Halifax is home to almost 40% of Nova Scotia’s residents and more than 15% of all Atlantic Canadians. Although many other regions of Nova Scotia, eastern Canada, and the north-eastern United States are declining in population, the Greater Halifax area has experienced dynamic growth in recent decades. Today, with a population of over 380,000, Greater Halifax has the largest population east of Québec City and north of Boston and it ranks thirteenth among all metropolitan areas in Canada.
Overall, Halifax has enjoyed the highest level of population growth when compared with our bench marking cities. Many analysts predict this population growth will continue in the coming years. A recent study by The Conference Board of Canada predicts the population of Halifax will reach 450,000 by the year 2020.
The young working population, aged 25 to 44 years, expanded notably between 1971 and 1995, from 22.6% to 32.5% of the total population. Their numbers will decline by the year 2021 and 25 to 44 year olds will represent less than 25% of the total provincial population in that year. The middle age and older worker group (45 to 64 years) increased from 18.9% to 21.1% of the total population between 1971 and 1995 and will exhibit notable growth in the next 25 years, to comprise 29.4% of the population by the year 2021.
Halifax possesses a relatively young population. Well over one-half of residents in the area are less than 40 years of age and more than one-quarter are under 20.
The population 65 years of age and over comprises larger proportion of the total Nova Scotia population than in most other provinces. Between 1971 and 1995 the proportion of the population that are 65+ grew from 9.1% to 12.7%. Within the next twenty-five years this proportion could exceed 20%. This would represent an increase in numbers of those 65+ of more than 66%, as compared to a 63% growth in the past 25 years. While the growth percentages are similar, the absolute increase in numbers is more notable -a growth of 46,000 in the past 25 years versus 79,000 in the next 25 years. Within this group the largest percentage gain will be amongst those 85+ years of age, with the numbers more than doubling, to 26,000 by 2021.
1971 the median age of the Nova Scotia population was 25.4 years. By 1995 this increased to 35.1 years and, by the year 2021, it will exceed 45 years and could approach 50 years.
The average household income in Greater Halifax is estimated to be $55,885. This level of income places the Greater Halifax area above the national average and in the mainstream of Canadian urban areas. Current household expenditures in the Greater Halifax area are estimated to be just above $52,200. This expenditure level places the Greater Halifax area in the mainstream of mid-sized Canadian cities.
While the population of Nova Scotia increased by 14.1% between the 1971 and 1991 Censuses, the number of private households grew by 55.6% and the number of census families increased by 35.4%. The number of private households is equivalent to the number of occupied private dwellings, hence the growth of dwelling units was almost four times as great as the population growth over these two decades. Much of the growth in the number of families and number of households was due to a significant decline in the average size of both. The average size of households dropped from 3.7 persons in 1971 to 2.7 persons in 1991. The equivalent averages for census families were 3.8 persons in 1971 and 3.1 persons in 1991.
Families and households have undergone major changes in combination with population shifts. Young people are marrying later, if at all. More are choosing the single life and many more are opting for common law unions. Separation and divorce have increased notably and the widowed population has expanded with the ageing of the population. The average age of first marriage in Nova Scotia in 1995 was 27.0 years for brides and 28.9 years for grooms, versus 21.1 years and 23.1 years, respectively, in 1971. Marriages in the province, which numbered 6,883 in 1971, declined to 5,329 in 1995 and only about two-thirds of that number represented a first marriage for both bride and groom. The proportion of the population between 30 and 34 years of age who were never married increased from 10.4% in 1971 to 17.5% in 1991.
Divorces, on the other hand, have mushroomed in number, from 720 in 1971 to 2,300 in 1994. The separated/divorced proportion of the population more than doubled between 1971 and 1991, and accounted for 5.1% of the population in 1991. Widowed persons increased by 27.4% in this same period and accounted for 7.0% of the 15+ population in 1991.
The age structure of the current population of the province, the extension of life expectancy and the expected continuing decline in the number of births leads to the overall conclusion that average household size will continue to fall but it is difficult to determine how much further it might decline. Should it decline to 2.0 persons by 2021, from the 1991 level of 2.7, then it is likely that a population growth of less than 6% could result in a growth of households (and also private occupied dwellings ) of approximately 40%. If, however, the average household size drops to only 2.2 persons then the growth in number of households would only approximate 30%.
Family structures have also been changing notably over the past two decades. While in 1971 87.2% of the Nova Scotia population were living in family households, by 1991 this proportion had declined to 83.5%. The remaining non-family households in the province are mainly young persons (living alone or with other unrelated persons) and elderly persons living alone. Almost 29% of the population 65+ years of age in 1991 were either living alone or with non-relatives and a further 6.5% were in nursing facilities.
The number of husband-wife families in the province increased by 30.3% between 1971 and 1991, to reach 211,500, thus comprising 86.5% of all families in 1991. The 1991 total of 33,210 represented a growth of 118.0% since 1971.
Of note also was the shift in the family structure for children living at home, who were under 25 years of age. The number of these children living in husband-wife families declined by 23.3% in the two decades between 1971 and 1991 while the number of these children living in one-parent families increased by 26.5%. Whereas only 10.0% of all children in Nova Scotia were in lone-parent families in 1971, by 1991 this had reached 15.5%. This growing proportion is due to the changing marital status of new mothers in Canada. Over the past two decades the proportion of babies born to non-married mothers has increased from 9.1% to 34.6% of all births.
The growing proportion of children residing in lone-parent families can be linked to the increasing poverty rate amongst children at both the national and provincial level. Between 1980 and 1995 the proportion of children, under 18 years of age, living in poverty (IE. under Statistics Canada’s low income cut-offs) in Nova Scotia increased from 15.9% to 21.5% (Canada 15.8% to 21.0%). At the national level 53.0% of lone-parent families were under this low income cut-off in 1995, versus only 12.8% for two-income families with children. Average income for lone parent families, at $26,730, was only 43.1% of the average for two-income families in Canada.
At the other end of the age spectrum, the growing numbers of those over 65 years of age has occurred during a period of increased transfer payments combined with increased personal retirement savings and increased private and public pension plan coverage. As a consequence, the proportion of those over 65 years of age in Nova Scotia who fell under the low income cut-off declined from 28.1% of the total in 1980 to 12.6% in 1995.