2900.0 - Census of Population and Housing: Understanding the Census and Census Data, Australia , 2016  
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Relationship in Household (RLHP)

This variable describes the relationship of each person in a family to the family reference person or, where a person is not a part of a family, that person's relationship to the household reference person. It is applicable to all persons present in occupied private dwellings on Census night.

How this variable is created

Data on the relationships people have with others in the same dwelling is mainly derived from question on the Census Household Form, which asks for each person’s relationship to Person 1 on the form. An image of this question is provided below.

During data processing, families are identified and created based around a ‘family reference person’. In 93.4% of cases Person 1 is the family reference person. For cases where a child or non-family member was listed as Person 1, a more appropriate person is selected to be the reference person.

In cases where some members of a household are away from home on Census night, members of the family nucleus (partners, parents and children) and unrelated persons who were temporarily absent on Census night are taken into account when deriving Relationship in Household. This allows for the identification of some families, and also for distinguishing between lone person and group households.

Variable history

A question on relationships within households has been asked in every census since 1911. No changes were made for 2016.

Non-response rate

Relationship in Household does not have a non-response rate as there is no separate 'not stated' category in the classification.

Data usage notes

Priority is given to identifying those relationships which form a ‘family nucleus’, i.e. partnerships and parent/child relationships and for many households, identifying relationships to assist the coding of family or household structure for that dwelling is quite straightforward. However, across the community, a wide variety of living arrangements exists and family structures can be complex and dynamic in nature, and so the quality of family data in the Census is partly dependent on people’s ability to describe these relationships within the constraints of the generalised questionnaire format required by a Census. This is particularly the case for those dwellings containing blended families or multiple generations of a family. The reporting of relationships to Person 1 can sometimes mean that closer relationships between other people in the household are sometimes lost, for example reporting 'niece' (of Person 1) instead of 'daughter of person 2'. In other cases, respondents have reported a relationship that is the reverse of what the question is intended to capture, for example, reporting 'grandparent' instead of 'grandchild'. While in many cases these errors are recognised and rectified, some are automatically accepted and can not be reviewed, precluding an assessment of this error's impact on data quality.

More complex or unusual relationships are not automatically accepted by the processing system and are presented for manual intervention. For many households, identifying relationships to assist the coding of family or household structure for that dwelling is quite straightforward. In some cases, additional information such as name, usual residence, marital status and number of children given birth to is also used during data processing to help determine these relationships. Priority is given to identifying those relationships which form a ‘family nucleus’, i.e. partnerships and parent/child relationships. Interpretation of, at times, very complex family structures by a large number of coding specialists results in variation of coding outcomes that is difficult to measure.

Improvements were made during processing to the coding of in-laws and step relationships to ensure that the these relationships in the household were preserved. This has lead to decreases in counts for the category 'Other related individual (nec)' in 2016. This change in treatment aligns with the Family, Household and Income Unit Variables, 2014.

For people imputed into dwellings for which no household form was received, relationship data is set to 'Other non-classifiable relationship'. Increases in counts in the category 'Other non-classifiable relationship' can be observed in the in 2016 Census. The majority of these come from non-responding persons. In such cases persons are imputed, along with selected demographic characteristics. For more information on imputation, see the Derivations and Imputations entry in the Glossary of the 2016 Census Dictionary

Further information

A definition of Relationship in Household is available in the 2016 Census Dictionary.
For further Relationship in Household information, see the data quality statements for Child Type, Family Composition.

Household form question image

Question 5 as it appeared on the 2016 Census Household Paper Form:

Image: 2016 Household Paper Form - Question 5. What is the person's relationship to Person 1/Person 2?
A text only version of the online Census Household form is available from the Downloads tab.