Study: Living apart together
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About 1.9 million Canadians, or just over 7% of the population aged 20 and over, said that they were in a couple relationship with someone in 2011, but lived at separate addresses. This proportion was down slightly from 8% in 2001.
These relationships, often referred to as "non-cohabiting" couples, or "living apart together" (LAT) couples, are increasingly tracked by statistical agencies around the world to get a better sense of the living arrangements of couples.
LAT couples were mostly concentrated among young adults as 31% of individuals aged 20 to 24 and 17% of those aged 25 to 29 were in a LAT relationship.
On the other hand, just over 2% of older Canadians aged 60 and over were in a LAT couple. However, the proportion of older individuals in this situation was up slightly from 2001.
About 14.3 million people aged 20 and over, or 55% of the population, were married and living under the same roof. Another 3.2 million were in a common-law relationship, and 6.4 million reported that they did not have a partner.
Reasons for LAT relationships
About 42% of adults aged 20 and over reported they were in a LAT couple because they were constrained by "circumstances." Others (39%) suggested they were in it by "choice."
A quarter of those in a LAT couple who were constrained by circumstances reported financial circumstances as the major factor, while another quarter mentioned studies-related circumstances.
The proportion citing work-related circumstances was 15%, but rose to 32% among those aged 40 to 49.
Adults for whom the relationship was a matter of choice were asked to specify the main reason they had opted for it. Nearly half (48%) said they were "not yet ready for living together," while 28% cited the desire to "keep independence."
Older individuals, however, were more likely to be in a LAT couple by choice. Of all individuals aged 60 and over who were in a LAT couple, 37% said they had chosen this type of relationship to maintain independence.
Relationships mostly transitional, but not in all cases
Individuals in a LAT couple were also queried about their intentions to move in with their partner in the foreseeable future.
More than 80% of young adults in a LAT couple aged 20 to 29 said they wanted to live together at some point. This shows that LAT relationships are generally transitional at this age.
However, less than 30% of people aged 60 and over in a LAT couple intended to move in with their partner, indicating that older individuals are more predisposed to remain in this kind of relationship over the long-term.
In fact, 42% of older Canadians in a LAT couple reported that they did not intend to move in with their partner and that they were in it by choice.
Most LAT relationships are relatively recent
Among adults, two in three reported they had been in a LAT couple for less than three years.
However, 9 in 10 people in a LAT couple were seriously involved enough that most or all of their closest family and friends knew about it.
Living apart did not always mean long distances. In 2011, 20% of people in a LAT couple lived at least a one-hour drive from their partner, 34% lived between a 30- and 60-minute drive away, and 45% of LAT couples lived in the same neighbourhood.
People aged 60 and over had a greater tendency to live in the same neighbourhood as their LAT partner.
Note to readers
The profile of this group was prepared using data derived from the 2011 and 2001 General Social Survey on the family, which included a series of detailed questions on marital issues like current marital status and marital history.
The article "Living apart together" is now available online in the March 2013 edition of Insights on Canadian Society (Catalogue number75-006-X), from the Browse by key resource module of our website under Publications.
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