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Study: Mixed unions in Canada, 2011

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Released: 2014-06-17

As Canada's population is becoming increasingly diverse, more people are forming a conjugal union with someone from a different ethnocultural background.

Data from the 2011 National Household Survey show that about 360,045 couples were in mixed unions, that is, relationships where one spouse or partner is a member of a visible minority while the other is not, or where the spouses or partners are from different visible minority groups.

The proportion of couples in mixed unions increased over a 20-year period, from 2.6% of all couples in 1991 to 3.1% in 2001 and 4.6% a decade later in 2011.

Most mixed unions involved partners who were born in different countries, with one spouse or partner born in Canada and the other born outside Canada (49.2%). About one in five (19.4%) were mixed unions where both were foreign-born, but from different countries.

Over half (52.8%) of mixed unions involved partners from the same broad religious group, that is, both partners reported Christian affiliation or both partners were Muslim for example. Just over one fifth (20.4%) of mixed unions involved both partners who reported no religious affiliation. Over one quarter (26.8%) of all mixed unions did not have the same religious affiliation, compared with 9.8% of all couples in Canada.

  Note to readers

This release is based on a short analytical paper "Mixed unions in Canada," now available in the publication National Household Survey in Brief Series (Catalogue number99-010-X2011003).

This study used data from the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS) to examine conjugal unions in which the couples were different in visible minority status. The National Household Survey User Guide and a series of reference guides provide information about the NHS.

A couple refers to two persons in a marital or common-law relationship who are living in the same dwelling. It includes both opposite-sex and same-sex couples.

The Employment Equity Act defines visible minorities as "persons, other than Aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour." The visible minority population consists mainly of the following groups: South Asian, Chinese, Black, Filipino, Latin American, Arab, Southeast Asian, West Asian, Korean and Japanese.

The article "Mixed unions in Canada," in the publication National Household Survey in Brief Series (Catalogue number99-010-X2011003), is now available from the Browse by key resource module of our website under Publications.

More analysis on the immigration and ethnocultural diversity topic are also available in the report Immigration and Ethnocultural Diversity in Canada (Catalogue number99-010-X2011001) and in the National Household Survey in Brief Series (Catalogue number99-010-X2011003): "Obtaining Canadian citizenship" and "Generation status: Canadian-born children of immigrants."

Contact information

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