New census data released by Statistics Canada on Wednesday provided substantive evidence that not only are the number of families in Brandon growing, but that the nature of those families is changing, as they are across the country.
What will come as no surprise to Brandonites who have been witness to the city’s changing demographics over the last decade, the number of families living in this city has risen from 11,210 to 12,470, a jump of about 11 per cent between 2006 and 2011.
Perhaps more interesting, however, is the sheer variety of families that make up the Brandon numbers. Statistics Canada defines a census family as being composed of a married or common-law couple, including those with children, or of a lone parent living with at least one child in the same household.
Married couples — those with and without children — make up 67.1 per cent of families in Brandon. That’s a decrease from the last census taken in 2006 when 70 per cent of couples were married. It’s nearly a 50/50 split between couples with children, and couples without.
Common-law couples make up 15.1 per cent of the families, up from 2006. However, common-law couples are about 40 per cent more likely than married couples to be childless.
Single-parent families are on the rise. Nearly 18 per cent of Brandon families are headed by a single parent — up from 15 per cent five years ago. And most of those are moms.
In fact, it’s almost five times as likely that a Brandon single parent is a woman, instead of a man — a gap that has crept down only incrementally since 2006.
Other changes since 2006 are tougher to suss out.
Although Statistics Canada asked about same-sex couples, that data is only being released for larger metropolitan areas, not for cities the size of Brandon.
That’s because of an oversight in the way the census survey was designed. Apparently, same-sex roommates who were married — though not to each other — may have inadvertently been counted as a couple.
This is, apparently, enough of a problem in oilpatch boom towns (where plenty of single guys appear to have left their wives behind to seek their fortune and are staying with fellow exiles) that it has thrown the numbers way out of whack.
We’re disappointed to not have better same-sex relationship data for Brandon. Among the many changes here in the past five years has been a maturing of the local Pride community. It’s unfortunate that a procedural snafu has denied us the chance to see some of the data.
We would love to know, for example, if Brandon has been able to attract and retain more gay people, or if the city has just proven more welcoming to those who come out.
Despite that glitch, the census data continues to provide a wealth of valuable information to Brandon.
Previous tranches of data have helped us put numbers on anecdotes. A recent surge of immigration sure looks like it has made Brandon both younger and more ethnically diverse, but the census numbers help us know exactly how much.
We hope that city planners take a close look at the most-recent release.
It shows a continuing trend in Brandon toward more non-traditional families —including common-law and single-parent families — that will be important to consider when planning for the future here.
In the plan for developing the massive Black Farm property on the North Hill, Brandon will set the stage for a generation’s worth of city growth.
This census data, if we read it correctly, will help make sure that growth is managed appropriately, and well.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 20, 2012