Census learning centre
Marital status

Release date: July 13, 2022

Catalogue number: 982000032021013

Hello and welcome to the Marital status video!

This video is designed to give you a basic understanding of the demographic variable “marital status” and how this variable is created and used. The concepts legal marital status, common-law status and de facto marital status, are explained to allow you to better understand, analyze and build census data tables using the marital status variable.

Subject
Marital Status
Length
00:05:05
Cost
Free
Links

Watch the video

Concept video: Marital status - Transcription

(The Statistics Canada symbol and "Canada" wordmark appear on screen with the title: "Concept video: Marital status".)

Welcome to the Marital status video!

This video is designed to give you a basic understanding of the marital status variables captured from the census questionnaire.

You will learn important basic information about marital status that will help you create or analyze census data tables.

Characteristics about marital status, including the type of union of couples, are obtained from responses to Question 5 (legal marital status) and Question 6 (common-law unions) in the census questionnaire.

These may be derived from a combination of responses to these two questions.

All people younger than 15 are considered either as not applicable for the marital status variables or as having default values like “never married” and “not living common-law” on the file.

How does Statistics Canada define “marital status”?

According to Statistics Canada’s standard definition, “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.

How do we create the “marital status” variables that are disseminated on the Census Web site?

To do this, Statistics Canada derives this information from the following variables found in the Statistics Canada database.

  • "Legal marital status" which is based on Question 5 in the census questionnaire
  • "Common-law status" which is based on Question 6 in the census questionnaire
  • "De facto marital status" (also known as "Marital status") which is based on the combination of "Legal marital status" and "Common-law status").

Let’s start with the "legal marital status" variable.

(An image of question 5 from the 2021 Census questionnaire appears on screen.)

“Legal marital status” refers to the marital status of the person under the law, not taking into account common-law unions.

This variable can provide the number of persons living in a married couple, but it does not provide the number of persons living common law.

The legal marital status variable categories for dissemination are slightly different from those of the questionnaire.

They follow the Statistics Canada standard terminology for this variable.

The categories include:

  • Never married (including living common law)
  • Married
  • Separated (including living common law)
  • Divorced (including living common law) and
  • Widowed (including living common law).

For the “legal marital status” variable, the only category that indicates whether a person is living with a person as a couple is “married.”

Another variable that is used is the “common-law status” variable.

(An image of question 6 from the 2021 Census questionnaire appears on screen.)

"Common-law status" refers to whether a person is living with another person as a couple but is not legally married to that person.

The categories include:

  • Not living common law and
  • Living common law.

For the “common-law status” variable, the only category that indicates whether a person is living with a person as a couple is “living common law.”

Now let’s look at the "de facto marital status" variable.

As you know it now, “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.

The "de facto marital status" variable (also known as "marital status") is thus derived from the "legal marital status" and "common-law" variables. It allows us to identify all people living as a couple.

The "de facto marital status" categories are:

  • Never married (not living common law)
  • Married
  • Living common law
  • Separated (not living common law)
  • Divorced (not living common law)
  • Widowed (not living common law).

How does Statistics Canada create the “marital status” variables based on the Statistics Canada standard definition?

Statistics Canada will either use “de facto marital status” by itself or combine “legal marital status” and “common-law status” to create the “marital status” variables found on the census web site.

(An image of the Marital Status (9) variable appears on the screen.)

  • Total - Marital status
    • Married or living common law
      • Married
      • Living common law
    • Not married and not living common law
      • Never married
      • Separated
      • Divorced
      • Widowed

(An image of the Marital Status (13) variable appears on the screen.)

  • Total - Marital status
    • Married or living common law
      • Married
      • Living common law
        • Never married
        • Separated
        • Divorced
        • Widowed
    • Not married and not living common law
      • Never married
      • Separated
      • Divorced
      • Widowed

Let's now talk about the counts of marital status in family variables.

Some family variables have categories to indicate whether a couple (or a couple family) or a person living in a couple is either married or living common-law. We call this variable “type of union".

To be consistent with family concepts, people reported as “married” for the family variables must have had their spouse present in their household.

The count of married people will therefore be slightly lower when using family variables than when using marital status variables on their own.

Counts of people living common-law remain the same.

(The words "Thank you for watching the “Marital status” video" appear on screen.)

This concludes the Marital status video. Thank you for watching this 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: 978-0-660-43279-3)

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