1286.0 - Family, Household and Income Unit Variables, 2005  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 01/06/2005   
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Contents >> Registered marital status >> Underlying concepts


4. The name of the variable is 'Registered marital status'.

5. The alternative term 'legal marital status' is not recommended because it could be taken to imply that de facto marriages are not legally recognised. The term 'marital status' is not recommended because it is considered too vague for output. Other alternative terminologies, including 'de jure marital status', are similarly not recommended.


Nominal definition

6. The variable 'Registered marital status' is defined as:

  • a person's relationship status in terms of whether he or she has, or has had, a registered marriage with another person with whom he or she holds, or held, a valid marriage certificate.

7. By definition, the partners in a registered marriage are of the opposite sex, since same-sex relationships cannot be currently recognised as registered marriages in Australia. The Marriage Act 1961 does not recognise unions solemnized in foreign countries between persons of the same sex.

8. 'Registered marital status' is an attribute of the counting unit 'person'.

Operational definition

9. Operationally, 'Registered marital status' is obtained by direct question. The operational definition is identical to the nominal definition. In most circumstances the result obtained is dependent on respondent perception of marital status.

10. For example, some respondents in de facto relationships may report their (registered) marital status as 'married'. The standard question modules aim to ensure that the correct responses are obtained.

Scope of the variable

11. The variable 'Registered marital status' applies to all persons aged 15 years and over.


12. 'Registered marital status' has no supporting variables.


The need for mutual exclusivity

13. The categories 'registered marriage' and a 'de facto marriage' are not mutually exclusive as the term 'married' could legally be applied to both. This means that the marital status of a person could be reported as both 'de facto' and 'married'.

14. For example, an individual who is currently living in a de facto relationship and is separated from a previous registered marriage could be described as either 'separated' or 'de facto'. The promulgation of two separate classifications, 'Registered marital status' and 'Social marital status', aims to overcome this anomaly.

15. Using both classifications, 'Registered marital status' and 'Social marital status', that person may correctly be reported as 'separated' with respect to the 'Registered marital status' classification, and in a 'de facto marriage', with respect to the 'Social marital status' classification.

16. The 'Social marital status' and 'Registered marital status' variables can be cross-classified to provide a measure of an individual's 'Registered marital status' as well as his or her current living arrangements.

Demand for 'Registered marital status' data

17. ABS consultation has revealed a strong demand for 'Registered marital status' data. User feedback has shown a desire to continue collecting 'Registered marital status' information, as various community groups are concerned with differentiating between registered marriages and de facto marriages. In particular, objections have been raised when the 'Married' category of the 'Social marital status' classification has been used rather than the disaggregated categories 'Registered married' and 'De facto married'.

Traditional Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin marriages

18. The ABS recommends that partners in traditional Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander marriages should be coded as Married in a registered marriage even though traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander marriages are not registrable marriages under the Commonwealth Marriage Act 1961. This should not be a significant statistical issue for most collections.

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