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As Canada's population becomes increasingly diverse, there are more opportunities for people to marry or form relationships with someone from a different ethno-cultural background. These relationships could be mixed unions between one visible minority group member and one non-member, or between people who belong to two different visible minority groups.
Mixed unions, including both married and common-law couples, reflect one aspect of the diversity of families. They vary according to characteristics such as generational status of the spouses or partners, their birthplace and their particular visible minority group.
The census enumerated 289,400 mixed unions in 2006, up 33.1% from 2001 and more than five times the 6.0% increase for all couples.
Of the total number of mixed unions, about 247,600 couples were comprised of one person who belonged to a visible minority group and someone who was not a visible minority. These made up 3.3% of all couples in Canada. The remaining 41,800 mixed unions consisted of couples in which both members belonged to a different visible minority group. They accounted for 0.6% of all couples.
In terms of generational status, the proportion of mixed unions rises with the length of time spent in Canada. Among first generation visible minority Canadians (those born outside of Canada), 12% were in mixed union couples. For second generation Canadians who were members of a visible minority group the proportion in a mixed union was 51%. It reached 69% for third generation visible minority Canadians.
There was also variation across specific visible minority groups. Overall, Japanese had the highest proportion marrying or forming partnerships outside of their visible minority group. About 75% of the 29,700 couples in which at least one person was Japanese involved a pairing with a non-Japanese person. They were followed by Latin Americans and Blacks.
Compared with other couples, a slightly higher proportion of mixed unions included children living at home. In addition, about 10% of mixed union couples had at least one child under age two and none older than five years of age in the home, compared with 5.6% of other couples.
This reflects the fact that people in mixed unions were younger and, therefore, more likely to be at their life-cycle stage of having young children at home.
Mixed unions are an urban phenomenon. In 2006, 5.1% of all couples who lived in a census metropolitan area were in mixed unions, compared with 1.4% of couples who lived outside these areas. In Vancouver, 8.5% of couples were in mixed unions, the highest proportion among metropolitan areas.
Note: The study "A portrait of couples in mixed unions" examines the socio-demographic characteristics of mixed union couples in Canada. This study uses data primarily from the 2006 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada.
The article "A portrait of couples in mixed unions" is now available in the April 2010 online issue of Canadian Social Trends, no. 89 (11-008-X, free), available from the Key resource module of our website under Publications.
Also in this issue of Canadian Social Trends is a second article entitled, "An exploration of cultural activities of Métis in Canada," that examines the participation of Métis in cultural activities. It considers Aboriginal language, involvement in Métis-specific organizations, consumption of traditional foods, spiritual and religious practices, as well as involvement in traditional arts and crafts. Findings are presented by sex, age, and region.
For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Client Services (613-951-5979; firstname.lastname@example.org), Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division.