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Living arrangements is a variable that collects the familial and non–familial relationships of a person to all the other people with whom they usually reside.

The following supporting concepts are defined in Glossary and references:

  • familial relationship
  • non-familial relationship
  • usual residence.

Operational issues

There are three constraints on the definition of living arrangements. Firstly, some people do not want to report their true relationships to the people they usually live with. This could be because they find it an invasion of their privacy in general, or there might be a particular relationship they do not want known. For example, a beneficiary may not want to report that they are living with a partner.

A second constraint is that living arrangements can be mis–reported unintentionally. Respondents can get confused answering the questionnaire module and reverse their relationships to people in the household. For example, an aunt who is filling out the questionnaire module for living arrangements may accidentally report living with her auntie instead of niece. Reversed relationships can sometimes be corrected by checking other information provided by the respondent.

Finally, respondents can accidentally omit some of the people with whom they usually reside. For example, a grandmother may report living with a daughter, but overlook reporting the grandchild she also lives with.

Explanatory notes

Living arrangements coverage

The statistical unit for which living arrangements is an attribute is always a person. Surveys can collect living arrangements data for any subpopulation. However, surveys need to carefully define for users of the data which people are included and excluded from the collection of the variable.

Relationship vs living arrangements

The classification for living arrangements has a similar code structure to relationship to reference person. The concept differs from relationship in that living arrangements collects information about the relationship each person has to the people with whom they usually reside. In contrast, relationship collects information on the relationship of each person in a defined group to one person.

Related vs unrelated people

The definitions of related and unrelated people, as well as familial and non-familial relationships are given in Glossary and references. In summary, related people are people who have familial relationships (related by blood, registered marriage, consensual union, fostering or adoption), and unrelated people have a non–familial relationship. In practice, related people are people that are reported as related and living with a relative. Two examples illustrate the difficulties in classifying related and unrelated people.

A respondent may report that they are living with their “ex–husband’s cousin”. The respondent may feel that their ex–husband’s cousin is related to them and is part of their family. However, since there is no familial relationship between the respondent and their ex–husband’s cousin, they are unrelated people according to the classification.

In another case, a respondent may report living with their “second cousin once removed”. The respondent may feel that this is a very distant relationship and does not constitute a relative, but the classification would categorise “second cousin once removed” as a related person, since there is a blood relationship.

In both cases, the respondents may simply write “cousin”, and this would be classified as such in the classification. However, the above examples show the ambiguities that exist in the concepts of related and unrelated people.

Changes since the 1995 review of the standard

The previous version of the living arrangements standard contained a flat classification with 40 categories. The structure of the classification has been changed to a hierarchical one with three levels. This will enable different surveys to utilise the classification in varying amounts of detail.

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