Survey of Household Spending (SHS)

Detailed information for 2023




Every 2 years

Record number:


The main purpose of the Survey of Household Spending (SHS) is to obtain detailed information about household spending, as well as limited information on dwelling characteristics and household equipment.


The SHS primarily collects detailed information on household expenditures. It also collects information about the annual income of household members (from personal income tax data), demographic characteristics of the household, dwelling characteristics (e.g., type, age and tenure) and household equipment (e.g., electronics and communications equipment). The SHS is conducted in the 10 provinces and the 3 territorial capitals every 2 years starting with the 2017 reference year.

SHS data are used at Statistics Canada by the Canadian System of Macroeconomic Accounts as an input to calculate Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and by Consumer Prices Division to calculate basket weights for the Consumer Price Index (CPI). In addition, federal and provincial governments use the data to develop social and economic policies and programs. Various groups also use the data to address issues directly or indirectly related to Canadians' spending habits.

Collection period: The data are collected on a continuous basis from January to December of the survey reference year, from a sample of households spread over twelve monthly collection cycles.


  • Families, households and housing
  • Household characteristics
  • Household spending and savings
  • Housing and dwelling characteristics
  • Income, pensions, spending and wealth

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The target population is the population of Canada's 10 provinces, as well as the territorial capitals of Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit, excluding residents of institutions, members of the Canadian Forces living in military camps and people living on Indian reserves. In all, these exclusions account for about 2% of the population.

For operational reasons, people living in some remote areas where the rate of vacant dwellings is very high and where the collection cost would be exorbitant, are excluded from collection. Also excluded, in addition to people living in institutions, are people living in other types of collective dwellings:

- people living in residences for dependent seniors;
- people living permanently in school residences, work camps, etc.; and
- members of religious and other communal colonies.

Collection exclusions make up less than 0.5% of the target population. However, these people are included in the population estimates to which the SHS estimates are adjusted.

Instrument design

Since 2010 in the provinces and 2015 in the three territorial capitals, the SHS data have been collected using both a questionnaire and an expenditure diary. The questionnaire is generally used to collect expenditures for more expensive, and less frequently purchased goods and services. The diary is used to collect expenditures for smaller, less valuable items and those purchased more frequently. These expenditures may be more difficult to recall.

When this new collection model was introduced, each of the expenditure items covered by the SHS was assigned to a collection mode: questionnaire, expenditure diary or both. For the questionnaire items, a recall period of one, three or twelve months, last payment, or four weeks, was also selected. The choice of recall period for each item was largely based on the results of qualitative tests, on international best practice and on studies of estimate variability when reference periods were shortened. These studies were based on the data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The content of the questionnaire and changes to it have been determined in consultation with primary internal and external users of the survey data. When changes have been made, the content has been re-tested using cognitive interviews and updated based on the feedback received.

In 2021, SHS collection moved from a computer-assisted personal interviewing (CAPI) to a self-completed questionnaire (EQ) following the health measures restrictions of the COVID 19 Pandemic. The diary was sent to respondents by mail.


This is a sample survey with a cross-sectional design.

Sampling unit:
For SHS 2021, in the 10 provinces, the final sample was obtained from two distinct sampling designs. For the first sampling design (which is a two-stage design), the sampling unit at the first stage is the geographical area (called a cluster). In the second stage, the sampling unit is the dwelling. For the second sampling design, the sampling unit is directly the dwelling.

In the three territorial capitals, the sampling unit is the dwelling.

Stratification method:
A stratified multi-stage sampling design is used to select the first sample in the 10 provinces. It is essentially a two-stage design, of which the first stage is to select a sample of geographic areas (the clusters). Next, a list of all the dwellings in the selected clusters is prepared and a sample of dwellings is selected within each cluster. The selected dwellings that are inhabited by members of the target population constitute the survey's sample of households. The SHS uses several components of the Labour Force Survey's (LFS) sample design to minimize operating costs, though the dwellings selected for the SHS are different than those selected for the LFS.

A stratified one-stage sampling design is used to select a second sample which is combined with the first sample before collection. Selected dwellings that are inhabited by members of the target population are included in this second sample of households. This second sample is stratified in the same way as for the first sample.

The national sample is first allocated among the provinces based on the variability of total household expenditures and, to a lesser extent, the number of households in each province. The goal is to obtain estimates of similar quality across all provinces. The sample is then divided into strata defined by grouping clusters with similar characteristics based on a number of socio-demographic variables. Some strata are defined to target specific subpopulations such as high-income households. To improve the quality of the estimates, the high-income household strata are allocated a larger share of the sample than the allocation proportional to stratum size that is used in other strata.

A one-stage sampling design is used to select the sample in the three territorial capitals. The first step of the sample allocation is to determine the number of dwellings to be sampled in each city. The overall sample is allocated to each city taking into account the size of the city and the quality of the estimates obtained from previous cycles of the SHS in the North.

Sampling and sub-sampling:
The sample for the 2021 Survey of Household Spending consists of 39,038 households across the 10 provinces and 1,695 households across Whitehorse and Yellowknife.

Since data are collected monthly, the sample is divided into 12 sub-samples of similar size.

Data sources

Data collection for this reference period: 2023-01-01 to 2023-12-31

Responding to this survey is voluntary.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents and extracted from administrative files.

For SHS 2021, all sampled households have received a letter inviting them to complete the electronic questionnaire online. These households also receive a paper spending diary to complete during a specified reference period. Non -response follow-up for both the main electronic questionnaire and the diary is done at different stages of the collection period.

The electronic questionnaire mainly collects regular expenditures (such as rent and electricity) and less frequent expenditures (such as furniture and dwelling repairs) for a recall period that varies in length depending on the type of expenditure. For regular expenditures, the amount of the last payment and the period it covers are typically collected. For other types of expenditures collected in the questionnaire, recall periods used include two weeks, as well as three or twelve months. The recall periods are defined in terms of weeks or months preceding the month of the interview. For example, for a household in the June sample, "the last three months" corresponds to the period from March 1 to May 31. For questions using a two-week recall period, the period corresponds to the two weeks immediately preceding collection. Demographic characteristics, dwelling characteristics and household equipment information, which are also collected in the questionnaire, refer to the household's situation at the time of collection.

For the expenditure diary, respondents are asked to record the expenditures of all household members for a specified period. Respondents in the provinces are asked to complete the diary for a one-week period and those in the territorial capitals are asked to complete it for a two-week period. Households are required to include all of their spending, except for a few types of expenditures, such as rent, regular utilities payments, as well as real estate and vehicle purchases. Households have the option of providing receipts for their purchases made during the diary reporting period in order to reduce the amount of information they need to record manually in the diary. However, they are asked to write out additional information on the receipt if the description of the item appearing on the receipt is incomplete.

A telephone follow-up is carried out a few days after the questionnaire is completed to address any questions the respondent may have about the diary and to provide important information about how it should be completed and returned.

The diaries and all receipts supplied by respondents are scanned and captured at Statistics Canada's head office. An expenditure classification code is assigned to each item from a list of over 650 different codes.

Household income for the SHS is derived by linking income tax information from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to household members. Respondents are informed that the survey data will be combined with tax data to obtain personal income information for household members aged 16 and over on December 31 of the calendar year preceding the survey year. Income is imputed for individuals who do not agree to have their tax data linked, as well as for those for which a linkage to income tax information is unsuccessful.

The SHS links income tax data to survey respondents using deterministic and probabilistic record linkage techniques.

View the Questionnaire(s) and reporting guide(s) .

Date modified: