Joanna Alphonso:

Cardus, a non-partisan and Christian research group, released a pair of statistical reports on Canadian families and fertility earlier this year.

The first report, titled “Canadian Children at Home,” examines the evolving family structure across the country. Peter Jon Mitchell found the number of children living in married-parent families has declined over the years with just 60 per cent of Canadian children under age 14 falling in this category in 2021, as more children are raised in single-parent or common-law families. In Quebec, the number of children living in married-parent families and common-law families were about the same, with the number of children living in the latter family model increasing. Common-law families are more prone to dissolution compared to married-parent families.

Mitchell said family structure is important because children raised in married-parent families have better outcomes according to any number of metrics (education levels, trouble in school or with the law, financial security later in life).

A silver lining in the report is that divorce rates are at a record-low in Canada, but this is understood alongside the concurrent decrease in marriage rates.

The second article report, by Lyman Stone, “She’s (Not) Having a Baby,” explores the reasons why Canadian women are not having as many children as they would like to. Canadian fertility rates have plummeted in recent decades and Stone attributes this to several factors.

Cardus commissioned the Angus Reid Group to survey 2700 Canadian women, representative of native-born Anglo- and Francophones, as well as naturalized Canadian women. They found that many women find it difficult to financially support children or a large family, and the lack of child support in their communities and maternity-leave from work adds to this financial burden. Previous polling found that Canadian women end up having fewer children than their ideal.

Stone’s study sheds light on some complicating factors that women may face during their reproductive years. Canadian women today may have more access to higher education and some form of financial independence compared to their foremothers, yet these women generally spend many of their reproductive years achieving this higher education, thus becoming more selective for a spouse than in the past (what sociologists call assertive mating).

Cardus also reports that marriage decline is correlated with lower parental education, whereas more-educated adults are more likely to get married, stay married, and have greater family stability. This seems incongruent with the increase in educated Canadian women and increased rejection of marriage; perhaps it is possible that the rejection of marriage and acceptance of common-law relationships may be attributed to the aftermath of higher divorce rates in past decades as such situations have generally produced wounded children.

There may be other factors influencing the diminished marriage and fertility rates in Canada. A 2018 study by Michael Rosenfeld and Katharina Roesler published in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that couples that cohabitated before marriage were less likely to divorce within the first year of marriage, but more likely to do so later on. Premarital cohabitation has become more common over the past 40 years, reducing the desire or necessity for the commitment that comes with marriage and consequently lowering divorce rates. Those who do marry are more committed to the institution.

Another potential factor is unbridled access to abortion and contraception in conjunction with near-absent marital commitment. With Canadians rejecting marriage or marrying older, most women avoid having children at a younger age. Nearly three in four abortions (73.9 per cent) in Canada are committed on women in their most fertile years. The U.S.-based pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute reports that between 2015 and 2019, 46 per cent of pregnancies were unintended, and 37 per cent of unintended pregnancies ending in abortion. The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada (JOGC) published a study which found that pregnancy rates and live births have decreased, while access to and use of contraceptives have increased – with 45 per cent of Canadian women using oral hormonal contraceptives (pill, patch, ring).

Rather than rabidly promoting abortion as a tool for female financial success, Canadian policymakers ought to listen to women when discussing finances, maternity leave, childcare and benefits, so that women can be more fulfilled. The harsh financial and corporate climate that women and families are forced into further strains an already-broken