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Religious affiliation

Definition

Religious affiliation is the self-identified association of a person with a religion, denomination, or sub-denominational religious group.

A religion is a set of beliefs and practices that usually involves acknowledgement of a divine or higher being or power, and that guides people’s conduct and morals.

A denomination is the church or religious sect that forms a subgroup of a religion. Denominations of a particular religion share the same principles but differ from each other in aspects such as the form of worship, or how they are governed.

Where the data comes from

Question 18 on the individual form.

How this data is classified

0 No Religion

1 Buddhist

2 Christian

3 Hindu

4 Islam/Muslim

5 Judaism/Jewish

6 Māori Christian

7 Spiritualism and new-age religions

8 Other religions

9 Residual categories

At this level of the classification (the highest level), 'Object to answering' (which is a valid response) is included in 'Residual categories' together with 'Don't know', 'Religion unidentifiable', 'Response outside scope' and 'Not stated'.

More detailed information is available at lower levels of this classification.

Religious affiliation is a multiple response variable. If more than one religion was reported, each response up to a maximum of four responses is counted. Therefore, the total number of responses in a table is greater than the total number of usual residents.

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

The subject population for this variable is the census usually resident population.

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 rate for 2013: 7.1 percent, of which 4.8 percent were substitute records.
  • Non-response rate for 2006: 6.2 percent, of which 3.3 percent were substitute records.
  • Non-response rate for 2001: 5.7 percent, of which 2.9 percent were substitute records.

The response 'Object to answer' is not included in the non-response rate. Of those people that gave a valid response to the religious affiliation question in 2013, 4.4 percent objected to answering this question compared with 6.0 percent in 2006 and 6.4 percent in 2001.

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'.

  • 8.2 percent of the subject population was coded to 'Not elsewhere included' in 2013, compared with 7.3 percent in 2006 and 7.7 percent in 2001.
  • The 2001, 2006 and 2013 'Not elsewhere included' category included don't know, religion unidentifiable, response outside scope and not stated.

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:

  • by researchers and religious organisations, to trace the changes in values and belief systems in New Zealand society
  • to assess the need for various types of religion related or religion sponsored services, including those of churches, mosques, temples, and religious schools, and for the care of the aged and other disadvantaged groups
  • by churches to assess their level of penetration
  • as an explanatory variable for studies on topics such as marriage formation and dissolution, educational attainment, and income
  • by Māori, Pacific peoples, and other ethnic groups for whom this information is an important aspect of their culture.

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.

Religious affiliation is a supplementary variable. Supplementary variables do not fit in directly with the main purpose of a census, but are still important to certain groups. These variables are given third priority in terms of effort and resources.

Mode of collection impacts – online form compared with paper form

The online forms 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 this variable:

  • On the online form, it was only possible to give text responses if 'Other Christian' and/or 'Other religion' was marked. When forms were completed on paper, it was possible to give a text response but not mark the 'Other' tick boxes. All text responses were captured by the processing system.
  • On the online form, only people who gave a New Zealand address in question 5 were able to respond to this question. When forms were completed on paper, it was possible for overseas visitors to answer this question. 

Quality assessment of data and data quality issues for this variable

Overall quality assessment

High: fit for use – with minor data quality issues only. 2013 Census variable quality rating scale gives more detail.

Issues to note

  • Non-response rate for 2013: 7.1 percent, of which 4.8 percent were substitute records.
  • There were no categories in the Religious affiliation classification that were not fit for use.
  • A small number of records were affected by a minor scanning issue. This may have affected the numbers of Buddhist nfd, Hindu nfd and Islamic/Muslim nfd. However, this issue is unlikely to have had a significant impact on the overall increase in these numbers.

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.

This data is broadly comparable with the 2001 Census data due to different treatment of residual categories.

Comparisons between data from 2013 and 2006 Censuses

  • The data is highly comparable with the 2006 Census data as changes over this time period can generally be interpreted as real changes.

Comparisons of data from 2006 and 2001 with 1996 Census data

There are issues affecting the comparability of this data with data from 1996 and 2001 Censuses:

  • Up to four responses were coded in 2001 and 2006, whereas, in 1996, only one response was coded. This makes it difficult to compare the 1996 and 2006 data, and the 1996 and 2001 data.
  • Minor changes were made to the questionnaire between 1996 and 2001:
    • Ratana and Ringatū were added to the English language version of the question for 2001 and 2006.

Minor changes have been made to the order of categories.

Comparing this data with data from other sources

No alternative data source is available from Statistics NZ.

Further information about this data

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

When using this data, be aware that cross-tabulations of Religion and Ethnicity should always be done using the ethnic indicator variables, as this removes multiple responses for Ethnicity.

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

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