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Household composition


'Household composition' is a derived variable that classifies households according to the relationships between usually resident people. Households are classified according to the presence, number and type of family nuclei, and the presence of related and unrelated people.

Relationship to questionnaire(s)

The key questions from which data on household composition (and related variables) is derived are questions 6 and 21 on the dwelling form (PDF 783kb) and question 19 on the individual form (PDF 395kb).

Subject population

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

The subject population for this variable is households in private occupied dwellings. Visitor-only private dwellings are excluded.

Non-response rate

In 2006, 1.9 percent of households were classified as 'household composition unidentifiable'.

In 2001, 2.1 percent of households were classified as 'household composition unidentifiable'.

Quality Management Strategy priority level

Household composition is a defining variable.

The Census Quality Management Strategy assigns a priority level to all census variables.

Defining variables cover key subject populations that are important for policy development, evaluation or monitoring. These variables are given secondary priority in terms of quality, time and resources across all phases of the 2006 Census.

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

Comparability with 1996 and 2001 Census data

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

  • Certain aspects of the household composition data are not comparable over time, because of classification changes. This affects analysis at the more detailed levels of the classification, but not at the least detailed level.
  • The 2001 and 2006 data for multi-family households is not comparable with 1996 data, because, in 2001 and 2006, two-family households in which one or both of the families were couple only were classified in the 'other two-family household' category. In 1996 the classification did not have this category, and two-family households containing couple-only families were included in the 'two two-parent families' and 'one two-parent family and a one-parent family' categories.
  • In 1996 there were categories indicating whether or not 'other multi-person households' contained siblings, but the 2001 and 2006 classifications do not have these subcategories, so this information is not available for 2001 and 2006.
  • The 1996 classification included a 'visitor-only household' category, but the 2001 and 2006 classifications did not include this category. In 2001 and 2006 this information was available from the 'visitor-only private dwelling' category of the 'visitor-only private dwelling indicator' variable.
  • There was a change in the classification of young people not living with their parents. In 1996, everyone under 18 years old who: was not employed full time; did not have a child and/or partner; and did not report living with parents, was coded as a child in a family nucleus and given a child dependency status of 'dependent child'. For 2001 and 2006, the age criterion was changed to people under 15 years old. This change affected how the household was classified, but has not had a major impact on the comparability of the data over time.

Significant issues

There are no significant issues that users need to be aware of.

Other things to be aware of

  • During census processing, the people in each private dwelling (including absentees) have codes allocated to them that indicate who they live with and their roles within families (eg partner, parent, child). This is called 'family coding'. The household composition derivation uses the family coding to identify family nuclei and related people within households and to determine the composition of each household.
  • There are a small number of one-person households for which the sole resident is aged under 15 years. This is primarily due to respondent error.
  • All census data was subject to considerable checks (including edits) during processing and evaluation, to ensure that it meets quality standards and is suitable for use. These checks were applied to data supplied both on paper and on Internet forms. In addition to these quality checks, the Internet 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 Internet 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 were differences between how the forms were completed on the Internet and on paper for this variable:
    • On the Internet, only one response could be selected for each person's relationship to the reference person in questions 6 and 21 on the dwelling form. Multiple responses for a person's relationship to the reference person were possible when forms were completed on paper.
    • For the living arrangements question, the Internet form did not allow the inconsistent multiple response of 'I live alone' to be selected at the same time as one or more responses indicating people who the respondent lived with. If the 'I live alone' box was marked, any other responses to living arrangements disappeared. Inconsistent multiple responses to this question were possible when forms were completed on paper.
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