For the first time, Alberta has a clearer picture of its gender diversity.

The 2021 census data released by Statistics Canada on Wednesday morning contained details related to age, sex at birth and gender, and housing types.

It is the first time the census has asked a question that differentiates between a person’s sex at birth and their gender.

“It’s super, super exciting,” said Lindsay Peace, executive director of Skipping Stones, a Calgary-based organization that supports transgender people. “It’s a very good first step in the sense that now there is some visibility.”

Tangible numbers can be referred to when pressing for resources, such as doctors and surgeons, Peace added.

“It’s hard for trans people to be the ones standing up and fighting back,” Peace said. “This just allows organizations like ours to advocate at a higher level, [it] it’s not putting the burden on trans people.”

Data shows that among Albertans age 15 and older, 99.63% are cisgender, meaning they identify as their same sex at birth.

Among the remaining fraction of one percent, 7,305 are transgender from Alberta: 3,420 transgender men and 3,880 transgender women.

Another 5,170 Albertans are non-binary, meaning they may identify as, for example, genderfluid, queer, or Two-Spirit.

Alberta accounts for more than 12 percent of Canada’s transgender and non-binary populations.

Peace believes the figures are understated.

There could be a number of reasons for that, such as safety, if a person has already come out, or parents who haven’t accepted their child’s transition and misidentified him on the questionnaire, he said.

“Certainly we know there are far more trans people than this data will show,” she said.

Alberta is getting old

The numbers show that Alberta is getting older, with a massive increase in the number of people reaching retirement age, along with fewer newborns and young adults.

The median age of an Albertan is 39, which is 1.2 years older than in 2016, the data shows.

Jenny Godley, associate professor of sociology at the University of Calgary, isn’t surprised.

“Demographers have been predicting this for years with just our regular forecast, because you have this generation of baby boomers who are almost all retired now,” Godley said.

There are 629,220 Albertans age 65 and older, which is about 14.8% of the population. The increase of about 129,000 in five years represents the highest peak of any demographic age in that period.

Most of that, about 87 percent, was driven by a large number of Albertans who were born in the middle of the baby boom and turned 65 after 2016.

Statistics suggest a decline in the number of babies born in Alberta, with a drop of 16,300 in the number of children under the age of four. The number of Albertans aged five to 19 is higher than in 2016.

In addition, there are almost 48,600 fewer twenty-somethings in Alberta, and almost 10,000 fewer people in their thirties.

Alberta, Godley said, is at the point where it has to start looking at its old-age dependency ratio: the number of older people divided by the number of working-age people.

The province has had more children dependent on the labor force than older adults, mainly due to higher fertility and many young professionals migrating to the province for work. This has led to more social support for that demographic, such as child care or education, she explained.

But as boomers continue to age, some resources may need to shift to care for the elderly, such as housing and health care needs, he said.

Population Density Going in the ‘Right Direction’

The total number of privately occupied dwellings, defined as living space with a private entrance that does not require someone to pass through someone else’s dwellings, has increased by more than 118,500.

That includes 48,430 more single-family homes and 36,155 more apartments occupied by Albertans.

About two out of three of those occupied apartments are in buildings with fewer than five stories, the data shows.

This aligns with overall apartment figures, which show that seven out of 10 occupied apartments in Alberta are in buildings with less than five stories.

The data shows promising signs, said Sandeep Agrawal, professor and director of the school of urban and regional planning at the University of Alberta.

“Although single-family homes are still predominant, the trend is in the right direction. Density is clearly increasing,” Agrawal said.

The province’s population density is 6.7 people per square kilometer, up from 6.4 in 2016, the data shows.

This is important because sprawl, the rapid expansion of cities that relies on single-family homes and results in increased vehicle transportation, is environmentally unsustainable, he explained.

The data also shows that more people live in row houses and other forms of housing. Agrawal said this could eventually lend itself to more affordable housing options for more people.

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