Total income of household

Status: This standard was replaced by the 'Total income of private household' as of March 21, 2016.

Definition

Total income refers to the sum of certain receipts (in cash and, in some circumstances, in kind) of the reporting unit during a specified reference period. The components used to calculate total income vary between:

- Statistical units of social surveys such as, persons, households, census families and economic families;

- Statistical units of business surveys such as enterprises, companies, establishments and locations; and

- Statistical units of the Canadian System of National Economic Accounts (CSNEA).

In the context of persons, households, census families and economic families, total income refers to monetary receipts from certain sources, before income taxes and deductions, during a specified reference period. It includes employment income from wages, salaries, tips, commissions and net income from self-employment (for both unincorporated farm and non-farm activities); income from government sources, such as social assistance, child benefits, employment insurance, Old Age Security pension, Canada or Quebec pension plan benefits and disability income; income from employer and personal pension sources, such as private pensions and payments from annuities and RRIFs; income from investment sources, such as dividends and interest on bonds, accounts, GIC's and mutual funds; and other regular cash income, such as child support payments received, spousal support payments (alimony) received and scholarships. The monetary receipts included are those that tend to be of a regular and recurring nature. It excludes one-time receipts, such as: lottery winnings, gambling winnings, cash inheritances, lump sum insurance settlements, capital gains and RRSP withdrawals. Capital gains are excluded because they are not by their nature regular and recurring. It is further assumed that they are less likely to be fully spent in the period in which they are received, unlike income that is regular and recurring. Also excluded are employer's contributions to registered pension plans, Canada and Quebec pension plans, and employment insurance. Finally, voluntary inter-household transfers, imputed rent, goods and services produced for barter, and goods produced for own consumption are excluded from this total income definition.

Household refers to a person or group of persons who occupy the same dwelling and do not have a usual place of residence elsewhere in Canada or abroad. The dwelling may be either a collective dwelling or a private dwelling. The household may consist of a family group such as a census family, of two or more families sharing a dwelling, of a group of unrelated persons or of a person living alone. Household members who are temporarily absent on reference day are considered part of their usual household.

Usage

Where the statistical unit is a household, economic family or census family, total income refers to the sum of the total incomes of all persons who are members of that statistical unit.

Conformity to relevant internationally recognized standards

This standard generally conforms to the recommendations for censuses contained in the United Nations' Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses, Revision 2, 2008. In its definition of income, the UN includes both income in cash and in kind. However, it observes that the collection of reliable data on income is extremely difficult and that "the inclusion of non-cash income further compounds the difficulties." Accordingly, it does not recommend that income information be collected on censuses, but acknowledges that, "depending on the national requirements, countries may nonetheless wish to obtain limited information on cash income." It is this cash income that is the focus of the current standard. The UN Principles goes on to specify that cash income should include: wages and salaries of employees, income of members from producers' cooperatives, income of employers and own-account workers operating business and unincorporated enterprises, interest, dividends, rent, social security benefits, pensions and life insurance annuity benefits as well as social security, pension fund contributions and direct taxes withheld from employees' salaries. All these sources have been included in this standard. The UN does not recommend a particular classification for income but does note in Principles that, due to the assumed approximate nature of the responses (due to the complexity of the question), "it is usually appropriate to use broad income or earnings size-classes." Such broad classes have been used in this standard.

This standard also conforms in general approach to the definition of income proposed in the Canberra Group Handbook on Household Income Statistics, 2nd ed., but is not completely compatible with these recommendations in its specific inclusions. As recommended by the Canberra Group, income is defined: to include only receipts that are recurrent (excluding large and unexpected, typically one-time, receipts); to include components which contribute to current economic well-being but not those, such as employer contributions to pension funds, related to future well-being; and to exclude considerations, such as capital gains or losses, that relate to the maintenance of net worth. The Canberra Recommendations present two lists of the components of income, one reflecting an ideal definition of income and the other an operational definition that could be more easily applied. All sources of income listed in this standard are included on both these lists. However, there are some items in the ideal list that are not in the standard. These are: 1) non-cash income, specifically, imputed income from self-employment (goods and services produced for barter, less cost of inputs, and goods produced for own consumption, less cost of inputs) 2) employers' social insurance contributions 3) net value of owner-occupied housing services (imputed rent) and 4) voluntary transfers from other households. The ideal list includes "current transfers from other households" while this standard lists only two specific types of such transfers: child support payments and spousal support payments (alimony). The Canberra group recognizes that countries may choose not to collect and publish all items in the conceptual list and therefore the standard for total income can differ between countries.

Finally, this standard can be compared to the definition of income presented in the Conference of European Statisticians Recommendations for the 2010 Censuses of Population and Housing, 2006. All the sources of income identified in that document are included in this standard; however, the document differs in defining income as including income in cash and in kind.

Measurements

  • 'Amount of income' is expressed in Canadian dollars. The data presentation should specify any adjustments made, including whether the unit of measure is current dollars or constant dollars. Amount of income can range from the lowest negative number on the file to the maximum positive number on the file. October 15, 2012 to current

Classifications

Additional information

See:

Relation to previous version

  • Total income of household October 15, 2012 to March 20, 2016

    This standard was replaced by the 'Total income of private household' as of March 21, 2016.

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