Marriage and Cohabitation: Demographic and Socioeconomic Differences in Quebec and Canada

Don Kerr, Melissa Moyser, Roderic Beaujot

Abstract


Cohabitation has become so prevalent in Canada that it is now the most common mode of entry into conjugality. Yet in drawing comparisons across Canadian provinces, cohabitation is far more prevalent in the province of Quebec than elsewhere. With this in mind, the purpose of the current paper is three fold. First, we set out to briefly situate the recent growth in the number of common-law unions in Canada and Quebec into a broader historical and international context. Secondly, we review available information from the 2001 Census and the 1998 General Social Survey on some of the key socioeconomic and demographic characteristics of persons who cohabit relative to those that marry. Thirdly, we consider how these changes are important to public policy, and of direct interest to legislators and the Canadian legal system. Major differences are documented in comparing Quebec with elsewhere in Canada in terms of the education, labor force participation, median income, income poverty and homeownership. The
differences documented between persons who marry relative to cohabiters are found to be much less in Quebec than elsewhere, in a context whereby
cohabitation has become far more widespread, an observation with direct
implications for public policy.

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