Registered marital status (MSTP)

Latest release
Census of Population and Housing: Census dictionary
Reference period


This variable records a person’s formal registered marital status. If registered marital status is not stated, it is imputed.


Persons aged 15 years and over


1Never married
@Not applicable

Number of categories: 6

Not applicable (@) category comprises:

  • Persons aged under 15 years

Question(s) from the Census form

What is the person’s current marital status?

How this variable is created

This variable captures the response from the marital status question on the Census form.

If a person provides more than one response, the first response that appears on the form will be used.

Where a respondent does not answer the Marital status question, marital status is imputed using other information on the form and using a marital status distribution of the population. For more information about imputation, please see imputation in the Census Glossary.

The Imputation flag for registered marital status (IFMSTP) variable indicates if a person's marital status was imputed in the Census.

History and changes

A question on Marital status has been asked in every Census since 1911.

In December 2017, amendments to the Marriage Act 1961 came into effect enabling marriage equality for all couples. The amendments removed references to sex or gender and redefined marriage as 'the union of two people to the exclusion of all others'. Registered marriages reported in Census data releases will include same-sex couples and opposite sex couples.

In 2021, no changes have been made to the question on the form. However, changes were made to the way responses were processed as all couples can now be in registered marriages.

Data use considerations

The Registered marital status variable provides data about a person's current registered marital status, regardless of their reported relationship to another person in their household. During the time of the Census the following instructions were available on the Census website to help people answer the registered marital status question.

  • If the person is a child and therefore not married, select ‘Never married’.
  • If the person is divorced or widowed and has remarried, select ‘Married’.
  • If the person is divorced and has not remarried, select ‘Divorced’, even if the person lives in a de facto relationship.
  • If the person is in a de facto relationship and has not been in a registered marriage, select ‘Never married’.
  • If the person is in a traditional Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander marriage, select ‘Married’.

Information on de facto relationships is derived from responses to the Relationship in household question and output in the Social marital status (MDCP) variable.

Due to the amendments to the Marriage Act 1961 in 2017, all couples are able to identify as being in registered marriages. While the categories for the variable have not changed, more people are in scope of category 5 - Married.

Using the Imputation Flag for Registered Marital Status (IFMSTP), the non-response rate for Registered marital status (MSTP) was 5.5% in 2021. This is a decrease from 6.9% in 2016. For more information on imputation, see 2021 Census methodology.

Related variables and glossary terms

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