Statistics Canada
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Concept: Census Family

Definition:

Census family is defined as a married couple and the children, if any, of either or both spouses; a couple living common law and the children, if any, of either or both partners; or, a lone parent of any marital status with at least one child living in the same dwelling and that child or those children. All members of a particular census family live in the same dwelling. A couple may be of opposite or same sex. Children may be children by birth, marriage or adoption regardless of their age or marital status as long as they live in the dwelling and do not have their own spouse or child living in the dwelling.

Grandchildren living with their grandparent(s) but with no parents present also constitute a census family.

Conformity to relevant internationally recognized standards

This standard is compatible with the definition of family nucleus presented in the United Nations' Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses, Revision 1, 1998. This document provides the following definition: "A family nucleus is one of the following types (each of which must consist of persons living in the same household): (a) a married couple without children, (b) a married couple with one or more unmarried children, (c) a father with one or more unmarried children or (d) a mother with one or more unmarried children. Couples living in consensual unions should be regarded as married couples." Furthermore, it defines child, for census purposes, as "any unmarried individual, regardless of age, who lives with his or her parent(s) and has no children in the same household." (The subsequent discussion clarifies that unmarried includes never married and divorced.)

In its discussion of statistical units, the Final Report and Recommendations of the Canberra Group, Expert Group on Household Income Statistics comments on international usage of two concepts of family which it refers to as the nuclear family and a broadly defined family often referred to as the economic family. The report observes that "nuclear families are defined as parent(s) and unmarried children sharing a dwelling. Sometimes an age limit for children (e.g. 18 years) is added to the definition." This standard fits within this definition.

Relation to previous standard

In the previous standard, children were defined as "under the age of 25". In this standard, the age limit has been removed. However, only the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics ever used an age-limited definition of "child" in identifying families.

The previous standard made no reference to same-sex couples. The addition of the words "a couple may be of opposite or same sex" reflects the established practice of including same-sex common-law couples and recognizes that same-sex couples can also be married.

This standard includes families made up of grandchildren living with their grandparent(s) with no parents present. Such families were not included in the previous standard.

Status:
Departmental Standard X
Recommended Standard
Program-specific

This standard was approved by Methods and Standards Committee on February 20, 2006.

Variables:

These variables are currently being revised. The new versions will reflect revised definitions of married and common-law couples that state that couples can be of opposite or same sex.




Variable: Census Family Marital Structure

Definition:

Census family marital structure is defined as the classification of census families by marital arrangements of the spouses or parents. This facilitates analysis where the prime interest is in spousal marital arrangements.

Note: Where underlying data are not available, data for Intact families, Step-families and Blended families will be omitted from the classification.

Standard Classifications:




Variable: Census Family Parental Structure

Definition:

Census family parental structure is defined as the classification of census families by the presence of children. This facilitates analysis where the prime interest is in the presence or absence of children

Standard Classifications:




Variable: Census Family Size

Definition:

Census family size refers to the number of persons in a census family.

Standard Classifications:




Variable: Census Family Type

Definition:

Census family type refers to the classification of census families according to whether or not any member is responsible for household maintenance, that is, payments for rent, or mortgage, or taxes, or utilities, etc.

Primary maintaining family refers to a census family of which the primary household maintainer (i.e., the person identified as being responsible for household payments) is a member.

Other maintaining family refers to a census family which contains a household maintainer other than the primary household maintainer.

Non-maintaining family refers to a census family which does not contain a person who is responsible for household payments.

Standard Classifications: