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B.C. moms give birth later than rest of Canada

By Eric MacKenzie



New data indicating that women in B.C. have children later in life than in any other province is a sign of a “massive unaffordability problem for young British Columbians,” according to one UBC expert.

The average age of mothers in B.C. at the time their child was delivered was the nation’s highest at 30.5, according to information from 2012 compiled by Statistics Canada. B.C.’s figure is a significant increase over the national average (29.8), and Ontario (30.3) is the only other province where the mean age was older than 30.

Given the economic challenges faced by today’s younger generations, B.C. having the oldest average birth age came as no surprise to Paul Kershaw, a professor at UBC’s School of Population and Public Health.

“That absolutely reflects that our province has become the least-affordable province for younger Canadians in their prime child-bearing years,” said Kershaw, founder of the Generation Squeeze project examining generational inequality.

“It’s not a surprise that people adapt by delaying. People don’t want to start their families or grow their families until they have a stronger financial foundation.”

Although the trend of women giving birth later in life is noticeable on a national scale — the average age of delivery across Canada was 27.9 in 1992 — B.C. women appear to be having fewer babies overall, too.

There were 8,600 more infants delivered in Alberta in 2012 than in B.C., despite B.C.’s total population being about 700,000 greater than its neighbour to the east.

“Housing prices have exploded here more than anywhere else, and so how do people cope with that? They work more, and when you work more, you delay starting your family, you have fewer kids than you might otherwise like,” said Kershaw.

“We need to recognize that this fertility pattern is one of the major indications of a worsening standard of living for younger Canadians.”

Nunavut had the lowest average age for mothers among all provinces and territories at 24.9 years. Nationally, teen mothers accounted for just 3.4% of all babies born in 2012, compared to 6.1% in 1992, while women aged 30 and older gave birth to more than half (53.1%) of 2012-born babies.