Economic family structure (for economic family)

Status: This standard was approved as a departmental standard on May 26, 2021.


Economic family structure refers to the combination of relatives that comprise a family. Classification on this variable considers the presence or absence of: married spouses or common-law partners; children; and other relatives.

Economic family refers to a group of two or more persons who live in the same dwelling and are related to each other by blood, marriage, common-law union, adoption or a foster relationship.

By definition, all persons who are members of a census family are also members of an economic family. Examples of the broader concept of economic family include the following: two co-resident census families who are related to one another are considered one economic family; co-resident siblings who are not members of a census family are considered as one economic family; and, nieces or nephews living with aunts or uncles are considered one economic family.


'Economic family structure' is derived from the responses to questions about the relationships among the people who live in the household. To determine the structure of economic families, a family reference person must first be identified. The family is then classified according to the presence or absence of this reference person's married spouse or common-law partner, child(ren) or other relative(s). The economic family reference person is determined through procedures specific to the particular survey. Economic families where the reference person has a married spouse or common-law partner in the family (regardless of whether or not the reference person also has children) are classified as couple families. Economic families where the reference person has no married spouse or common-law partner, but does have a child or children in the family, are classified as one-parent families. Economic families where the reference person does not have a married spouse or common-law partner, nor a child in the family, only other relatives, are classified as other economic families.

Economic families are derived in two ways. In method 1, census families are first identified and all relatives in the household are then added to form the economic family. In method 2, all relatives in the household are identified and included in the economic family. Where method 1 is used, Census family structure is carried forward into Economic family structure.

Conformity to relevant internationally recognized standards

This standard presents a concept of the composition of economic family that differs from that presented in the United Nations' "Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses, Revision 3", 2017. The classification suggested by the UN for households containing more than one person and more than just the members of one family nucleus focuses on: whether or not there is a family nucleus; the number of such nuclei; and the relationship, if any, of other members of the household to the family nucleus or nuclei. This contrasts with the current standard which views the composition of the economic family in terms of whether the chosen reference person is a member of a census family and, if so, the composition of that census family.

The "Conference of European Statisticians Recommendations for the 2020 Censuses of Population and Housing", 2015 recommends an approach similar to that of the UN.


Relation to previous version

  • Economic family structure (for economic family) May 26, 2021 to current

    The definition of the statistical unit and the classification have been modified, as has the definition of the concept in French.

  • Economic family structure of economic family November 16, 2015 to May 25, 2021

    This is an update of 'Family structure of economic family'. The definition and derivation have been simplified by making the concept specific to economic families. The concept has been renamed "Economic family structure".

    The two methods for deriving economic family characteristics have been included.

  • Family structure of economic family October 22, 2007 to November 15, 2015

    'Family structure of economic family' is incorporated within the classification of the previous standard, Economic family structure. The current standards take a more simplified approach, presenting each classification dimension as a separate concept. This approach provides greater conceptual and definitional clarity while simultaneously allowing users more flexibility in constructing whatever more complex, multidimensional classifications meet their needs for data presentation.

  • Economic family structure July 15, 1998 to October 21, 2007
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