Bowen Island: A decade of change

Occasionally I hear folks talking about how much Bowen has changed, so I thought I’d try and quantify that change by comparing the 2006 and the 2016 census—with some references to the 2011 census—and in the process maybe explain some of the perceived changes. (The infographics are PNG files and will show full size if you click on the 'pop-out' symbol in the upper right corner of each graphic. This may not work on your phone.)

The population of Bowen Island increased by 315 people from 2006 to 2016; however, 2006 to 2011 saw an increase of only 37 people, so while the population grew by 9.4% over the decade, the bulk of the growth (8.2%) was from 2011 to 2016, outpacing Metro Vancouver's* overall growth of 6.5% from 2011 to 2016.


Recognizing fewer people and making new friends?

Most of Bowen Island's growth was in the latter half of the 2011-2016 census, when property values began to rebound
from the 2008 slump. This rebound in property values also explains the unusual number of islanders leaving the island during this period, as homeowners reluctant to sell during the slump were finally able to sell their homes, which in turn made way for new residents.

New faces: While the population grew by only 278 between 2011 and 2016, 950 new residents moved to Bowen and 672 folks left the island (this number would also include a small number of  residents who died during this period). New neighbours: 515 island residents relocated on the island from 2011 to 2016. The large number of new residents (71%) were from B.C. and 14.2% were new to Canada. The percentage of residents who are not Canadian citizens increased by 1% since 2006 and represents 8% of residents.

The new faces and new neighbours don’t correlate with population growth, but rather with population change.


Who’s working where and how are they getting there?

Most Bowen Islanders identify as part of the labour force—67% of those over the age of 15. One in four islanders in the labour force work from home, 1/3 are self-employed, and 1/3 of the the labour force (18.5% of the population) commutes off-island to their usual place of work. (This figure that may surprise some 'old-timers' as conventional wisdom is closer to 40-50% of the population commutes off-island; even with the high school age children, the commuter population is still less than 1/4 of the total population.)

Of the working population, 97% travel to work (on- or off-island). Two in three travel by private vehicle as a driver or passenger and 1 in 5 use public transit. Walking was the next most popular mode of transport (6%), followed by other (motorcycle, water-taxi, or private boat) at 4%, with the remainder using a bicycle.

Despite improved ferry capacity and fewer overloads, which one might assume would encourage travel by private vehicle, 215 fewer people report commuting as a driver in a private vehicle–although the number of passengers remained the same–while 105 more islanders use public transit.

From 2006 to 2016, the working population declined 1.2%, with less than a 1% change (up or down) in most classifications. Only 4 categories reflected a change greater than 2% of the working population: Health Care and Social Assistance saw the largest increase at 4.9%, followed by Professional; Scientific and Technical Services at 2.6%. Construction took the biggest hit (29% or 80 fewer workers in the category) down 3.7% of the total working population from 2006, and Arts, Entertainment and Recreation was down 2.5%. While the 950 new residents account for the increases and minor fluctuations, the changes in construction can only be attributed to attrition as workers in this category were forced to find off-island work after the 2008 slump.


The 2016 median household after-tax income exceeded 2006 pre-tax income.

During the decade, the median household income (pre-tax) on Bowen Island increased from $72,990 to $89,856 (23%) while median after-tax income was up from $60,918 to $76,617 (26%).

The number of households with annual pre-tax income less than $10,000 increased slightly (1.5%) while those with income of $100,000 or greater increased by 22.8%. On Bowen Island, 54% of households have income of $80,000 or greater. In economic families (income from all family members before tax) 41% are in the top 3 percentiles of income while 24% are in the bottom 3 percentiles

For those aged 15 years and over and reporting individual income: 16% reported income less than $10,000, 26% reported $10,000–$29,999, 25% reported $30,000–$59,999, 18% reported $60,000–$99,999, 16% reported $100,000 (including 7% reporting $150,000 or more).

Going forward, unless the island provides rental housing and diversity (attached, multi-family) housing, most new residents to Bowen Island will have to have household incomes of $100,000 or more.


Older and wiser (or at least more educated)

We’re officially closer to 50 than 40. The median age of the population is 48.7—up from 44.8 in 2006—and 4.6 years older than the median age for Metro Vancouver.

The number of residents over age 55 increased, while the number and distribution of islanders age 0 to 39 was relatively unchanged.

Taking into account the 10 year span (those aged 0-4 in 2006 would be 10-14 in 2016), we begin to some idea of who's coming and who's going. This is simplistic, but by aging the categories by 10 years each, we see the following based on comparing 2006 and 2016 statistics:
          • 165 residents 0-4 years-of-age -new residents and births
          • 470 residents 5-14 years-of-age - about 270 new neighbours (200 were aged 0-4 in 2006)
          • 290 residents 15-24 years-of-age - about 120 neighbours departed (410 were aged 5-14 in 2006)
          • 240 residents 25-34 years-of-age - about 120 neighbours departed (360 were aged 15-24 in 2006)
          • 445 residents 35-44 years-of-age - about 230 new neighbours (215 were aged 25-34 in 2006)
          • 595 residents 45-54 years-of-age - about 75 new neighbours (520 were aged 35-44 in 2006)
          • 700 residents 55-64 years-of-age - about 30 new neighbours (670 were aged 45-54 in 2006)
          • 1115 residents 65-74 years-of-age - about 535 new neighbours (580 were aged 55-64 in 2006)
          • 300 residents 75-85 years-of-age - about 60 neighbours departed (360 were aged 65-74 in 2006)
          • 60 residents 85 years-of-age or older - about 90 neighbours departed (150 were aged 75-84 in 2006)

These numbers suggest that generally Bowen Island is attracting families with pre-school and elementary school-age children and retirees aged 55-74. The loss of residents 15-34 reflects choices some families make to move to the mainland when their children enter secondary school and the propensity for young adults to leave the island for college and employment. Attrition in the 75-and-older age group is typically seniors moving for more immediate access to health care.

In 2016, 240 residents (6.5% of population) identified as visible minorities compared to 185 (5.5%) in 2006—a 1% increase in ethnic diversity.

More islanders have more education. The number of people over 15 years-of-age with no certificate, diploma, or degree declined by 23%while the number with an apprenticeship or trades certificate or diploma increased 105% and those with a bachelor’s degree or higher increased 196% since 2006.


The number of private dwellings increased by 275 over the decade.

The number of occupied private dwellings grew by 156 (12%) over the decade, which is closely related to the average household size (2.5) and the population increase (315). Between 2006 and 2016, 255 homes (17%) were constructed while 11% were constructed prior to 1960. The average number of rooms per dwelling is 6.7: 19% have 1-4 rooms and 33% have 8 or more.

The 2016 Census reported the mean value of dwellings on Bowen Island at $798,887 and the average value at $942,977, and values have increased since the census. 19% of homes have 1-4 rooms and 33% have 8 or more with the average number of rooms per dwelling being 6.7. 54% of households are single-earner income and 45% are two-earner income.

The number of private dwellings increased over the decade by 275 while the number of households permanently occupied increased by only 156, suggesting that Bowen Island is home to 119 weekend/summer homes. 82% of households are occupied by owners while 18% are rented. This is an increase of only 1% for renter occupied dwellings over 2006. In Metro Vancouver, 36% of households are occupied by renters and their housing issue is in news daily.


Islanders are older, more educated, and earn more than a decade ago. Rate of population growth during the last half of the decade has been 1.4 times that of Metro Vancouver, and the rate of increase in property values tracks that of Metro. In light of the pressures the mainland brings to bear, Bowen Island will need enlightened development and growth management going forward to maintain the values we cherish.

* Metro Vancouver includes, in order of size (largest first), Vancouver, Surrey, Burnaby, Richmond, Coquitlam, Langley District, Delta District, North Vancouver District, Maple Ridge, New Westminster, Port Coquitlam, North Vancouver City, West Vancouver, Port Moody, Langley City, White Rock, Pitt Meadows, Electoral Area A, Bowen Island, Anmore, Lions Bay, Tsawwassen (Treaty First Nation), and Belcarra.

Disclaimer: The information here is gleaned from Statistics Canada 2006, 2011, and 2016 Census. The census is a self-reporting mechanism, and because of our small population, small changes in numbers can result in dramatic percentage changes and how the statistics are presented can minimize or exaggerate the findings. For example, in the industry category Restate and Rental and Leasing, the 35 people employed in 2006 represented 2% of the labour force at the time, and the 25 people employed in 2016 represented 1% of the labour force at the time. The difference—10 people over the decade—translates to a 29% decline in the number of individuals but only a 1% decline in the labour force in this category. While all due care has been taken to ensure the data of this website is accurate and current, Rhodes on Bowen and Timothy Rhodes REALTOR® accept no responsibility for the completeness, accuracy, or reliability of the data