New Brunswick’s missing 35 to 44 year olds: A lesson in demographics

There is a view that youth out-migration is something that can be fixed – like you would fix an old car.  The reality is much more nuanced.  The following chart shows the New Brunswick population by age cohort relative to the national population.  As an example, in 1971 New Brunswick had 8.5% more 0 to 4 year olds in its population (as a share of the total) than Canada as a whole and 3 percent fewer 50 to 54 year olds.  If you look at the graphic you will see that not much has changed in the last four decades.  New Brunswick still has a higher share of its population under the age of 24 and a higher share of its population over the age of 60.

The population overall has significantly moved to the right – i.e. both NB and Canada are much older now and it has grown much faster across Canada –  but the mix in distribution has not changed much.



In 1971 New Brunswick’s largest population gap with Canada as a whole was in the 35 to 44 year old age cohort.  In 2015 it remains this cohort and remarkably almost by the same exact percentage share.  In 1971 we had 15 percent fewer 35 to 44 year olds in the population than Canada as a whole and in 2015 we had – you guessed it – 15 percent fewer 35 to 44 year olds in the population.  44 years later.

The reality is that this phenomenon is similar in other small provinces and U.S. states.  Small jurisdictions end up losing a lot of young people to the large urban centres.  The small jurisdictions – such as Manitoba and Saskatchewan – are those that are seeking a significant of inward migration to counter the outward effect.

That may seem counter-intuitive to some people. Why try to bring in younger immigrants when your young sons and daughters are leaving?  We have 40+ years of making that same argument.  We don’t need immigrants because we have youth out-migration.  How has that worked out so far?

As I have pointed out many times before – Toronto has a high net outward inter and intra provincial migration rate.  They make up for the loss with 95,000 mostly younger immigrants every year.

No matter how hard it is to get our heads around it is my view that a big boost in immigration should actual lead to more jobs for young, Canada born New Brunswickers.   Many of the new immigrants will fill positions that are not being filled now and that should boost output and create more jobs in the local economy.

You would think that 40 years of data would lead to a little new thinking.

2 thoughts on “New Brunswick’s missing 35 to 44 year olds: A lesson in demographics

  1. Expecting logic and new thinking might be a stretch. After all young adults, the cohort of people most open to change (and immigration) have left the province.

    I would be interested to see where the 20-55 year olds are distributed throughout the province. Are they all in the urban centres?

  2. I like the post, but I think you graph is a little confusing. Is that the percentage point difference between the NB cohorts’ share of the NB total and the same cohorts’ share at the national level? Maybe including the equation in the graph would make it easier to understand. At first glance I thought you were saying that NB and Canada’s age distribution hadn’t substantially changed in 40 years.

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