Single-Person Households & Debt

Living in a single-person household is a financial struggle for both the young and old according to our Joe Debtor study.

The proportion of Canadians living in a one-person household now account for 28.2% of all households in Canada, the highest share since Confederation.

There has been some debate as to whether or not is is easier financially to be living in a single-person household compared to other family living arrangements.

To understand the financial stresses faced by individuals living alone, we dug deeper into our Joe Debtor study.

Percentage of Single Household Debtors

Much like the overall population, the percentage of single households filing insolvency is on the rise.

However, the overall numbers for one-person households filing bankruptcy are worse.  In our most recent study almost one-half of all consumer insolvencies were filed by someone living alone.

2017 47%
2015 43%
2013 41%

Why are so many single-person households filing bankruptcy?

To answer that question we look to the underlying family and financial demographics that make up this economic group.

Insolvent Single-Person Household Demographics

While 57% of one-person households are comprised of someone who is single (never married), 36% are divorced or separated. A small percentage (3%) have listed a dependant, although one not living with them. That dependant may be older children away at school or living with another family member.  Regardless, many are paying child support for children currently living with their spouse, who are also now single parents.

Marital Status Insolvent Debtor
Married or Common-law 1%
Divorced or Separated 36%
Widowed 5%
Single 57%

A further 5% of single-household insolvent debtors are widowed and now living alone. This leads us to look at the age demographics of the single-household facing financial problems.

It is clearly the young and older generations who are more likely to face financial problems living in a one-person household.

Currently, 62% of those aged 18-29 who file a bankruptcy or proposal live in a one-person household.  Similarly, 59% of those aged 60 and over who are insolvent also live alone.

Single person household bankruptcy

Household Income and Consumer Debt – Single-Person Household

The average household income for a single debtor is $2,200, one-third less than that of the average Joe Debtor.

They owe on average $47,563 in unsecured debt.  In general, the make-up of their unsecured debt is not very different from the average insolvent debtor:

  • 26% use payday loans, versus 25% on average
  • 15% have student debt, consistent with the average
  • 41% have tax debt, compared to 40% on average.

However, only 9% are homeowners, compared to 17% for all insolvent debtors.

These are more often renters, struggling to get by on a lower than average household income.

It is clear it is not always easier to make ends meet if you live alone.

Joe Debtor – Single person household
Personal Information
Male 57%
Female 43%
Average age 44
Average household income $2,200 net of deductions
Total unsecured debt $47,563
Likelihood they own a home 9%
Average mortgage value $125,244
Detailed Information on the amount of average unsecured debt:
Personal loans $16,627
Credit cards $14,499
Taxes $8,870
Student loans $1,952
Other $5,614