Ontarians on the Move #4 — Durham

Mike Moffatt
5 min readFeb 21, 2020

PREVIOUS ENTRY: Ontarians on the Move #3 — Peel.

TL;DR version: While the Durham region is growing quickly, it can only account for roughly 10% of the net within Ontario migration from the Toronto+York+Peel region. Toronto families are moving much farther than Oshawa to find housing they can afford.

There are three Census Divisions that border the city of Toronto: York, Peel, and Durham. The three CDs bordering Toronto would be the obvious place for young families to migrate to if they cannot find housing in the city itself:

If Toronto families were largely migrating to those three census divisions, then adding them together should give us a net intraprovincial migration number of zero; the combined area should roughly see the same inflow and outflow of Ontarians. But we saw that combining Toronto, York, and Peel together, we saw a net intraprovincial outflow of 55,000 Ontarians in 2018–19:

And that outflow primarily consisted of young families — kids and people in their 30s:

But what happens when we add Durham into the mix? As it turns out, the Durham region can only account for roughly 5,000 of our missing 55,000 Ontarians:

One big difference we can see from the data above is Durham’s relatively modest population increase from “net non-permanent” residents. Despite that, the Durham region saw a rate of population growth higher than York and the city of Toronto.

The Durham region is made up of 8 census subdivisions:

Of the 8, Brock saw the highest rate of growth, despite being the furthest from the City of Toronto, which supports the idea that the population growth from migration is happening further and further away from the city:

Unfortunately, we do not have migration numbers at a census subdivision area, so we only know how much the population is growing by in a subdivision, not where that growth is coming from.

Here’s the age range of international migration to and from the Durham region, again noting that the rate of international migration is relatively modest compared to other CDs in the region

The age profile looks similar to other CDs, with college-aged adults making up the bulk of net non-permanent residents. There does seem to be a bit higher rate of 17-year olds than in other CDs. European hockey players trying out for the Oshawa Generals, perhaps?*

Here’s about a clear an indication as you’ll ever see that it’s young families, in search of housing they can afford, that is driving Ontario migration patterns. Check out who is moving to the Durham Region (on net):

Other than (exactly) 200 people between the ages of 65–75, this growth is driven by young families. The most common age for someone to move to Durham (on net) is… zero. Yep, kids under the age of 12 months. This is the Toronto story — a family has their first child, wants to live somewhere larger than a 1 or 2-bedroom apartment, and “drives until they qualify” for a house.

Like in other Toronto and Toronto-adjacent CDs, you do see a small net outflow of people in their 50s — as we’ll see in future parts, these are the folks cashing out of their houses and moving to cottage country. It’s a small cohort relative to the migration of families, but it is happening.

Here’s what the numbers look like when we add all forms of (net) migration to the Durham region. It’s almost entirely people under the age of 45:

Here’s the intraprovincial numbers for the combined Toronto+Peel+York+Durham region:

Note the large cohort of 50-somethings leaving our superregion. This is (perhaps) the first time in the series we start to see the scale of the outmigration to cottage country. So why didn’t it show up so significantly before? As it turns out, the outmigration from any one of the four CDs isn’t large, but all of them are losing 50-somethings, so the combined effect is sizeable:

Whereas for young families, since some of them are migrating from Toronto and Peel to York and Durham, the net effect is dampened somewhat.

It’s also worth considering how this migration has changed over time. The data set extends from 2006–07 to 2018–19. If we examine the intraprovincial migration data for 0–4 year olds, we see that Durham has seen a slow, but steady, growth in the number 0–4 year olds migrating to it from other parts of the province:

We can express these values as a percentage of the number of 0–4 year olds who are leaving Toronto. In other words, for every 100 0–4 year olds that are leaving Toronto, how many is the Durham region gaining? Turns out, it’s been roughly 20% for the last decade.

If we combine the three regions, we see that in 2006–07, for every 100 0–4 year olds Toronto lost, Durham+York+Peel gained 56. By 2017–18 that figure had fallen to just 8.

So the Durham, York and Peel numbers can’t explain where all the families are going. In the next installment of this series, we’ll look at “commuting to work” data from the 2016 Census, to get an idea of where people working in Toronto live (or, at least, where they did live four years ago).

COMING SOON: Ontarians on the Move #5— Who Commutes to Toronto for Work?

  • * This is almost certainly not the cause of the high proportion of international 17 year olds moving to Durham. We all know they’d rather play for the London Knights. Go Knights Go.



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.