Canadians' Parenthood Plans Continue While American Parents Dwindle

COVID-19 hasn’t stopped Canadians from planning for parenthood, but it has amplified the concerns of those wanting to have a child in the next five years.

Published on December 16, 2020

You’ve likely heard stories for years now about how Canada’s population is shrinking. Yet the latest population data indicates otherwise: Canada experienced a 1.4% YOY increase in the number of people living in the country in 2019—the highest growth rate since 1989–90.

Though this increase was driven mostly by immigration, it’s still noteworthy for several reasons: First, Canada’s growth rate is the highest among G7 counties and more than 2x that of the U.S. Second, these statistics were gathered months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit global markets. With this in mind, we wondered: 

  • Would all of the uncertainty around the pandemic colour Canadians’ perspectives around parenthood? 
  • If, pre-pandemic, people were planning on having children, would they still want to after experiencing the effects of the lockdown and other restrictions? 
  • And, what factors come into play in Canadian consumers’ parenthood planning? 
Let’s dig into the results to learn more.



More than 60% of our 10,000-strong Daily Survey panel are currently parents—including 80% of Baby Boomer, 74% of Gen X, 50% of Millennial and 23% Gen Z respondents.  



Among these current parents, nearly 1 in 5 people had been planning, pre-pandemic, to have children within the next five years. Only a small portion of this population (~8%) had changed their parenthood plans because of the pandemic. 

In contrast, about a quarter of non-parent respondents had been planning, pre-pandemic, to have children within the next five years and an even smaller proportion of those (6.6%) had changed their minds due to COVID-19.

Compare this to stats gleaned on our neighbours to the south: 58% of Americans who, pre-pandemic, were planning to have children in the next five years say that COVID-19 have made them less likely to want to have children. 

What might be driving this trend? Well, a whopping 93% of U.S. households with school-aged children reported having to accommodate distance learning at home during the pandemic. Could this major stressor, added on top of ongoing financial and health concerns, be the reason for Americans’ burst baby bubble? Or is it just another indication of the widespread decline in global fertility rates

(Side note: The U.S. in particular has been reporting a steady decline in fertility rates for decades, with 2019 seeing the lowest number of births in 35 years.)



A handful of concerns are weighing heavily on Canadian consumers’ minds when it comes to having children. No surprises here, as they’re life factors we’ve seen and talked about before in relation to the pandemic.

Whether it’s due to “fear of uncertain world conditions” (36%), the “cost of living” (30.5%), “unstable employment” (28%) or more generally, stress and health concerns (both about 19% each), it’s clear that the practical effects of the pandemic are leading some Canadians to postpone child-bearing to more than five years out.

Of note:

Though the top three concerns are consistent for both parents and non-parents, current parents over-index in their “fear of uncertain world conditions” (at 37.6%), while non-parents rank the “cost of living” as their biggest consideration (at 35%). This suggests that the factor of already having children in the household could have an amplifying effect on parents’ empathy responses. In contrast, non-parents seem to be thinking more practically about their financial futures and the implications of adding another family member to the household.


Not surprisingly, the factors that influence respondents’ mindsets around parenthood reflect a combination of both personal and societal norms: Interestingly, only about a third of respondents identified “already having children” as the reason to have more children in the future. 



Following very closely behind are respondents who “do not want children at all” (24%) and, tied for third, is the fact that they “have always wanted children” and that their spouses or themselves are “beyond child-bearing age” (16.9% and 16.5 % respectively).

Does the factor of whether they’re already parents make a difference?
Yes, indeed!

Respondents who are currently parents over-index significantly in already having children, and at the same time, weigh their and/or their spouses’ ability to have children more highly than the general population. In contrast, non-parents differed significantly, with more than a third indicating they don’t want children and another 26% suggesting they always wanted children. 

Important side note: Millennials make up 58% of the non-parent segment in this sample, which goes a long way to explaining the relatively small proportion of responses that indicate age as an influence on child-bearing. In contrast, Gen Xers and Millennials are more evenly represented in the “current parents” segment (at 41% and 37% respectively), which edges them somewhat closer to the point in life where bearing children becomes a more complicated prospect, though not completely out of the question.



Canadians are still planning on having babies—especially younger folks

Caddle Daily Panel survey results suggest that a decent proportion of the Canadian population are still intent on bearing and rearing children. And while Baby Boomers are getting too old to have kids (they now account for the majority of seniors in Canada) and Gen Xers feel that they’ve had enough kids already, Millennials want children and aren’t letting the pandemic stand in their way. Meanwhile, Gen Zers have always wanted kids and still do.  

This poses an opportunity for forward-looking retailers to think about the varying demographics of parents, and further tailor their baby assortment to the tastes of different parental age groups. For instance, we know that younger generations tend to be more tech savvy and sustainability conscious. So, consider bringing more innovation and technology to traditional baby categories with game-changing products like smart diapers that notify parents when they need changing or pacifiers made from sustainably sourced latex rubber.


COVID-19 will continue to give would-be parents pause for thought

The pandemic has and continues to play mind games with many Canadians: On the one hand, we know that COVID has had a negative effect on Canadians’ mental health, and the potential for postpartum depression could only make this worse. Yet, we also know that many Canadians (and especially younger segments) are looking for any silver lining they can find from 2020—and what better silver lining is there than welcoming a new baby into the family in the New Year?

As such, retailers should expect steady business from baby- and child-care categories through 2021 and beyond, though some non-essential purchases may come in fits and starts as COVID-driven concerns dovetail with pregnancy side effects for new parents.


Financial and health concerns are unlikely to go away anytime soon

Our Daily Panel surveys have uncovered a consistent pattern of financial and health concerns among the majority of Canadians. Such concerns are obviously weighing heavily on people’s minds and though it hasn’t completely deterred people from starting or expanding their families, it’s definitely made them question their priorities.

Forward-thinking retailers will want to keep such concerns in mind and consider ways to make child-rearing a less financially taxing endeavour. Some ideas: Extend rewards programs to cover the many costs associated with newborns, perhaps considering cash-back as an option to cover childcare. Or, deploy lifecycle marketing campaigns that track and reward parents for their children’s milestones. 

*Disclaimer: all data presented is owned by Caddleand has a Margin of Error of 1% or lower. 


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