Survey of Consumer Finances (Small Sample)

Detailed information for 1997





Record number:


The purpose of this survey was to provide data for estimating income distributions by size for individuals and families.

Data release - December 20, 1999


In 1998 reference year, this survey was replaced by survey number 3889, the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics.

Provides data for estimating income distributions by size for individuals and families.

Together with survey 3502, provides data for a program of annual estimates. A special topic is included, e.g., in SCF 1984 information on housing assets, debts, professional business and pension plan coverage was also ennumerated. This constituted the variable part of the survey in 1984; in other survey cycles special topics have included utilization of health and educational services (1975), asset-debts (1977) family composition changes during reference year (1979) and unemployment insurance recipients (1981). Except for the asset-debt module which has been repeated every 5-7 years, these supplements represent one-time special research topics.


  • Household, family and personal income
  • Income, pensions, spending and wealth
  • Low income and inequality

Data sources and methodology

Target population

All individuals in Canada, excluding residents of the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, residents of institutions and persons living on Indian reserves. Overall, these exclusions amount to less than 3 percent of the population.


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

Approximately 17,000 dwellings are selected from the Labour Force Survey sample frame, yielding 15,500 occupied households. Interviewers list all persons in the selected households and ask persons 15 years of age and over questions concerning their labour force activity during the previous week and work experience during the previous year. Then they leave questionnaires for these individuals to complete in respect to detailed income information for the previous calendar year. For SCF 1984, income data as well as housing asset, debt, business and pension data was interviewer-enumerated, breaking from the usual procedure of 'drop-off/pick-up' for obtaining income data. At present the income questionnaire asks for the reporting of 16 income components plus 4 income tax related items. Income estimates are available on the basis of total money income or after tax income; also alternative family definitions are used - historically estimates are available on an economic family definition and since 1967 estimates for census families have been compiled. It should be noted that estimates do not cover: 1) residents of the Yukon and N.W.T.; 2) residents of Indian Reserves; 3) residents of military barracks; 4) inmates of institutions; and 5) families living in private households whose major source of income is military pay and allowances.


An edit procedure is applied to completed income questionnaires and income records for non-respondents (whose other characteristics are known) are created by a computer imputation procedure. Each record is then weighted by a weighting factor that reflects the sample design and incorporates the inverse of the sampling ratio (which varies significantly by geographic area) and the differential response rate, among other things. For further information on the weighting procedure see cat. 13-207.

Quality evaluation

Published data are accompanied by estimated sampling errors of average income. Generally, these errors range from a minimum of .75 - 1.5% of the mean for the major universes published (individuals, families, unattached individuals) to approximately 8% for some small subgroups of the population. Another way of evaluating quality is pursued by reconciling survey estimates by component to National Account aggregates that have been adjusted for conceptual and coverage differences. In total comparable money income components in the survey account for approximately 95% of the corresponding N.A. aggregates. A summary of this reconciliation is contained in cat. 13-207 and a detailed statement is included in the public use micro data documentation.

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.

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