Insights on Canadian Society
Diversity of young adults living with their parents
by Anne Milan
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This study examines the extent to which young adults aged 20 to 29 live with their parents across various ethnocultural and socioeconomic characteristics. The results are based on data from the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS) as well as data from previous censuses.
- Of the 4.3 million young adults aged 20 to 29 in 2011, 42% (or 1.8 million) lived with their parents. This compared with 27% in 1981.
- Among those who were aged 20 to 24, the proportion living with their parents rose from 42% in 1981 to 59% in 2011. Among those aged 25 to 29, the proportion rose from 11% to 25%.
- Over one-half (52%) of young adults who belonged to a visible minority group lived with their parents, compared with 40% among those who did not belong to a visible minority group. The proportions of young adult living with their parents also varied across mother tongue, religious afflilation, and immigration status.
- In 2011, 43% of all young adults living with their parents in Canada were in Toronto, Montréal or Vancouver (with close to one-quarter living in Toronto only). In comparison, one-third (33%) of young adults who did not live with their parents were in these three CMAs.
- In 2011, close to one-quarter (24%) of young adults who lived with their parents were working full-year and full-time. At the same time, 90% reported having no responsibility for household payments.
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Individuals in their twenties may be engaged in a variety of activities including the pursuit of postsecondary education, finding employment or establishing a career, forming a couple relationship and/or having children. While such a myriad of life changes can provide many opportunities for young adults to grow and develop, there can also be many challenges during these years. Factors such as the high cost of education, economic uncertainty or difficulty finding adequate work, relationship dissolution or conflict, as well as indecision regarding their future all can influence the living arrangements of individuals in their twenties.
One response to their circumstances may be for young adults to live with their parents, either returning after an earlier departure or never leaving. For some young adults—and perhaps their parents as well—co-residence may be seen as a temporary solution until an economic or personal situation improves, while for others it may be a longer-term strategy. While parents and adult children sharing a home is generally perceived to be more beneficial for the younger generation, exchanges of support—financial, emotional or otherwise—could occur in both directions.
In the decades since 1981, there has been an overall upward trend in the proportion of young adults aged 20 to 29 living in the same home as their parents. At the same time, there has been an increase in the ethnocultural diversity of the overall population, which, in turn, can influence living-arrangement patterns. This study examines the extent to which parental co-residence is associated with the particular ethnocultural, socioeconomic and geographic characteristics of young adults.
Data for the population aged 20 to 29 in private households are primarily drawn from the 2011 National Household Survey or NHS (see Data sources, methods and definitions). The characteristics include immigrant status, age at immigration, visible minority status, mother tongue and religion. The geographies studied include residence in a rural area, population centre, and province or territory, as well as differences among young adults who live in the four most populous census metropolitan areas (CMAs): Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver and Calgary.Note 1 The socioeconomic characteristics explored for young adults include highest education level, school attendance, labour force participation and contribution to household finances.
About 4 in 10 young adults live with their parents
Although interest in young adults living with their parents has existed for much of the past century, it is often perceived as a relatively new phenomenon.Note 2 It has been noted, however, that young adults today take longer than previous generations to achieve their independence, as evidenced by their older ages when leaving school, leaving home, entering the labour market, forming a union and childbearing.Note 3
These transitions are often linked. For example, previous research has shown the association between educational attainment and union formation as well as parenthood.Note 4
Supporting the idea of a delayed transition to adulthood, the proportion of young adults aged 20 to 29 living with their parents increased in each census year between 1981 and 2006 from 27% to 43% (Chart 1);Note 5 it remained relatively stable in 2011 (42%).Note 6
Data table for Chart 1
|Census year||Age group|
|20 to 29||20 to 24||25 to 29|
|Source: Statistics Canada, censuses of population, 1981 to 2011.|
In total, more than 1.8 million of the 4.3 million young adults aged 20 to 29 in 2011 lived with their parents, accounting for the most common living arrangement for this age group (42%).Note 7 The remaining young adults did not share a home with their parents—some lived as part of a couple (30% of all young adults aged 20 to 29), with non-relatives only, including with a roommate (12%), alone (9%), as a lone parent (2%) or in other living arrangements (4%).Note 8
The living arrangements of young adults differ for those in their early twenties compared with those in their late twenties, as well as for men compared with women. The majority of both men and women aged 20 to 24 co-resided with their parents in 2011 (59%), up from 42% in 1981. Among those aged 25 to 29, however, the proportions also rose, from 11% in 1981 to 25% in 2011.
The proportion was higher for men than women throughout their twenties (Chart 2). Among those who were aged 20 to 24 in 2011, 64% of young men lived with their parents, as did 55% of young women. In their late twenties, the shares were smaller, at 29% for men and 20% for women.
Data table for Chart 2
|Age group||Living with parentsNote 1||Not living with parents|
|In a couple||Lone parent||With non-relatives only||Living alone||OtherNote 2|
|Men||20 to 24||63.8||10.4||0.1||13.4||6.7||5.6|
|25 to 29||29.4||38.2||0.5||13.7||13.6||4.6|
|Women||20 to 24||55.5||20.1||2.6||11.7||5.7||4.4|
|25 to 29||20.3||51.4||5.5||9.5||10.2||3.2|
Lower proportions for women may reflect their tendency to form a union at a younger age than menNote 9 and, therefore, leave home at an earlier age to enter a relationship and establish their own household.In fact, 1 in 10 (10%) men and 2 in 10 (20%) women were living independently in a couple in their early twenties, and by their late twenties, this had increased to nearly 4 in 10 (38%) men and more than 5 in 10 (51%) women.
Given that ethnocultural characteristics can influence other co-residential living arrangements between generations (for example, the propensity of grandparents to live with their grandchildren),Note 10 it is also important to analyze the association between ethnocultural characteristics of young adults and parental co-residence.Note 11 The remainder of this study examines the prevalence of young adults living with their parents according to their ethnocultural and geographic and socioeconomic characteristics.Note 12 Readers should note that multivariate analysis, specifically, logistic regression, was also conducted in order to determine the impact of particular variables on the likelihood of living with parents, when controlling for other variables. The results supported the descriptive findings, therefore only the descriptive results are discussed below.Note 13
Parental co-residence more prevalent among immigrants who arrived as children
Immigration characteristics are related to the prevalence of young adults living with their parents (Table 1). Although the proportion of immigrantNote 14 young adults in their twenties living with their parents (50%) was higher than the proportion of those who were non-immigrants (42%), there is considerable variation within the immigrant population of young adults, as some might have arrived in Canada as children, teens or younger adults. Since the NHS does not collect information on duration of living with parents, it is not possible to determine when the co-residence of young adults and their parents began, that is, whether their living arrangement existed prior to their entry into Canada or commenced after their arrival. However, age at immigration can indicate whether foreign-born individuals arrived in Canada while they were still children. Consequently, individuals who spent most of their childhood and adolescence in Canada may be more likely to live with their parents in proportions similar to those of the Canadian-born population in their twenties. Findings from a previous study found that individuals who immigrated as adults were less likely to live with their parents than those who arrived as children.Note 15
|Characteristics||Percentage living with their parents||Distribution|
|living with their parents||not living with their parents|
|Sex||Note ...: not applicable||100.0||100.0|
|Age group||Note ...: not applicable||100.0||100.0|
|20 to 24||59.7||70.8||35.0|
|25 to 29||24.8||29.2||65.0|
|Province/territory||Note ...: not applicable||100.0||100.0|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||44.7||1.4||1.3|
|Prince Edward Island||43.0||0.4||0.4|
|Population centre indicator||Note ...: not applicable||100.0||100.0|
|Small population centre||35.3||9.2||12.4|
|Medium population centre||33.0||6.8||10.2|
|Large urban population centre||43.0||67.5||65.6|
|Selected census metropolitan areas||Note ...: not applicable||100.0||100.0|
|Elsewhere in Canada||38.4||53.1||62.6|
|Immigrant status||Note ...: not applicable||100.0||100.0|
|Period of immigration|
|2006 to 2011||27.9||3.4||6.4|
|Age at immigration|
|15 and over||34.0||6.6||9.4|
|Visible minority status||Note ...: not applicable||100.0||100.0|
|Visible minority, n.i.e.Note 1||57.5||0.5||0.3|
|Multiple visible minorities||55.8||0.8||0.5|
|Not a visible minority||39.6||72.7||81.1|
|Mother tongue||Note ...: not applicable||100.0||100.0|
|Official language only||40.8||76.8||81.9|
|English and French||41.7||0.2||0.2|
|Non-official language only||47.8||21.2||17.0|
|Official and non-official language||55.8||2.0||1.1|
|Religion||Note ...: not applicable||100.0||100.0|
|Attended schoolNote 3||Note ...: not applicable||100.0||100.0|
|Highest education level||Note ...: not applicable||100.0||100.0|
|Less than a high school diploma||38.1||9.6||11.4|
|High school diploma||50.9||39.0||27.6|
|Some postsecondary education||39.7||31.4||35.0|
|Labour force status||Note ...: not applicable||100.0||100.0|
|In the labour force||40.9||78.5||83.0|
|Not in the labour force||48.2||21.5||17.0|
|Responsibility for household paymentsNote 4||Note ...: not applicable||100.0||100.0|
... not applicable
In fact, close to two-thirds (65%) of young adults in their twenties who came to Canada under the age of 15 lived with their parents (Chart 3). This share was smaller for those who arrived in the country at the age 15 or over. Young adults who arrived in Canada during their twenties, particularly in their late twenties (6%), were proportionally far less likely to live with their parents, suggesting that these individuals immigrated as independent adults rather than with their parents.
Data table for Chart 3
|Age at immigration||Under 15||69.5||60.2|
|15 to 19||62.1||50.3|
|20 to 24||35.7||20.1|
|25 to 29||9.0||4.0|
Note: Non-permanent residents not shown.
Source: Statistics Canada, National Household Survey, 2011.
The prevalence of living with parents also depended on the immigrant’s country of birth. Immigrants in their twenties who were born in Hong KongNote 16 (73%), South Korea (69%) and Taiwan (68%) had the highest proportions of parental co-residence. In contrast, young adults born in some countries had smaller shares living with their parents (for example, France, at 20%; and Mexico and Morocco, at 23% each).
While there was little difference between the proportions of young men and women living with their parents for certain countries of birth, such as France (23% of men and 17% of women), for other countries the sex differential was larger. For example, among young adults born in Algeria, 45% lived with their parents (65% of men and 32% of women). Similarly, while 57% of young adults who were born in Pakistan lived with their parents, the share was 71% for young men and 45% for young women. As has been noted, there could be cultural expectations related to parental co-residence that influence particular groups of young men and women in different ways.
Living with parents more common for some Asian youth
Visible minority status is one of the ethnocultural characteristics associated with the prevalence of young adults living with their parents.Note 17 In total, young adults aged 20 to 29 were more likely to live with their parents in 2011 if they belonged to a visible minority group (52%) than if they did not (40%).
There were differences within visible minority groups. Specifically, more than one-half of West AsianNote 18 (57%), Filipino (55%), Korean (55%), South AsianNote 19 (54%), Chinese (53%) and Southeast AsianNote 20 (52%) young adults in their twenties lived with their parents. In comparison, Latin American (42%) and Japanese (40%) young adults lived with their parents in proportions closer to the national average. These differences reflect the results by country of birth discussed above.
The sex differential for most visible minority young adults living with their parents was similar to that found in the total population, with the proportion of co-residing young men about nine percentage points higher than that of young women (47% and 38%, respectively). Some groups, however, had a larger sex differential in their share of young men and young women co-residing with their parents (for example, among Japanese young adults, the proportion was 50% for men and 31% for women; and among Filipino young adults, the proportion was 64% for men and 47% for women) (Chart 4). There could be cultural expectations or social norms influencing members of some visible minority groups, which may encourage men, to a greater degree than women, to co-reside with their parents until either an independent household can be established or, in some cases, to have a spouse or partner join them with their parents.Note 21
Data table for Chart 4
|Visible minority status||Women||Men|
|Not a visible minority||35.1||44.1|
|Total visible minority||46.4||56.7|
Note: Categories for visible minority, n.i.e. (not included elsewhere), and multiple visible minorities are not shown.
Source: Statistics Canada, National Household Survey, 2011.
Majority of young adults with Italian mother tongue live with their parents
Among the proportions of young adults living with their parents, there were differences according to their mother tongue. In 2011, 48% of young adults who did not have an official language—either English or French—as their mother tongue lived with their parents, compared with 41% of those whose mother tongue was either English, French or both.
Close to 6 in 10 (56%) young adults who reported an official language mother tongue as well as a non-official mother tongue lived with their parents.
More specifically, young adults with only a non-official mother tongue of either Greek or Italian—although they represent a small share of both young adults co-residing with their parents as well as young adults living elsewhere—lived with their parents in higher proportions. About 7 in 10 young adults aged 20 to 29 who had a Greek (72%) or Italian (68%) mother tongue lived with their parents. The proportion was also relatively high for young adults with a Persian (57%) or Urdu mother tongue (56%). In contrast, 28% of young adults with a German mother tongue lived with their parents.
The patterns held for both young men and young women, with higher proportions for young men for each particular mother tongue (Chart 5). There was a smaller sex differential for some young adults depending on mother tongue, for example, there was a three percentage point difference between Italian men and women in their twenties who co-resided with their parents (70% and 67%).
Data table for Chart 5
|English and French||36.7||47.1|
|Official and non-official language||49.9||62.3|
The sex differential was more pronounced among those with a Punjabi mother tongue. Overall, 46% of young adults with a Punjabi mother tongue lived with their parents—slightly above the national average—however, this ratio was higher for young men (57%) than young women (37%).Note 22 As indicated previously, there may be cultural reasons that influence young men from certain backgrounds to remain in the family of origin for a longer duration than young women.Note 23
Living with parents most common for Christian Orthodox young adults
Religious affiliation—another indicator of the importance of cultural attributes—was also associated with the prevalence of young adults living with their parents. Given that people who regularly attend religious services are more likely to have longer relationships, lower levels of stress and often have a different perspective on family values,Note 24 it is not unreasonable to expect that young adults who report a religion might have different living arrangements than those who do not.
In 2011, there was little overall difference in the proportion of young adults living with their parents between those who had a Christian affiliation (48%) or other religious affiliations (50%), although both groups were overrepresented among those co-residing with their parents compared with other young adults. That is, among young adults living with their parents, 64% reported they were Christian, as did 52% of those who lived elsewhere. About 12% of young adults living with their parents reported a non-Christian religion compared with 9% who had other living arrangements.
Within specific Christian religions, the proportion of young adults who lived with their parents was highest for those who were Christian Orthodox (62%). It was also relatively high for young adults who reported their religious affiliation as Presbyterian or United Church (59% each).
Among non-Christian religions, the share of young adults who co-resided with their parents was largest for Jewish young adults (56%) in 2011. An earlier study found that among the population aged 45 and over, those who were Jewish were least likely to be co-residential grandparents,Note 25 suggesting that there could be cultural norms attributing more importance to generational co-residence for the child–parent generation than for the grandchild–grandparent generation. Shares living with their parents were also above average for people in their twenties who declared an affiliation with the following religions: Buddhist (55%), Hindu (54%), Sikh (51%) and Muslim (49%).
In total, 30% of young adults who reported no religion lived with their parents, lower than for any reported religion. Young adults co-residing with their parents in 2011 were also proportionally less likely to report that they did not have a religious affiliation (24%) than those who had other living arrangements (40%).
Nearly 6 in 10 young adults in Toronto live with their parents
Across Canada, there were larger shares of young adults living with their parents in the Atlantic provinces and southern Ontario, and lower proportions in the Prairie provinces, southeastern Quebec and the territories (see map).Note 26 Among the provinces and territories, the highest proportion of young adults living with their parents in 2011 was in Ontario (51%), and it was lowest in Saskatchewan (30%) and Alberta (31%).
There tended to be higher proportions of young adults living with their parents in parts of the country with a relatively high cost of living, and where the shares of immigrants were high, among other possible reasons, such as attending post-secondary education. The overall share of young adults living with their parents was larger in rural areas (50%) than in large urban population areas (43%), although even these regions are characterized by variation.Note 27
Most of the census metropolitan areas (CMAs)Note 28 with shares of young adults living with their parents higher than the national average (42%) were in Ontario, with the highest proportion in Toronto (57%).Note 29,Note 30 In fact, close to one-quarter (24%) of all young adults living with their parents in Canada were in Toronto in 2011, and 43% lived in the three largest CMAs of Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver. In comparison, one-third (33%) of adults in other living arrangements lived in the three largest CMAs (and 13% lived in Toronto). The shares of young adults living with their parents varied in the other populous CMAs, from 47% in Vancouver, 40% in Montréal and 34% in Calgary. Not all individuals living with their parents shared the same characteristics across CMAs. See A closer look at geographical differences in parental co-residence for additional details.
When larger shares of young adults live with their parents, this means that smaller shares are living in other arrangements, such as alone or independently in couples. For example, in Calgary, nearly comparable shares of young adults lived with their parents (34%) as lived independently in couples (31%). In contrast, while close to 6 in 10 (57%) young adults lived with their parents in Toronto, about 2 in 10 (19%) lived independently in couples.
Larger share of young adults attending school live with their parents
Having a higher education level may be increasingly important for securing a good job. There may be an expectation for parents to assist their co-residential adult children financially with the costs of a postsecondary education. Close to 6 in 10 (57%) young adults in their twenties who attended school from September 2010 to May 2011 lived with their parents, compared with 33% who did not attend school during this period.Note 31
The fact that young adults attending school are more likely to stay with their parents is also reflected in the results by highest level of education. Young adults whose highest level of education was a high school diploma or equivalent had the largest share living with their parents (51%), suggesting that many of these are younger and may be pursuing a postsecondary education. The smallest share was among those who had already completed a university education (36%) and was similar to those with either some postsecondary education (40%) or less than a high school diploma (38%).
An uncertain labour market and a need for higher education may result in more young adults staying at home or returning home until they find employment that covers the expenses associated with independent living. That being said, 39% of young adults who had a job lived with their parents in 2011. This proportion was even higher among the unemployed (54%), which suggests that parents continue to be a source of emotional, financial and other sources of support while young adults are looking for a suitable job.
In addition, 30% of young adults aged 20 to 29 who were working full-time, full-year were living with their parents in 2011, compared with 20% in 1981.Note 32 Changes in the proportion of young adults who were employed full-time, full-year by immigrant status can also be observed over time, which might reflect evolving trends related to living arrangements and ethnocultural diversity. In 1981, there was little difference between immigrants and non-immigrants in the proportion of full-year and full-time workers living with their parents. In 2011, however, the proportion of young adults who were employed full-time, full-year and lived with their parents had increased to 30%, and the gap between those who were immigrants (41%) and non-immigrants (29%) had widened, providing further support there could be reasons beyond financial benefits for co-residence.
The economic circumstances of young adults may further be reflected by the patterns of individuals with some financial responsibility for the household.Note 33 More than three-quarters (76%) of young adults with no responsibility for household payments lived with their parents—which was higher for those in their early twenties (85%) than for those in their late twenties (60%). Among young adults with some financial responsibility, 8% lived with their parents.
Another perspective on the characteristics of young adults living with their parents can be examined by looking at the educational and work activities of those living with their parents. For example, in 2011, 52% of young adults living with their parents attended school, compared with 29% of young adults in other living arrangements (Chart 6). This supports the idea that many young adults are opting to stay with their parents for the duration of their studies.
Data table for Chart 6
|Activity||Living with parents||Not living with parents|
|Attended schoolNote 1||52.1||28.7|
|No financial responsibilityNote 2||90.2||20.4|
|Worked full year, full timeNote 3||24.4||41.8|
At the same time, nearly one-quarter (24%) of young adults living with their parents in 2011 worked on a full-time, full-year basis in 2010 (compared with 42% among those who were not living with their parents), and about two-thirds (67%) were employed during the survey reference week.Note 34 Given that 90% of young adults living with their parents had no financial responsibility for household payments in 2011 (compared with 20% of other young adults), it stands to reason that there are economic advantages to parental co-residence for young adults.Note 35
The proportion of young adults aged 20 to 29 living with their parents has been on an overall upward trajectory for several decades. While co-residence of parents and adult children is often viewed as more advantageous to these young adults, financial, emotional or practical assistance could also flow between generations.
This study found the prevalence of young adults aged 20 to 29 living with their parents varied by ethnocultural, socioeconomic and geographic characteristics. More specifically, young adults were more likely to live with their parents if they belonged to a visible minority group, especially West Asian, Filipino, Korean or South Asian. Being a young adult living with their parents was more prevalent among those with a Christian Orthodox religion, and among immigrants who arrived before the age of 15. There were also higher proportions of young adults living with parents with a non-official mother tongue, particularly Greek and Italian. Such results raise the possibility that cultural norms and practices may be driving the results in some ethnocultural groups.
The large majority of young adults living with their parents had no financial responsibility, yet nearly one-quarter of them were working full-year and full-time. Young adults living with their parents were more likely to attend school than other young adults, and were less likely to be employed. The prevalence of young adults living with their parents also varied by region, with higher proportions in rural areas than elsewhere, although there were differences across the most populous CMAs.
Overall, in Canada today, the transition to adulthood may be seen as more fluid, and, in some cases (for example, leaving home), reversible. However, some parents may be better positioned than others to provide assistance to their adult children.
Furthermore, as the face of the Canadian population continues to change, this may influence other intergenerational, as well as multigenerational, living arrangements.
Anne Milan is chief of the Current Labour Market Analysis Section in the Labour Statistics Division at Statistics Canada.
This study uses data from the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS) for the population of young adults aged 20 to 29. A young adult living with his or her parents is defined as the son or daughter, aged 20 to 29, of the economic family reference person. This excludes a small proportion (less than 1%) of persons aged 20 to 29 living with parents who are not the economic family reference person. For more information on economic family status, see the 2011 National Household Survey Dictionary. The 2011 NHS counted 4.3 million young adults aged 20 to 29, of which 1.8 million lived in the same home as their parents.
Some differences by ethnocultural and socioeconomic characteristics that were found at the national level were even more pronounced for certain geographies.
In rural areas, small proportions (just over 2%) of both young adults living with their parents and young adults in other living arrangements belonged to a visible minority group. In contrast, in large urban population centres, 38% of young adults living with their parents belonged to a visible minority group, as did 27% of young adults not living with their parents.
There were differences even within the most populous CMAs. In Vancouver, for instance, 59% of young adults living with their parents belonged to a visible minority group compared with 40% of other young adults. In contrast, in Montréal, the proportion was lower overall and there was little difference between young adults living with their parents (26%) and other young adults (23%) in their shares belonging to a visible minority group (Chart 7).
Data table for Chart 7
|Canada and selected census metropolitan areas||Visible minority||Not a visible minority|
|Not with parents||18.9||81.1|
|Not with parents||22.5||77.5|
|Not with parents||48.3||51.7|
|Not with parents||40.1||59.9|
|Not with parents||22.6||77.4|
|Source: Statistics Canada, National Household Survey, 2011.|
Across each of the four most populous CMAs, smaller shares of young adults living with their parents reported no religion, and larger shares reported either Christian or non-Christian religions compared with young adults with other living arrangements. The highest proportion of young adults living with their parents who reported a Christian religion was in Montréal (75%), while it was lowest in Vancouver (37%). The highest proportion of young adults sharing a home with their parents with a non-Christian religion was in Toronto (24%), double the proportion for Canada overall (12%).
In Toronto, 69% of young adults who attended school lived with their parents, compared with 58% in Vancouver, 52% in Montréal and 52% in Calgary.
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