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Migration in Canada: Older Move to Coastal Regions…and Younger People to Alberta

By Ken Peacock

It is frequently asserted that Canadians from other provinces move to B.C. to retire.  The influx of people into retirement communities on Vancouver Island and the Okanagan would seem to validate this claim.  But looking at the data, is it true that B.C. receives a disproportionate number of retirees?   

The answer is yes.  But there are some qualifiers. 

The first figure below shows net interprovincial migration of people aged 65 years and older for each province, summed over the past five years.  It provides a quick summary of the increase/decrease in provincial populations aged 65 and over, due specifically to interprovincial migration.

Figure 1

Older People Are Migrating to B.C.

 
Source:  Statistics Canada.

 

From the graph a few things are evident:

  • B.C. receives the majority of 65 and over interprovincial migrants;
  • Ontario’s net flow (inflow less outflow) is essentially nil;
  • New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island all saw net inflows of older people over the same five-year period, and while the numbers are small in absolute terms, in relative terms they are significant.  After taking population size into account, P.E.I. had the largest per capita net inflow of older people among the Atlantic provinces. In fact, in relative terms P.E.I.’s net inflow is roughly two-thirds that of B.C.’s;
  • The other provinces all had net outflows of people aged 65 and over.

What about people in their pre-retirement years?  As with the cohort of those aged 65+, the net flow of migrants aged 55 to 64 is overwhelming into B.C.

Figure 2

Pre-Retirement Aged People Also Migrating To B.C.

 
Source:  Statistics Canada.

 

The pattern is similar for migrants aged 45-54, except for this cohort, Alberta saw a small net inflow of migrants.  

Figure 3

Most 45 to 54 Year Old Interprovincial Migrants Settle in B.C.

 
Source:  Statistics Canada.

 

Looking at early/mid career aged people, the picture changes significantly: over the past five years, B.C. and Alberta received similar numbers of interprovincial migrants between the ages of 35 and 44. 

Figure 4

B.C. and Alberta Split the Flow of Migrants Aged 35 to 44 Years of Age

 
Source:  Statistics Canada.

 

For younger cohorts, the movement of people within Canada tilts quite sharply towards Alberta.  The net inflow of people aged 25-34 into Alberta was almost twice that into B.C.  

Figure 5

Alberta Receives More Migrants Aged 25 to 34 Years of Age

 
Source:  Statistics Canada

 

Finally, for young adults just entering the workforce, Alberta is overwhelmingly the top destination for interprovincial migrants.

Figure 6

Alberta Receives Most Migrants Aged 15 to 24 Years of Age

 
Source:  Statistics Canada.

 

In aggregate, it is noteworthy that B.C. and Alberta receive the vast majority of interprovincial migrants.  But, as shown above and summarized in the final figure below, there are significant differences across age cohorts.  Essentially, Alberta is the main province that benefits from a net inflow of young people entering the workforce or in the early stages of their careers; B.C. is a modest net recipient of these younger interprovincial migrants.  Overall, net interprovincial migration to B.C. is much more balanced.  As shown above, B.C. attracts most retirees and interprovincial migrants in their pre-retirement years. However, B.C. also attracts similar numbers of people in other age cohorts, so in this sense the province does not necessarily attract a disproportionate number of older migrants. 

Figure 7

Alberta Gets More Young People

 
Source:  Statistics Canada.