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Relationship status

Definition

Relationship status:

  • legally registered relationship status (previously known as legal marital status)
  • partnership status in current relationship (previously known as social marital status).

Where the data comes from

Question 23 on the individual form.

Data on partnership status in current relationship is derived from question 19 (living arrangements) and question 23 (legally registered relationship status) on the individual form.

How this data is classified

Legally registered relationship status

111 Married (not separated)

112 Civil union (not separated)

211 Separated

212 Divorced or dissolved

213 Widowed or surviving civil union partner

311 Never married and never in a civil union

777 Response unidentifiable

999 Not stated

Partnership status in current relationship

10 Partnered, nfd

11 Spouse

12 Civil union partner

13 De facto partner

20 Non-partnered, nfd

21 Non-partnered, separated (marriage or civil union)

22 Non-partnered, divorced or dissolved (marriage or civil union)

23 Non-partnered, widowed or surviving civil union partner

25 Non-partnered, never married and never in a civil union

99 Not stated

Nfd not further defined

For further information about this classification, refer to the:

For background information on classifications and standards, refer to the Classifications and related statistical standards page.

Subject population

Legally registered relationship status

The subject population is the census usually resident population aged 15 years and over.

Partnership status in current relationship

The subject population is the census usually resident population aged 15 years and over.

 

The subject population is the people, families, households, or dwellings to whom the variable applies.

Non-response and data that could not be classified

Non-response

'Non-response' is when an individual gives no response at all to a census question that was relevant to them. The non-response rate is the percentage of the subject population that was coded to ‘Not stated’.

Non-response rates for 2013:

  • Legally registered relationship status: 8.7 percent, of which 4.9 percent were substitute records.
  • Partnership status in current relationship: 7.0 percent, of which 4.3 percent were substitute records.

Non-response rates for 2006:

  • Legally registered relationship status: 7.3 percent, of which 3.4 percent were substitute records.
  • Partnership status in current relationship: 6.6 percent, of which 3.1 percent were substitute records.

Non-response rates for 2001:

  • Legally registered relationship status: 6.6 percent, of which 3.1 percent were substitute records.
  • Partnership status in current relationship: 6.4 percent, of which 2.4 percent were substitute records.

Not elsewhere included

Non-response and responses that could not be classified or did not provide the type of information asked for are usually grouped together and called 'Not elsewhere included'.

  • For legally registered relationship status, 9.5 percent of the subject population was coded to 'Not elsewhere included' in 2013, compared with 7.9 percent in 2006 and 6.8 percent in 2001.

Note that for 2006 legally registered relationship status data the 'Civil union (not separated)' category is included in the grouping 'Not elsewhere included' due to data quality issues. This is the same as for 2013. Refer to the quality assessment of data and data quality issues for this variable section below for further details.

For more information on non-response and substitute records, refer to the 2013 Census data user guide.

How this data is used

Data from this variable is used:

  • to provide valuable information on how society is structured, allowing the analysis and understanding of family size and changes in family structures. This information contributes to our understanding of present and future society
  • in a variety of planning and monitoring activities, including the estimation of the future demand for central government and local body services, the development of housing and welfare systems
  • to contribute to some demographic time series, such as fertility rates (nuptial and ex-nuptial), marriage and divorce rate, and family formation rates.

Data quality processes

All census data was checked thoroughly during processing and evaluation, to ensure that it met quality standards and is suitable for use. These quality checks included edits.

All data must meet minimum quality standards to make it suitable for use.

Quality level

quality level is assigned to all census variables: foremost, defining, or supplementary.

Legally registered relationship status and Partnership status in current relationship are defining variables. Defining variables cover key subject populations that are important for policy development, evaluation, or monitoring. These variables are given second priority in terms of quality, time, and resources across all phases of a census.

Mode of collection impacts – online form compared with paper form

The online form had built-in editing functionality that directed respondents to the appropriate questions and ensured that their responses were valid. As a result of this, data from online forms may be of higher overall quality than data from paper forms. The significance of this will depend on the particular type of analysis being done. There will always be a mode effect but this cannot be measured. Statistics NZ design and test to minimise the effects of mode for all questions.

There were differences between how the forms were completed online and on paper for these variables:

  • The online form allowed only one response to be selected for the legally registered relationship status question. If a further response was selected, the response given previously disappeared. Multiple responses to this question were possible when forms were completed on paper.
  • For people who stated that they are under 15 years or are overseas visitors, this question was greyed out, and they were not be able to answer it unless they changed their answers to the two previous questions. When forms were completed on paper, however, it was possible for people under 15 years and overseas visitors to answer this question.
  • 'Response unidentifiable’ is usually due to multiple responses given to the relationship status question on the paper form.

Quality assessment of data and data quality issues for this variable

Overall quality assessment

High: fit for use – with minor data quality issues only except for civil unions, which has been assessed as Poor: not fit for use. 2013 Census variable quality rating scale gives more detail.

Issues to note

There are significant data quality issues regarding the civil unions data. Civil unions data for both legally registered relationship status and partnership status in current relationship is not fit for use. The rest of the relationship status data is not affected by this quality problem and shows the expected distributions.

Issues to note with civil union data

  • In the table below, statistics on registered civil unions collected by Statistics NZ (from registrations supplied by the Department of Internal Affairs) show that 5,080 people had registered a civil union in New Zealand up to 5 March 2013.
People in civil unions
By relationship type and age
Civil unions solemnised up to 5 March 2013 (provisional)
Age (years) Male/male(1) Female/female(2) Female/male(3) All people
Under 25 170 205 163  538
25–29 251 343 317 911
30–34 220 356 227 803
35–39 233 368 144 745
40–44 234 342 92 668
45–49 171 296 73 540
50–54 143 207 36 386
55–59 93 131 30 254
60+ 93 94 48 235
All ages 1,608 2,342 1,130 5,080 
1. Males in same-sex civil unions.
2. Females in same-sex civil unions.
3. Males and females in opposite-sex civil unions.
Note: Refers to civil unions registered in New Zealand by date of occurrence, where partner 2 is resident in New Zealand.
  • The 2013 Census data for Legally registered relationship status shows that 15,582 people reported that they were 'Legally registered in a civil union'. The Partnership status in current relationship from the 2013 Census indicates that 5,496 people reported that they lived with a civil union partner. These figures are significantly higher than was expected and are believed to be due to respondent misinterpretation of what a civil union is.
  • Civil union data was not considered fit for use in 2006.
  • The 'Legally registered in a civil union' and 'Civil union partner' categories from the Legally registered relationship status and Partnership status in current relationship classifications, respectively, will not be available in published or customised outputs. Published or customised tables on legally registered relationship status will include the data from the 'Legally registered in a civil union' category in the 'Not elsewhere included' category for tables that have 'Not elsewhere included', or in the 'Response unidentifiable' category for tables that have 'Response unidentifiable'. Published or customised tables on partnership status in current relationship will include the data from the 'Civil union partner' in the 'Partnered, not further defined' category.
  • Non-response rates for 2013:
    • Legally registered relationship status: 8.7 percent, of which 4.9 percent were substitute records.
    • Partnership status in current relationship: 7.0 percent, of which 4.3 percent were substitute records.
  • Once substitutes are excluded, Partnership status not stated is at an all-time low in 2013 with a decrease of 13,409 from 2001 to 2013, and a decrease of 0.9 percent from 2001 to 2013. This means more valuable data was gathered from the two questions that contribute to partnership status.

For more information on non-response and substitute records, refer to the 2013 Census data user guide.

Comparing this data with previous census data

This data is highly comparable with the 2006 Census data. Changes in the data over this time period can generally be interpreted as real changes. There may be a small component of change over time that is due to minor changes in the collection, definition, or classification of the data.

This data is broadly comparable with the 2001 Census data. Changes in the data over this time period may be partly due to changes in the collection, definition, or classification of the data rather than to real change.

In 2006, Civil union data was not considered fit for use. The 2006 Census was the first census following the legalisation of civil unions. For the relationship status variables new categories were introduced for civil unions. Other categories such as 'Separated', 'Divorced', 'Widowed', and 'Never married' were also changed to accommodate civil unions. Data on civil unions was not collected in the 2001 Census.

Comparing this data with data from other sources

Census is the only information source that provides comprehensive information for small areas and small populations. However alternative sources of information about this subject are available:

Data from these alternative sources may show differences from census data for several reasons. These could be due to differences in scope, coverage, non-response rates, data being collected at different periods of time, alternative sources being sample surveys and as such subject to sampling errors, or differences in question wordings and method of delivery (self-administered versus interviewer-administered). Data users are advised to familiarise themselves with the strengths and limitations of individual data sources before comparing with census data.

Further information about this data

All percentages in census publications have been calculated using 'Total stated' as the denominator.

When using this data, be aware of the following:

  • The legal age for marriage in New Zealand is 16 years.
  • The data shows a small number of 15-year-olds with an unlikely legally registered relationship status of 'Married', 'Civil union', 'Separated', 'Divorced or dissolved', or 'Widowed or surviving civil union partner'. It is not recommended to use this data on 15-year-olds for analysis.

Contact our Information Centre for further information about using this variable.

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