National Household Survey (NHS)

Detailed information for 2016




One Time

Record number:


Complementing the data collected by the census, the National Household Survey (NHS) is designed to provide information about people in Canada by their demographic, social and economic characteristics as well as provide information about the housing units in which they live.

Data release - June 28, 2019


Starting in 2011, information previously collected by the mandatory long-form census questionnaire is collected as part of the voluntary National Household Survey (NHS). The NHS provides information about the demographic, social and economic characteristics of people living in Canada as well as the housing units in which they live.

The information from the survey provides data to support federal, provincial, territorial and local government planning and program delivery.

Statistical activity

The term 'Census Program' is used to refer in a general way to the Census of Population (record number 3901) and, if applicable, any accompanying survey conducted at the time of the census. The Census Program consists of two parts: a short questionnaire (census) with a basic set of questions distributed to 100% of households, or a long questionnaire (National Household Survey - record number 5178) distributed to a 33% sample of households.


  • Education, training and learning
  • Families, households and housing
  • Immigration and ethnocultural diversity (formerly Ethnic diversity and immigration)
  • Income, pensions, spending and wealth
  • Indigenous peoples (formerly Aboriginal peoples)
  • Labour
  • Languages
  • Population and demography
  • Society and community

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The NHS covers all persons who usually live in Canada, in the provinces and the territories. It includes persons who live on Indian reserves and in other Indian settlements, permanent residents, non-permanent residents such as refugee claimants, holders of work or study permits, and members of their families living with them

Foreign residents such as representatives of a foreign government assigned to an embassy, high commission or other diplomatic mission in Canada, members of the armed forces of another country stationed in Canada, and residents of another country who are visiting Canada temporarily are not covered by the NHS.

The survey also excludes persons living in institutional collective dwellings such as hospitals, nursing homes and penitentiaries; Canadian citizens living in other countries; and full-time members of the Canadian Forces stationed outside Canada. Also excluded are persons living in non-institutional collective dwellings such as work camps, hotels and motels, and student residences.

Instrument design

Prior to each Census of the Population and National Household Survey (NHS), Statistics Canada undertakes a three to four-year process to review content by consulting with users of data, testing, and developing the questionnaire to ensure the content reflects changes in Canadian society. Factors considered in developing content include legislative requirements, program and policy needs, the burden on the respondent in answering the questions, privacy concerns, input from consultations and testing, data quality, costs and operational considerations, historical comparability, and the availability of alternate data sources.

Leading up to the October 1, 2014 National Household Survey Test, Statistics Canada held content consultations on the Census and NHS questionnaires, which included receiving submissions, holding meetings, and having conference calls with various data users, such as federal government departments and agencies, provincial and territorial government departments, local governments, the general public, libraries, academia, special interest groups, the private sector and licensed distributors of census data. Consultations for the 2016 Census and NHS content began in September 2012 and are an ongoing process.

Qualitative testing was conducted with the help of Statistics Canada's Questionnaire Design Resource Center (QDRC), who aided in testing iterations of the questionnaires that were based on the 2011 Census and National Household Survey questions. The questionnaires were tested with QDRC in June 2013, September 2013, and January 2014. A Census and NHS Test was also conducted in May 2014 with a focus on testing questionnaire content.

The changes to the NHS content for the 2014 Test include;
- Some minor design changes
- Reference dates have been updated
- Addition of a banner before the NHS 92 year permission question to highlight that this question is for everyone in the household.

The following questionnaires will be used:

- the 2A-L (NHS & Census - Long Form)
- the 2A-R (NHS & Census - Long Form for populations in Northern/Arctic regions, First Nations, and other Aboriginal communities)

Both questionnaires will be made available in paper format. The 2A-L will also be available in electronic format.

In accordance with the Statistics Act, the questionnaires for the Census of Population 2014 Census and National Household Survey test were prescribed by order of the Chief Statistician of Canada on July 7, 2014.


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

Approximately 30,000 dwellings are selected for the Test including one aboriginal reserve. About one in three of these dwellings will receive the combined Census and NHS questionnaire.

Collection activities for the National Household Survey Test are limited to the following areas:

- Quebec
Montréal, Havelock, Lacolle, Napierville, Saint-Chrysostome, Saint-Constant, Saint-Cyprien-de-Napierville, Sainte-Clotilde, Sainte-Martine, Saint-Jacques-le-Mineur, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu (L'Acadie sector only), Saint-Rémi, Saint-Urbain-Premier, Saint-Valentin, Très-Saint-Sacrement

- Ontario
Toronto, Peterborough

- Alberta
One (1) Reserve in the Edmonton area

Data sources

Responding to this survey is voluntary.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents.

The 2014 Census/NHS Test reference date is October 1, 2014.

Collection includes response by Internet, paper questionnaires returned by mail, the Census Help Line, and enumerators. The 2014 NHS test questionnaires consist of 2 questionnaires (the 2A-L and the 2A-R). Census questions will also be collected by the Census forms, (record number 3901).

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects that could identify any person, business, or organization, unless consent has been given by the respondent or as permitted by the Statistics Act. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data.

In order to prevent any data disclosure, confidentiality analysis is done using the Statistics Canada Generalized Disclosure Control System (G-Confid). G-Confid is used for primary suppression (direct disclosure) as well as for secondary suppression (residual disclosure). Direct disclosure occurs when the value in a tabulation cell is composed of or dominated by few enterprises while residual disclosure occurs when confidential information can be derived indirectly by piecing together information from different sources or data series.


Date modified: