Survey of Household Spending

Detailed information for 2001





Record number:


The main purpose of the survey is to obtain detailed information about household spending during the reference year. Information is also collected about dwelling characteristics as well as household equipment.

Data release - December 11, 2002


The Survey of Household Spending is carried out annually across Canada in the ten provinces. Data for the territories are available for 1998, 1999 and every second year thereafter.

The main purpose of the survey is to obtain detailed information about household spending during the reference year (previous calendar year). Information is also collected about dwelling characteristics as well as household equipment.

The survey data are used by the following groups:
- Government departments use the data to help formulate policy;
- Community groups, social agencies and consumer groups use the data to support their positions and to lobby governments for social changes;
- Lawyers and their clients use the data to determine what is fair for child support and other compensation;
- Labour and contract negotiators rely on the data when discussing wage and cost-of-living clauses;
- Individuals and families can use the data to compare their spending habits with those of similar types of households.

Conducted since 1997, the Survey of Household Spending integrates most of the content found in the Family Expenditure Survey (FAMEX, record number 3504) and the Household Facilities and Equipment Survey (HFE, record number 3505). As of the 2004 reference year, the Homeowner Repair and Renovation Survey (HRRS, record number 3886) was integrated into the Survey of Household Spending.

Reference period: Calendar year (expenditure and other financial data) and December 31 (data on dwelling characteristics and household equipment)

Collection period: January to March after the reference year


  • 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 Survey of Household Spending is carried out in private households in Canada.

The following groups are excluded from the survey:

- those living on Indian reserves and crown lands;
- official representatives of foreign countries living in Canada and their families;
- members of religious and other communal colonies;
- members of the Canadian Forces living in military camps;
- people living in residences for senior citizens; and
- people living full time in institutions: for example, inmates of penal institutions and chronic care patients living in hospitals and nursing homes.

The survey covers about 98% of the population in the 10 provinces and three territories.

Information is not gathered from persons temporarily living away from their families (for example, students at university), because it would be gathered from their families if selected. In this way, double counting of such individuals is avoided.

Data from part-year households are excluded from estimates of average household spending. However, these data are included in the estimates for dwelling characteristics and household equipment and in the calculation of the Survey of Household Spending response rate. Data from part-year households are also required as input into Statistics Canada's System of National Accounts. Part-year households are composed entirely of persons who were members of other households for part of the reference year.

Instrument design

The Survey of Household Spending questionnaire was first designed for the 1997 reference year. This questionnaire was a merging of two questionnaires (Family Expenditure Survey and the Household Facilities and Equipment Survey). The final questionnaire content was determined in consultation with the System of National Accounts which is the primary user of the data. The questionnaire contains the minimum number of questions which satisfy the data needs of the System of National Accounts while minimizing response burden. In 2004, the content of the Homeowner Repair and Renovation Survey was merged to the Survey of Household Spending.


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

Sample size = over 21,000 households

This sample is a stratified, multi-stage sample selected from the Labour Force Survey (LFS, record number 3701) sampling frame. Sample selection comprises two main steps: the selection of clusters (small geographic areas) from the LFS frame and the selection of dwellings within these selected clusters. For more information, see 'Methodology of the Canadian Labour Force Survey', Statistics Canada, Catalogue No. 71-526-XPB.

Data sources

Responding to this survey is voluntary.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents.

Data are collected during a personal interview using a paper questionnaire.

In 1997, 1998, 1999 and every second year thereafter (starting with 2001), data are collected for the territories; for the other years, data are collected for the 10 provinces only.

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

Error detection

The senior interviewer reviews the questionnaire and attempts to balance the household expenditures and income within 10% of each other.

Data entry and automated editing for the Survey of Household Spending takes place in the Statistics Canada regional offices. This allows respondents to be contacted in the event that more information is required to resolve an inconsistency on their questionnaires.

After data entry, an automated physical edit system checks for data entry errors. Then, data have to pass a two-tier edit system consisting of "must-pass" edits that check questionnaires for logic and consistency, and "warnings" that indicate that a particular situation is unusual and could require correction. The invocation of either type of edit results in the intervention of a member of one of the specially trained edit resolution teams. Further editing of the data set takes place in head office where invalid responses are corrected.


Missing responses are imputed using the nearest neighbour method. Statistics Canada's Canadian Census Edit and Imputation System (CANCEIS) is used to insert values from donor records having similar characteristics, chosen specifically to fit the variable.


The estimation of population characteristics from a sample survey is based on the idea that each sampled household represents a certain number of other households in addition to itself. These numbers are called the survey weights of the sample. To improve the representativity of the sample, the weights are adjusted so that the estimates from the sample are in line with population totals, or benchmarks, from other independent sources of information that are considered reliable. This is called weight calibration. SHS uses two sources for calibration. The first source is the Census of Population which provides demographic benchmarks. Since 1997, the SHS has used benchmarks derived from the 1996 Census. Since the Census is conducted once every five years, Statistics Canada projects the Census results for later years (up to the present), and then revises those estimates when the next Census data become available. The projections use a variety of secondary information, including administrative data on births, deaths and migration.

As well, totals from the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) are used to adjust survey results to reflect the income distribution of the Canadian population.

Quality evaluation

When all processing and estimation steps are complete, the data are compared with the previous year's estimates and when possible, with other data sources such as the Census, administrative sources and other Statistics Canada surveys.

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any data which would divulge information obtained under the Statistics Act that relates to any identifiable person, business or organization without the prior knowledge or the consent in writing of that person, business or organization. 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.

The respondent's name and address are removed from the questionnaire and shredded. The questionnaires are shredded once processing is complete.

The name and address do not appear on the survey database.

Approval by Statistics Canada's Microdata Release Committee is required before a microdata file may be released to the public. This committee ensures that confidentiality requirements are met as per Statistics Canada policy.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

Adjustments are made to data after new population estimates become available following the most recent census. At that time, all data back to the previous census is re-weighted using the new population estimates.

Data accuracy

Response rate for 2001 = 76%

Coefficients of variation for survey variables for Canada and the provinces are supplied in the User Guide for the Survey of Household Spending, which is available through the online catalogue number 62F0026MIE2002002 (free) or through the link "Publications" included in the side bar menu above.

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