Mapping the Fraser Valley’s baby boom

Across the Fraser Valley, babies are booming. But not every community is welcoming more newborns than it was a decade ago.

By Joti Grewal | March 16, 2022 |5:00 am

This story is part of The Current’s Changing Valley series. 

This is the fourth story in The Changing Valley, an ongoing data-driven series on how housing and migration are changing the Fraser Valley.

Part 1: How growth in the Fraser Valley has accelerated

Part 2: The widening east-west gap between home prices in the Fraser Valley

Part 3: How home prices are driving eastward migration

Part 4: How the Fraser Valley has become a magnet for newborns

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By Joti Grewal and Grace Kennedy

A small Langley neighbourhood had the greatest baby boom of the decade in BC. But Willoughby isn’t the only area in the Fraser Valley that experienced a surge in births. On average, there was one additional baby born in the Fraser Valley in 2021 for every 13 babies born in 2011. And all those new infants haven’t been distributed evenly.

(Data for the map is based on provincial birth reports, and compares the average number of births between 2011 and 2016 with those between 2017 and 2021. Birth location is based on the postal code of the mother’s usual residence, not the hospital where the child was born. To learn more about how births are broken down by hospital, read our January story on hospital diversions.)

In Willoughby, the fast-growing neighbourhood near 200 Street south of Highway 1, births increased by 37% between 2011 and 2021. There are many reasons, including new family-sized developments. But the area’s surging population is most likely—and specifically the rise in adults of child-bearing age. In 2016, one third of residents were between the ages of 25 and 44, compared to one-quarter 15 years earlier.

While Willoughby has welcomed hundreds more babies over the decade, the neighbouring communities of Walnut Grove and Fort Langley actually had fewer births. That likely reflects the age composition of the community. In the 1990s, roughly half of all the residents living in Fort Langley and Walnut Grove were between the ages of 25 and 44—around the age when many people have children. Now, less than a quarter of residents are in those child-bearing years.

The Fraser Valley community with the second-highest increase in births may come as a surprise: Agassiz-Harrison. Often considered a retirement or tourist community, local mothers gave birth to 24% more babies from the start of the decade to the end. Agassiz-Harrison’s population only rose by about 15% during that time.

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Fewer downtown babies

Some neighbourhoods are welcoming fewer babies than a decade ago. That is happening largely in city centres: West and Central Abbotsford, North Chilliwack, and South Mission.

The decreases are comparatively small. West Abbotsford had the most significant decrease, with 7% fewer babies in 2021 than in 2011, while Central Abbotsford had a 4% drop in babies, and both Mission and North Chilliwack had a 2% decrease.

There are a number of possible reasons for the drops. Population growth in much of Abbotsford’s city core has been modest in the last decade. And although there has been residential development in parts of West Abbotsford, many projects are still in the works or only recently completed—and likely haven’t impacted the rate of births yet. The decrease in birth rates could also be attributed to younger families being priced out of the area, or a lack of family-sized homes in the city centre.

In North Chilliwack—which includes downtown Chilliwack, Fairfield Island, and Rosedale—the decline in births is likely a result of the same factors influencing Abbotsford: expensive houses in parts of the area, inadequately sized family homes in others. More young couples could also be heading south of the highway. The Sardis and Promontory areas of Chilliwack have been booming in the last decade and have the birth rates to prove it, with 9% more babies born. Similar trends are happening in Mission, with fewer babies being born in South Mission, and more in the north.

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Joti Grewal

Reporter at Fraser Valley Current

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