Thursday, 27 July 2017

2016 Census Carwoola etc: Marriage, relationship and families

Before getting into the topics in the subject line, I will mention how useful I am finding the 2016 Census Dictionary in explaining the meaning and/or content of items.  Anyone planning to use the data should consider looking at the dictionary.

This post started off thinking about working my way through the traditional demographic variables with Marital Status the next cab off the rank.

I will confess that early in my more serious work with the Census (I think around 1993) I suggested - publicly - that there was no longer a need to have this topic in the Census.  Did I ever find out quickly that this was entirely a Satanic proposal.  I can't remember quite how many letters of protest we got (all of which were knee-jerk reactions by very conservative people) but vividly recall getting a 2 page spread in the Sydney Daily Telegraph with many Sydney identities (including Bobby Limb and Dawn Lake; and Warwick Capper and his wife) saying how important marriage was to them.  I was quite chuffed that this amounted to them saying how important the Census was  - very good publicity!

So the topic stayed in the Census.

In the intervening Census cycles things have changed a little such that social marital status (ie de-facto relationships) are now also covered.  (In the 1980s this wasn't possible in Australia although we noted that the French Census did include it as the fourth question).  So I will cover that topic as well.

Marital Status

Registered Marital Status


Social Marital Status

Comparison of Registered and Social Marital Status

This gets very complicated, due mainly to different definitions of "Not Applicable".  For Registered Marital Status the Not Applicable category is simply persons under 15 years of age.  For Social Marital Status it also includes Visitors from within Australia as a major component (and a few other small categories).  There is possibly also a minor issue with Registered Marital Status being imputed while Social Marital Status is not.

While it is conceptually possible to cross tabulate these and sort things out it would be very difficult to do.  Instead I will simply note that the two variables are generally consistent: 
  • 86% of people who indicate " in a Registered Marriage" in one series do so in the other; 
  • 85% of people who have never married (Registered)  are either in a de facto relationship or not married;
  • For those with a Registered status of Divorced or Separated close to equal numbers are either in a de facto situation or not married.
  • Only 10% of  Widowed people are in de facto situations
  • All those "not Applicable" for Registered (ie those under 15 years of age) are correctly also "Not Applicable" for Social Marital Status.

Same Sex Marriage

Until the 2001 Census if a person indicated that they were the spouse of the Head of the Household  but was of the same sex their relationship was adjusted to "unrelated".  Since that time the Social Marital Status relationship is shown as "Married in a de facto marriage" and a same sex couple indicator is set according to the sex of the persons concerned.  The counting unit for this variable is "Families": the Not Applicable value is set for Non couple-Family Households.

Under 0.5% of couple families in the QPRC area chose to indicate that they were same sex couples.  As a result I believe that attempting to produce data for the far smaller (in terms of population size) Gazette Catchment would run foul of the ABS confidentiality protection mechanism.  However I found the following chart interesting. (Note that "Sydney" refers to the LGA "City of Sydney" and not the entire Metropolitan area.)

Relationship within Household

During my time in a number of Census Programmes (about 15 years in various roles) I found sorting out relationships and family structures to be a source of great mystery.  It was in fact a very rigorous operation but always seemed to me to rather like this (with apologies to Gosciny and Uderzo).
A core variable is the information gathered on Relationship to Person 1.  (That term in and of itself has scope for much entertainment: on an observation study I noted that whichever member of a couple filled in the form they put their spouse as Person 1.)  Even at the condensed version of this classification shown in Table Builder there are 31 types of relationship listed.  I have cut this down far more tightly as shown in this chart with % for the Gazette area and Australia.
This shows a similar pattern to that I observed in 2011: a marked majority of couples and kids.  Overall these two large groups amount to 78% of the people in the Gazette area contrasting with 69% for Australia as a whole.

Family Composition and Household Type

Before getting on to the results from 2016 I will just pass a comment about the definition of a Household in Censuses.  It used be defined in terms of a group of people within a dwelling who shared living expenses, often expressed as "eating from a common pot".  This was based on history, and presented many issues in modern society, especially for group households and multi-family dwellings.  (At work a bunch of us who had lived in group households at various times exchanged stories about domestic arrangements and they varied widely between groups and over time within a group.  Communal eating rarely featured - unlike communal drinking.)

It is thus pleasing to see that the current ABS definition is now "A household is defined as one or more persons, at least one of whom is at least 15 years of age, usually resident in the same private dwelling." which matches far better to the operational procedures for enumeration.  I'd imagine this change has caused much alarm and despondency amongst academic sociologists who used to pontificate - often wrongly - about the interpretation data based on of the old definition.

Family Composition

There are 575 Family Households in the Gazette catchment of which 540 are single family households  and 35 are 2 family households. There are also 214 non-family households comprising mainly Lone Person households, Group Households, dwellings (= Households) at which the Collector didn't make contact; and vacant dwellings.

This chart gives further details about the composition of the households containing families.
Clearly single families are the commonest form of composition in the Gazette area.

Household type

In effect this can be used as an expansion of the "Not Applicable"category above.  It clearly shows that the Gazette area is dominated by family households.  In this classification "Not Applicable" means vacant dwelling and, in the Gazette area, "Other non-classifiable" means dwellings where the enumerator didn't make contact.  (There are some other types of dwelling which are not classifiable but they are not found in this area.)


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