Census learning centre
Basic components of a table

Release date: February 9, 2022

Catalogue number: 982000032021005

Hello and welcome to the “Basic components of a table” video!

This video is designed to provide viewers with a basic understanding of how census concepts (for example, focuses, population of interest and variables) are logically structured and to show different ways of looking at data. The knowledge of these concepts is used when analyzing or creating census data products.

Subject
Basic concepts
Length
00:05:52
Cost
Free
Link
Census of Population

Watch the video

Concept video: Basic components of a table - Transcription

(The Statistics Canada symbol and "Canada" wordmark appear on screen with the title: "Concept videos: Basic components of a table".)

Welcome to the Basic components of a table video.

In this video, we will help you understand the concepts of focuses, populations of interest and variables. We will then explain why it is important to choose the appropriate focus and population of interest.

Let’s start with the focus. The focus is the counting unit for a table.

The census collects data on five different focuses: Person, Dwelling, Household, Economic family, Census family. For any given table, it is necessary to know whether persons, households or any other types of unit are being counted.

The census is first and foremost a count of persons, and each record in the database represents an individual within the population. Since the population is the basis of the census, the person focus is the most fundamental of all five focuses.

The difference between an economic family and a census family will be explained in the video about families.

The next component of a table is the population of interest, also known as POI.

(An image of a census table with the words “The POI IS WHAT IS BEING COUNTED IN THE FOCUS” appears on the screen. In the table the Population of interest “Population Aged 15 Years and Over in Private Households” is highlighted.)

The POI is what is being counted in the focus. Each POI has associated characteristics that specify the kinds of entities you are counting or on which you are performing statistical calculations.

For example, “Population 15 years and older” is a POI, and the focus is “Persons”. The first part denotes the focus, and what follows is the POI.

But the “Person” focus can have many other associated POIs, such as the "Population in private households" or the "Population 15 years and older who work full time full year" to name two.

Note that the target populations for the short-form questionnaire and long-form questionnaire are different, as are their POIs.

Here are some examples of the short-form questionnaire POIs for the person, dwelling, household, economic family and census family focuses:

  • Person: total population, including institutional residents
  • Dwelling: occupied private dwellings
  • Household: private households in occupied private dwellings
  • Economic family: economic families in private households
  • Census family: census families in private households

The next component of a table is the variable.

(An image of a census table appears on the screen. In the table, the variables, “First Official Language Spoken”, “Major Field of Study - Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) 2016", “Highest Certificate, Diploma or Degree”, “Age” and “Labour Force Status” are highlighted.)

Each population of interest has a set of characteristics called variables. The variables are used to classify and describe the entities. A variable is a subject about which information can be retrieved from the database. There are two types of variables: qualitative and quantitative.

Qualitative variables are used to divide entities into classifications. These classifications are descriptive.

Quantitative variables are used to produce statistics about all of the entities or the set of entities within a classification. Any variable that can have a statistical function performed on it is considered a quantitative variable. For example, the variable “Age” can be used to produce statistics about persons within the age classification, such as average or median age.

You will now see an example of a table combining the three components we have just explained, which are the focus, population of interest and variable.

(An image of a census table appears on the screen. In the table, the focus “Population”; the POI “Population Aged 15 Years and Over in Private Households”; and the variables, “First Official Language Spoken”, “Major Field of Study - Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) 2016", “Highest Certificate, Diploma or Degree”, “Age” and “Labour Force Status” are highlighted one by one.)

In this table, “person” is the focus; “15 years and older in private households” is the population of interest; and “first official language spoken”, “major field of study - Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) 2016", “highest certificate, diploma or degree”, “age” and “labour force status” are the variables. The numbers in brackets indicate the number of categories within that particular variable.

Now that you understand the difference between a focus, a population of interest and a variable, we will explain the importance of choosing the appropriate focus and population of interest to meet the analytical objectives of a table.

(An image of a census table appears on the screen. In the table, the focus “Population”; the POI “Population Aged 15 Years and Over”; and the variables, “First Official Language Spoken”, “Major Field of Study - Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) 2016", “Highest Certificate, Diploma or Degree”, “Age” and “Labour Force Status” are highlighted.)

Your specifications are determined by what you want to observe. Even if the subject is related to families, the focus can be on: “Person”, “Families”, “Households”.

For example, if you want to analyze one-parent families, you can create a table showing “The number of persons living in a one-parent family”, “How many families are one-parent families”, “The number of households containing at least one one-parent family”.

(The words "The number of PERSONS living in a one-parent family" appear next to “Person”. The words "How many FAMILIES are one-parent families" appear next to “Families”. The words "the number of HOUSEHOLDS containing at least one one-parent family" appear next to “Households”.)

The concepts are similar, but both the numbers and the interpretation will differ. This is why it is important to know your analytical objectives.

Housing data can also be examined in different ways. For example, the focus can be on dwellings and households or persons.

(The words "Thank you for watching the BASIC COMPONENTS OF A TABLE video!" appear on screen.)

This concludes the Basic components of a table video.

(The census logo appears with a link, which is also available to view here: Census of Population.)

For more detailed information regarding concepts, variables, methodology, historical comparability and other elements, please refer to Statistics Canada's census pages.

(The "Canada" wordmark appears. ISBN: 978-0-660-41513-0)

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