second or subsequent marriages.

Prepared by John Hoffman

Source: Profiles of Fathers In Canada, by Zenaida Ravanera, Research Associate with the Population Studies Centre, University of Western Ontario.

Read Profiles of Fathers In Canada.