B.C. now has the lowest fertility rate in Canada. Home prices are (partly) to blame – Vancouver Sun

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In 2020, the fertility rate in B.C. was down to 1.17 children per woman with the next lowest one in Nova Scotia at 1.24.

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British Columbia now has the lowest fertility rate in Canada, according to new data, but the reasons behind the trend arent so straightforward.

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Researchers say one of the contributing factors is lack of access to affordable housing. But other reasons include evolving values and changing demographics.

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Statistics Canada said in a recent report about population growth that its been observing falling fertility rates for about 13 years. In the early 1990s, B.C.s fertility rate sat more middle of the pack and was higher than that in Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Quebec, according to Statistics Canada numbers cited by Vancouver data scientist Jens von Bergmann.

Its through the early 2000s when the rate in B.C. starts to fall lower than in other provinces, and by 2015 it starts sitting in last place compared to other provinces and now is pulling comparatively even lower.

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In 2020, the fertility rate in B.C. was down to 1.17 children per woman with the next lowest one in Nova Scotia at 1.24.

While the national fertility rate fell about 16 per cent from 1.68 in 2009 to 1.4 in 2020, it fell more steeply in B.C. by about 22 per cent from 1.47 in 2009 to 1.17 in 2020.

Von Bergmann and others say untangling the factors is complex.

High (housing) prices and rents make it difficult for young people to form their own households, and their own families, which, all other things equal, tends to delay the time they have children. And comparing, for example, household formation rates across time we can see the divergence between Montreal and higher-priced markets of Vancouver and Toronto, he said.

However, the big caveat he and others add is that all other things are never equal.

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Housing costs do have an effect on having children. Generally speaking, people have less kids in more expensive metros. Our own research on very detailed Swedish data finds this to be the case, said Richard Florida, professor at University of Torontos School of Cities and Rotman School of Management.

He and two other researchers, Charlotta Mellander and Karen King, looked at how housing costs and self-employment affected fertility in a 2021 paper.

It looked at both the rate of childbirth and the delay in the age at which people have children. Using detailed panel data covering all Swedish individuals in their prime childbearing years for the 10-year period between 2007 and 2016, it found the likelihood of having a child is affected negatively by increased housing costs and positively by self-employment.

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But the connection is not so direct. In general, more expensive metros have more educated populations. Its a big factor on why they are so expensive in the first place. More educated people get married later, and this delays having kids. It also means there is less time to have kids.

The nuance is that housing costs are both a reflection and a cause of the sorting of people by education, said Florida.

And its that that really matters. But the result is the same: less kids.

Florida added other demographic shifts such as in immigration could also be at play. In the past, immigration may have contributed to keeping B.C.s fertility higher with some immigrants tending to get married younger and have more kids. But now they are more likely to go to other provinces because of the high cost of housing.

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Andy Yan, director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University, said the lack of higher-paying, quality jobs and a growing aging population are also factors behind a falling fertility rate in B.C.

jlee-young@postmedia.com

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B.C. now has the lowest fertility rate in Canada. Home prices are (partly) to blame - Vancouver Sun

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