Dictionary, Census of Population, 2021
Marital status

Release date: November 17, 2021


Marital status refers to whether or not a person is living in a common‑law union as well as the legal marital status of those who are not living in a common‑law union. All persons aged less than 15 are considered as never married and not living common law.

Statistical unit(s)


Reported in

2021, 2016, 2011, 2006, 2001, 1996, 1991, 1986 and 1981. For availability prior to 1981, please refer to Appendix 2.1.

Reported for

Total population

Question number(s)

Derived variable: Questions 5 and 6


Not applicable


Since 2006, the category "married" has included legally married same‑sex spouses (or same‑gender spouses since 2021). Since 2001, the category "living common law" has included same‑sex common‑law partners (or same‑gender common‑law partners since 2021). In the 1981 and 1986 censuses, persons living common law could report their common‑law status by using one of the response categories in the question on relationship to Person 1. Persons living common law are identifiable separately in the database back to 1981, even though they were not shown separately in published tables until 1991, the year when the question on common‑law status was added to the census questionnaire. In the 1971 and 1976 censuses, persons living common law were instructed to report their marital status as married. In 1961 and 1966, separated persons were included with married persons.

In census data, persons in private households who were reported as living common law but whose common‑law partner was not present in the household are treated as not living common law. This is also true for persons living in collective dwellings. Persons who were reported as married but whose married spouse was not present in the same private household or collective dwelling are treated as married for marital status, but not for family characteristics. For example, they may be considered parents in a one‑parent family (called lone parents before 2021) if only their children are present in the household. For information on how household membership is defined in the census, refer to the definition of usual place of residence.

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