Despite our cherished liberal Canadian values, our behaviour in family matters is a good deal more conservative than that of Americans. Our marriage rates are higher and our divorce rates are lower. Twenty-seven per cent of American children live in single-parent families. And the number of children born to unmarried mothers – especially to women in their 20s – is soaring. In 2010, 40.8 per cent of births in the U.S. were to unmarried women. That rate is growing fastest among the white lower-middle class – the very people who tend to vote Republican and loudly thump the tub for traditional family values.
Children born to single mothers do worse by every measure, so that’s the most important family number to keep your eye on. In Canada, the unmarried birth rate is holding steady at 27.2 per cent.
New Canadians – who are far more conservative than old Canadians – are reinforcing these old-fashioned family patterns. Their family ties tend to be extremely strong. Among the biggest immigrant groups – Chinese and South Asians – divorce rates are lower and unmarried motherhood is virtually unknown. In the U.S., by contrast, the biggest immigrant group is Hispanic, in which unmarried mothers are the norm.