Population Change Across Canadian Communities, 1981 to 2006
The Role of Sector Restructuring, Agglomeration, Diversification and Human Capital

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By Alessandro Alasia, Statistics Canada


  • Primary sector restructuring and the strength of metropolitan agglomerations are two major drivers of changing population settlement patterns across Canada.
  • Communities highly reliant on traditional sectors at the beginning of the 1980s (typically rural) experienced significant population downsizing. In contrast, communities with a higher share of employment in dynamic sectors (typically urban) experienced higher population growth.
  • Sector restructuring has been paralleled by a steady process of agglomeration around urban centres. Although urban decongestion has occurred within high density regions, both proximity and population size of the nearest urban core are positively associated with population growth of their surrounding communities.
  • Communities that were more diversified and had a higher educational attainment at the beginning of the 1980s experienced higher population growth over the following two decades.
  • Community population change is determined both by community as well as regional characteristics; the latter in some cases reinforces community effects.
  • Macro-regional differences are also evident: a pattern of change driven by restructuring and agglomeration describes the population dynamics of western Canada particularly well.