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3 Data from both family topics have been presented in this publication. The Family Characteristics topic has been collected before, in 1982, 1992, 1997 and 2003, and the content is largely repeated allowing comparisons over time. The Family Transitions and History topic is new to 2007. It collected information on couple relationship history, relationship expectations, children ever born, reasons for leaving home and fertility expectations. Selected demographic, labour force and income data are also available for both family topics. A full list of data items available for the Family Characteristics and Family Transitions and History topics is available on the ABS web site entry for this publication (see www.abs.gov.au, cat. no. 4442.0).
4 Data from the 2006-07 MPHS topics, other than the family topics, are available as an expanded Confidentialised Unit Record File (CURF) (cat. no. 4100.0.55.001). A separate expanded CURF is available for the family topics (cat. no. 4442.0.55.001).
SCOPE OF THE SURVEY
5 The scope of the 2006-07 MPHS included all usual residents in private dwellings, except:
6 The 2006-07 MPHS was conducted in both urban and rural areas in all states and territories, but excluded persons living in very remote parts of Australia who would otherwise have been within the scope of the survey. The exclusion of these persons is expected to have only a minor impact on any aggregate estimates that are produced for states and territories, except for the Northern Territory where such persons account for approximately 23% of the population.
7 ABS interviewers conducted personal interviews by either telephone or at selected dwellings, from July 2006 to June 2007, excluding the months of August and September 2006 when the 2006 Census of Population and Housing was conducted. Each month a sample of dwellings were selected for the MPHS from the responding households in the last rotation group for the MPS. In these dwellings, after the MPS had been fully completed for each person, a usual resident aged 15 years and over was selected at random and asked the additional MPHS questions in a personal interview. Information was collected using Computer Assisted Interviewing (CAI), whereby responses are recorded directly onto an electronic questionnaire in a notebook computer.
8 The Family Characteristics topic collected information from the randomly selected person about the household and about every person in the household, including all children in the household. The Family Transitions and History topic questions were only asked about the randomly selected persons aged 18 years and over, with some sub-topics having additional age restrictions. Therefore, the sample for Family Characteristics is much larger than for Family Transitions and History. There were 31,300 person records for the Family Characteristics topic, and 12,200 person records for the Family Transitions and History topic.
9 Where the randomly selected respondent was aged 15-17 years, and a parent/guardian or other responsible adult aged 18 years and over was resident in the household, permission was sought from the parent or other adult to interview the young person. Regardless of whether permission was granted, the Family Characteristics topic and details of household income (excluding the income of the selected respondent) was collected from the parent or other adult.
10 The Family Characteristics topic collected information about parent-child relationships beyond the usual residence of the child. The survey collected information about resident children aged 0-17 years in the household who had a natural parent living in another household. In addition, the Family Characteristics topic identified whether respondents were parents who had natural children aged 0-17 years living elsewhere with the child's other natural parent.
WEIGHTING, BENCHMARKING AND ESTIMATION
11 Weighting is the process of adjusting results from a sample survey to infer results for the total in-scope population. To do this, a 'weight' is allocated to each sample unit (i.e. a person, a family or a household). The weight is a value which indicates how many population units are represented by the sample unit.
12 The first step in calculating weights for each person or household is to assign an initial weight, which is equal to the inverse of the probability of being selected in the survey. For example, if the probability of a person being selected in the survey was 1 in 600, then the person would have an initial weight of 600 (that is, they represent 600 people).
13 The initial weights were calibrated to align with independent estimates of the population of interest, referred to as 'benchmarks'. Weights calibrated against population benchmarks ensure that the survey estimates conform to the independently estimated distribution of the population rather than to the distribution within the sample itself. Calibration to population benchmarks helps to compensate for over- or under-enumeration of particular groups of persons which may occur due to either the random nature of sampling or non-response.
14 The 2006-07 Family Characteristics data and Family Transitions and History data were benchmarked to the estimated resident population (ERP) living in private dwellings in each state and territory, excluding the ERP living in very remote areas of Australia, as at 31st March 2007. The ERP estimates were based on results from the 2001 Census of Population and Housing. Therefore the estimates from this survey do not (and are not intended to) match estimates for the total Australian resident population (which include persons and households living in non-private dwellings, such as hotels and boarding houses, and in very remote parts of Australia) from other ABS sources.
15 The survey estimates conform to person benchmarks by State, part-of-State, age and sex, and to household benchmarks by State, part-of-State and household composition (number of adults and children usually resident in the household). These benchmark variables are the same as those used in the 2003 and 1997 Family Characteristics surveys. The only change has been in the age groups for which some collapsing was required for each collection. The impact of this change on estimates not involving age is minimal.
16 Survey estimates (e.g. counts of persons, families or households) are obtained by summing the relevant weight (for persons, families or households) with the characteristic of interest.
RELIABILITY OF ESTIMATES
17 All sample surveys are subject to error which can be broadly categorised as either sampling error or non-sampling error. Sampling error occurs because only a small proportion of the total population is used to produce estimates that represent the whole population. Sampling error can be reliably measured as it is calculated based on the scientific methods used to design surveys. Non-sampling errors occur when survey processes work less effectively than intended. For example, some persons selected for the survey may not respond (non-response); some survey questions may not be clearly understood by the respondent; and occasionally errors can be made in processing data from the survey.
18 Sampling error is the difference between the published estimates, derived from a sample of persons, and the value that would have been produced if all persons in scope of the survey had been included. For more information refer to the ' Technical Note'. Sampling error is measured for this survey by relative standard errors (RSEs). In this publication estimates with RSEs of 25% to 50% are preceded by an asterisk (e.g. *3.4) to indicate that the estimate should be used with caution. Estimates with RSEs over 50% are indicated by a double asterisk (e.g.**0.6) and should be considered unreliable for most purposes.
19 One of the main sources of non-sampling error is non-response by persons selected in the survey. Non-response can affect the reliability of results and can introduce bias. The magnitude of any bias depends upon the level of non-response and the extent of the difference between the characteristics of those people who responded to the survey and those who did not.
20 To reduce the level and impact of non-response, the following methods were adopted in this survey:
21 Every effort was made to minimise other non-sampling error by careful design and testing of questionnaires, intensive training and supervision of interviewers, and extensive editing and quality control procedures at all stages of data processing.
22 An advantage of the CAI technology used in conducting interviews for this survey is that it potentially reduces non-sampling errors by enabling edits to be applied as the data are being collected. The interviewer is alerted immediately if information entered into the computer is either outside the permitted range for that question, or contradictory to information previously recorded during the interview. These edits allow the interviewer to query respondents and resolve issues during the interview. CAI sequencing of questions is also automated such that respondents are asked only relevant questions and only in the appropriate sequence, eliminating interviewer sequencing errors.
COMPARABILITY WITH PREVIOUS SURVEYS
23 Family Surveys were conducted by the ABS in 1982 and 1992, and the Family Characteristics Survey (FCS) was previously conducted in 1997 and 2003. The Family Surveys, and to a lesser extent the 1997 FCS, differed from the 2003 FCS and 2006-07 Family Characteristics topic in some areas. Nevertheless, these differences do not preclude useful comparisons between them for certain data items. Some data from the 1997 and 2003 surveys have been included in this publication to show changes over time.
24 Changes listed below were made to the content of the FCS between 1997 and 2003, and between 2003 and 2006-07. These changes should be noted when making comparisons over time.
25 The Family Transitions and History topic is new in 2006-07, but covers some data collected in earlier surveys. There are five sub-topics:
26 Information on relationships in the Family Transitions and History topic is 'as reported' by respondents. For example, when people were asked about the number of relationships (registered or de facto) they have had, some people may have reported a registered marriage preceded by a period of cohabitation as one relationship (i.e. one registered marriage), while others may have reported the period of cohabitation as a de facto marriage followed by a registered marriage (i.e. two marriages). Therefore people who had been in a registered marriage preceded by a period of cohabitation may be included as either having had a registered marriage only for their relationship history, or as having had both registered and de facto marriages, depending on how they answered the survey questions.
FAMILY CODING PRACTICES
27 Data items such as 'family composition' in household surveys are based on initial information gathered about the members of the household and their relationships to each other. Family coding is the process of allocating household members to families, where appropriate, based on their spousal, parent-child, and other familial relationships to other members of the household. All children aged 0-14 years are assigned a parent or nominal parent, for example a grandchild living with only his/her grandparents will have the grandparents allocated as nominal parents.
28 The families topics in the 2006-07 FCTS Survey are designed to capture more accurate information about the composition of families than that collected in other ABS surveys. In 2006-07, as was the case in 2003, a number of populations and data items have been modified to more accurately classify persons and families where there was a parent/guardian and child/ward relationship. Prior to the 2003 FCS, children aged 15-17 years whose relationship fell outside the standard parent-child classifications (e.g. grandchildren living with grandparents, children living with other related or unrelated adults in a guardian-ward relationship) were classified as 'other related individuals' or 'unrelated individuals'.
29 For example, in the 1997 FCS a 15-17 year old child living with his or her grandparents would have resulted in the grandparents being coded to 'couple family without children' and the child would be an 'other related individual'. For the 2003 and 2006-07 surveys, the family classification allows for inclusion of people with this relationship in the same family. For the example outlined above, the family would be classified as a 'couple family with children'.
30 The ABS plans to repeat the Family Characteristics topic three yearly as part of MPHS. It will next be collected in 2009-10. The Family Transitions and History topic will be collected 6 yearly and will next be collected in 2012-13.
31 ABS surveys draw extensively on information provided by individuals, businesses, governments and other organisations. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated: without it, the wide range of statistics published by the ABS would not be available. Information received by the ABS is treated in strict confidence as required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905.
PRODUCTS AND SERVICES
32 An electronic version of the tables released in this publication, in spreadsheet format, will be available on the ABS web site (see www.abs.gov.au, cat. no. 4442.0). The spreadsheets present the estimates, proportions and related RSEs for each publication table.
Data item list
33 A full list of data items available for the survey is available on the ABS web site entry for this publication (see www.abs.gov.au, cat. no. 4442.0).
34 Selected tables from this publication, compiled at the state and territory level will be available as spreadsheets on the ABS web site. These tables will be customised depending on the size of the sampling error (see www.abs.gov.au, cat. no. 4442.0).
35 For users who wish to undertake more detailed analysis of the survey data, microdata is available in the form of a confidentialised unit record file (CURF) (cat. no. 4442.0.55.001). The CURF is only available via the Remote Access Data Laboratory (RADL), which is a secure Internet-based data query service. Technical information describing the content and use of the CURF is available in a Technical Manual (cat. no. 4442.0.55.002).
36 A full range of up-to-date information about the availability of ABS CURFs and about applying for access to CURFs is available via this web site <www.abs.gov.au> (see Services We Provide, Confidentialised Unit Record Files (CURFs)). Inquiries to the ABS Microdata Access Strategies Section should be made by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, or telephone (02) 6252 7714.
Special data services
37 The ABS offers specialist consultancy services to assist clients with more complex statistical information needs. Clients may wish to have the unit record data analysed according to their own needs, or require tailored tables incorporating data items and populations as requested by them. Tables and other analytical outputs can be made available electronically or in printed form. However, as the level of detail or disaggregation increases with detailed requests, the number of contributors to data cells decreases. This may result in some requested information not being able to be released due to confidentiality or sampling variability constraints. All specialist consultancy services attract a service charge, and clients will be provided with a quote before information is supplied. For further information, contact ABS information consultants on 1300 135 070.
38 Current publications and other products released by the ABS are available on the ABS web site <www.abs.gov.au>. Other ABS products which may be of interest include:
39 Current publications and other products released by the ABS are listed on the ABS web site <www.abs.gov.au>.
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