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The Daily

Monday, July 31, 2006

Canada's crude birth rate (the number of live births for every 1,000 people in the population) edged downward to another record low in 2004 — despite a second straight increase in the number of live births.

The crude birth rate declined from 10.6 live births for every 1,000 population in 2003 to 10.5 in 2004. Rates appear to have stabilized, with crude rates hovering around 10.5 to 10.7 since the millennium.

The number of births in 2004 actually increased by 1,870 compared with 2003, but the increase in the number of births was not large enough to outpace the increase in the crude rate.

In total, 337,072 babies were born in 2004, up 0.6% from the previous year. This followed a 1.9% gain the year before.

The number of births increased in only 5 of 13 jurisdictions: Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and Yukon.

Alberta edged out British Columbia for third spot in the number of births, after Ontario and Quebec. A total of 40,779 babies were born in Alberta in 2004, up 1.2%. The number of births in British Columbia was virtually unchanged.

The last time Alberta topped British Columbia for the number of births occurred in the 1980s, and previous to that in the early 1960s. On both occasions, it was associated with resource booms in Alberta.

Newfoundland and Labrador had the largest relative decrease (-3.0%), similar to its annual average decline of 2.8% in the number of births throughout the 1990s.

National, international migration driving trends

Trends in migration from province-to-province, as well as inflows of international migrants, have a major impact on the number of births in various provinces.

Women who live in Newfoundland and Labrador gave birth to 4,488 babies in 2004, only about half the level of 8,929 in 1983. One reason behind this decline is out-migration, especially among men and women aged 20 to 29.

The out-migration from Newfoundland and Labrador was not offset by in-migration, both in terms of international immigrants and migration from other provinces.

Newfoundland and Labrador had the lowest proportion of births to residents who were born outside of Canada (less than 1 in every 100 births). It also had one of the lowest for births to residents who were born elsewhere in Canada (9 in every 100).

On the receiving end of migration trends, about 29 births in every 100 in Alberta were to women who were born elsewhere in Canada, while about 20 were to international immigrants. Only 51 in every 100 were to women born in Alberta.

In contrast, Ontario relied much more on international immigrants for births. A total of 56 births out of every 100 in Ontario were to women born in Ontario, while 36 out of every 100 were to international immigrants. Only 8 in 100 were to women born elsewhere in Canada.

Studies have shown that immigrants have higher fertility rates compared with Canadian-born women, but those rates decline to Canadian levels with the second-generation.

Moms keep getting older

The average age of women giving birth in Canada was 29.7 years in 2004, a slight increase from 29.6 in 2003. This continues a long-established upward trend.

The change in the age distribution of mothers is particularly striking compared with one generation earlier. In 2004, women aged 24 and under made up 20.6% of all mothers, half of the proportion of 40.7% in 1979.

The bulk of the births now occur to women aged 25 to 34, who accounted for 62.1% of all births in 2004 compared with 54.7% in 1979.

Births to older mothers, those aged 35 and older, were almost four times as frequent as a generation earlier. These mothers accounted for 17.2% of births in 2004, nearly four times the proportion of only 4.6% a quarter century earlier.

Migration may also be driving the trend to older motherhood. The average age of mothers who gave birth in the province or territory in which they themselves were born was 29.0 years in 2004, compared with 30.1 for Canadian migrants, and 31.1 for international immigrants. Women may delay marriage and childbirth while settling in a new area and re-establishing social networks.

Fertility rate unchanged

The total fertility rate is an estimate of the average number of children that women will have during the years they are aged 15 to 49, based on current age-specific birth rates.

The statistics show that the rate in 2004 was unchanged from the 2003 rate of 1.53 children per woman. The record-low fertility rate for Canada was set in 2000, at 1.49 children per woman.

At 1.53, the total fertility rate in Canada is very close to the 2003 average rate of other industrialized countries: 1.56 children per woman (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).

The Canadian rate is much lower, however, than the rate in the United States. In 2004, the total fertility rate in the United States edged up to 2.05, compared with 2.04 in 2003, as a result of increases in birth rates for women in their thirties.

Although older motherhood is increasing in both Canada and the United States, Canadian women in their thirties are more likely to be having their first child. Over a third (34.7%) of births to Canadian women in their thirties in 2004 were first births, compared with 27.1% of births to American women in their thirties.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3231.

The publication Births, 2004, Vol. 1 (84F0210XIE, free) which contains tables on live births, is now available from the Our Products and Services page on our website.

For general information or to order custom tabulations, contact Client Services (613-951-1746; To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Leslie Geran (613-951-5243;, or Brigitte Chavez (613-951-1593;, Health Statistics Division.

Tables. Table(s).