2901.0 - Census Dictionary, 2006 (Reissue)  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 13/07/2007  Reissue
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Contents >> Short Definitions and Classifications - 2006 >> Household Composition (HHCD) - Characteristics 2006

Household Composition

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Quality Statement


For the 2006 Census, the Household Composition (HHCD) variable replaces Household Type (HHTD) which was used in previous Censuses.

This variable describes the type of household within a dwelling. Household composition indicates whether a family is present or not and whether or not other unrelated household members are present. More Detailed Description


Applicable to: Occupied private dwellings

1. One Family Household
2. Multiple Family Household
3. Non-Family Household
4. Not Classifiable
@@@ Not applicable

Total number of categories:
one digit level 5
two digit level 9
three digit level 11

More Detailed Description
Quality Statement - Household Composition (HHCD)

There are many aspects which can affect the quality of Census data; the following information should be considered when viewing data on Household Composition (HHCD).

In the Census, data on the household composition of private dwellings is mainly derived from Question 5 on the Census household form, which asks about each person’s relationship to Person 1 on the form. This data is captured automatically as check box responses in 92% of cases, with the remainder obtained from written responses to the question.

During the processing of Census data, families and household types are identified and created based around a ‘family or household reference person’, and Household Composition (HHCD) is derived for each dwelling. For many households, identifying relationships to assist the coding of family or household structures for that dwelling is quite straightforward - for example, 21.0% of dwellings counted in the Census contained a lone person. 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. Reporting relationships in respect of Person 1 only, can make it difficult to establish all the relationships which exist in a household, or to identify whether more than one family is living in the dwelling.

In cases where some members of a household are away from home on Census Night, members of the family nucleus (parents or children) and unrelated persons who were temporarily absent on Census Night (and identified as such in Question 53 on the Census household form) are taken into account when deriving HHCD. This allows for the identification of some family types, and also for distinguishing between lone person and group households. However, preliminary evaluation of the quality of Census data undertaken by the ABS suggests that around 35% of family members and over 40% of unrelated people who are temporarily absent from their usual address on Census Night are not included in the relevant section of the Census form (Q53). This is only partly explained by the reporting limitation of three persons per household. In addition, across 29,985 dwellings, a number of Boarders/Lodgers and Unrelated household members who were listed as temporarily absent on the Census form were erroneously excluded when HHCD was derived. If these persons had been included during processing, the number of dwellings categorised as Lone Person Households would decrease by 1.7% while the number of Group Households would increase by 12.0%.

The "Other not classifiable" category consists mainly of occupied dwellings where a form was not received and represents 4.2% of applicable dwellings (occupied private dwellings). In 2001, the "Other and not classifiable" category was 2.6%.

The ABS aims to produce high quality data from the Census. To achieve this, extensive effort is put into Census form design, collection procedures, and processing procedures.

There are four principal sources of error in Census data: respondent error, processing error, partial response and undercount. Quality management of the Census program aims to reduce error as much as possible, and to provide a measure of the remaining error to data users, to allow them to use the data in an informed way.

When completing their Census form, some people do not answer all the questions which apply to them. In these instances, a 'not stated' code is allocated during processing, with the exception of non-response to age, sex, marital status and place of usual residence. These variables are needed for population estimates, so they are imputed using other information on the Census form, as well as information from the previous Census.

The processing of information from Census forms is now mostly automated, using scanning, Intelligent Character Recognition and other automatic processes. Quality assurance procedures are used during Census processing to ensure processing errors are kept at an acceptable level. Sample checking is undertaken during coding operations, and corrections are made where necessary.

The Census form may be completed by one household member on behalf of others. Incorrect answers can be introduced to the Census form if the respondent does not understand the question or does not know the correct information about other household members. Many of these errors remain in the final data.

More detailed information on data quality is available in the 2006 Census Dictionary (cat. no. 2901.0), in the section titled Managing Census Quality.

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