More Than Half of All Insolvencies Involve Families

Across Canada lone-parent families account for 20% of families with children under 16. In contrast, 43% of insolvent debtors with a dependent are lone-parents (single parents who are married, divorced and separated or single with a dependent).  Among families with children, single parents are disproportionately filing insolvency.

Lone-Parents Disproportionately Filing Insolvency

More than half of all insolvencies in our 2017 study involved families, defined as married and common-law couples, couples with or without children, and single or lone-parents with dependents.

Although 54% of all insolvencies involve families, our study results reveal one staggering fact: lone-parents are unquestionably at a higher risk of filing insolvency than dual-parent families. While lone-parent families make up 20% of Canadian families with children, our study found that lone-parent families account for 43% of insolvent debtors with a dependent.

Households with dependents Lone-parents Two-parent
% of all debtors 17% 22%
Average number dependents 1.7 2.0
% female 75% 39%
Household income $2,990 $4,127
Unsecured debt $47,612 $59,826
Unsecured debt-to-income 136% 197%

Lone-parent debtors are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of raising a family alone and are at an increased risk of filing insolvency as they turn to debt to make ends meet. This is particularly true for women.

Lone-parents are supporting a family on a single income that, at $2,990 a month, is 28% below that of two-parent households.

Many are balancing both student debt repayment and family care; 21% of lone-parents have student debt compared to 15% for Joe Debtor.

Lone-parents are more likely to turn to payday loans as a last resort to help make ends meet until they can no longer borrow. One-third (33%) of lone-parent debtors have at least one payday loan outstanding compared to 25% for Joe Debtor.

Lone-parent mothers account for 75% of lone-parent debtors. Not only do insolvent lone-parent mothers significantly outnumber lone-parent fathers, they are more likely to use payday loans (35% versus 28% for lone-fathers) and are significantly more likely to have student debt (26% versus 6% for lone-fathers).

Lone-mothers also have less financial security than lone-fathers leading to an increased likelihood that they will use debt to make ends meet. Already earning less than two-parent families, insolvent lone-mothers have a household income of $2,865; 15% below insolvent lone-fathers. Only 13% are homeowners, compared to 18% for insolvent lone-fathers. They have less set aside in RRSP savings at $9,847; compared to $11,846 for insolvent lone-fathers.


Personal Information
Male 25%
Female 75%
Marital status
   Married/Common Law 6%
   Divorced or Separated 58%
   Widowed 2%
   Single 34%
Average family size 2.6
Average monthly income $2,911 net of deductions
Total unsecured debt $47,612
Unsecured debt-to-income ratio 136%
Likelihood they own a home 15%
Average mortgage value $174,253
Detailed Information on the amount of average unsecured debt:
Personal loans $16,165
Credit cards $12,713
Taxes $6,988
Student loans $3,164
Other $8,582