Mike Moffatt

Jan 14

4 min read

Ontarians on the Move, 2022 Edition. #2 -Even in the pandemic, it’s still young families that are moving across Ontario

Second in (what I hope) will be a series on population growth, migration, and what’s going on with Ontario’s housing market.

TL;DR: Over the past decade, migration within the province has been primarily caused by young families searching for available and attainable housing. The data suggests the pandemic has dramatically accelerated this trend.

Yesterday’s data release by Statistics Canada contains data at the census subdivision, census metropolitan area, and economic region levels. I thought it would be interesting to change things up and examine data at the economic region level.

Ontario is split into 11 economic regions; these are often used to analyze labour market trends. Here’s a map of the 11 regions:

Source: Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce.

And here are their names:

Source: Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce.

At a high level, it’s difficult to see much of a change in intraprovincial (within province) migration patterns: Toronto loses a lot of people, and everywhere else (except Northwest and Windsor/Sarnia) gains them. Toronto ER’s net population loss to the rest of the province, which in the last few years has hovered around 50,000 people, reached 60,000 last year.

Source: Statistics Canada.

But is it still disproportionately young families that are moving? I’ve found that the best indicator is looking at migration patterns of children under the age of 5.

In each of Ontario’s 11 ERs, kids under-5 comprise roughly 4–5% of the population:

Source: Statistics Canada

If intraprovincial migration patterns were age-proportional, you would expect that roughly 5% of the people leaving Toronto would be under the age of 5, and roughly 5% of the people moving to Hamilton-Niagara, London, etc. would be under the age of 5.

As it turns out, the proportion is much higher. Here are the figures for Toronto Economic Region by year:

Source: Statistics Canada.

That is an absolutely massive increase in a single year, from an already high level. If 10% does not seem high, remember that every child under five that migrates out is accompanied by at least one, often two parents, and we also haven’t included kids over the age of five, along with individuals and couples who are expecting a child.

Another way to look at the data would be the absolute number of 0–4 year olds that are leaving Toronto Economic Region each year (on net) for other parts of the province. It had been increasing for some time, but absolutely exploded last year.

Source: Statistics Canada.

Migration across Ontario is driven by families in search of available and attainable housing.

Not surprisingly, the proportion of intraprovincial in-migrants have increased in Ontario’s other economic regions. Here is the data for the locations that experienced net intraprovincial in-migration last year (sorry Northwest Ontario and Windsor/Sarnia):

Source: Statistics Canada.

Here is the same data, but in terms of the number of kids under the age of five moving to each of those economic regions. I’ve added Windsor/Sarnia back in; despite a net population loss from intraprovincial migration, they still managed to add 505 children under the age of five.

Source: Statistics Canada.

In short, before the pandemic migration across Ontario was largely from young families who were driving until they qualified for a home. The pandemic seems to have accelerated this trend.