Ontarians on the Move, 2021 Edition. #4 — It’s Mostly Young Families, not Retirees, leaving Toronto.

Mike Moffatt
3 min readFeb 16, 2021


Fourth in (what I hope) will be a series on population growth, migration, and what’s going on with Ontario’s housing market. Previous piece: #3 — Toronto vs. Not Toronto

TL;DR: In 2019–20, the City of Toronto lost nearly 35,000 residents to the rest of the province. Some of that is older residents “cashing out” and moving to cottage country, though to date that has not been the primary driver. The 10 age categories with the largest net outflows are the ages 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, and 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, with the single largest cohort being children under the age of 1. Provincial out-migration from the City of Toronto is driven primarily by young families, not older residents.

In the previous piece in this series, Toronto vs. Not Toronto, I showed how that Toronto, York, and Peel Census Districts lost 268,000 residents from 2015–20 through intraprovincial migration (that is, people moving from one of these communities to somewhere else in Ontario).

That tells us how many people left, but it doesn’t tell us who. Fortunately, our Statistics Canada dataset gives a breakdown by age. Between July 1, 2019, and July 1, 2020, the City of Toronto lost nearly 35,000 residents from intraprovincial migration and Peel lost nearly 25,000, while York was flat. Here are the age breakdowns for all three:

The Toronto figures are particularly eye-popping, with large losses of young children and people in their 30s, with a small net-inflow of college-aged Ontarians. The most common age to leave Toronto is 0 (that is, children under the age of 1), the ten most common are between 0–4 and 31–35.

Here’s what happens if we combine York, Toronto, and Peel:

Pretty clearly, young families are leading the exodus out of Toronto/York/Peel (TYP), with big net outflows of children under the age of 10 and people in their 30s. But we do see a bit of a bulge of people in their 50s leaving the area. That’s your “real-estate cash outs”. They’re not a primary driver, but they do exist, and they’re showing up in the data!

Here’s how things have changed over the last five years. More families leaving, but we also see the cash-outs growing as well:

Here’s another way to visualize the data. Ontario has over 14 million people. Using provincial demographic data, I constructed 10 age groups, each with about 1.4 million people. Here’s net intraprovincial migration from Toronto+York+Peel for each of those age groups:

The population size of each of those groups is roughly equal, but the outmigration certainly isn’t!

So if Toronto and Peel are losing young kids to the rest of the province, where are they moving to? Here are the Top-10 net intraprovincial migration gainers for 2019–20:

Despite York’s relatively flat intraprovincial migration numbers, they’re still gaining a substantial number of young children. But this list of Census Districts seeing an inflow of young children contains quite a few small communities. “Drive until you qualify” is pushing families out of Toronto and in to small-town Ontario, and that will have political, economic, and environmental consequences.

Next piece: #5–20 Years Ago, Torontonians were moving to Peel and York. Now they’re moving to Barrie, Oshawa, Milton, St. Catharines, and London, making for much longer commutes.



Mike Moffatt

Senior Director, Smart Prosperity. Assistant Prof, Ivey Business School. Exhausted but happy Dad of 2 wonderful kids with autism. I used to do other stuff.