In some analyses it is useful to describe a household or income unit using characteristics that are in essence attributes of persons. For example, the analyst may wish to classify households into 'older households' and 'younger households'. One approach often used is to designate one member of the household or income unit as the reference person, and assume that the characteristics of that person are descriptive of the household or income unit more generally. The reference person is chosen through a set of operating procedures designed to identify a person most likely to be representative of the household or income unit. Households or income units can then be classified according to the age of the reference person, occupation of the reference person, country of birth of the reference person, etc.
Household reference person
The reference person for each household is chosen by applying, to all household members aged 15 years and over, the selection criteria below, in the order listed, until a single appropriate reference person is identified:
- one of the partners in a registered or de facto marriage, with dependent children
- one of the partners in a registered or de facto marriage, without dependent children
- a lone parent with dependent children
- the person with the highest income
- the eldest person.
For example, in a household containing a lone parent with a non-dependent child, the one with the higher income will become the reference person. However, if both individuals have the same income, the elder will become the reference person.
Income unit reference person
The reference person for an income unit is the male partner in a couple income unit, the parent in a one parent income unit and the person in a one person income unit.