Latest release

Social marital status (MDCP)

Census of Population and Housing: Census dictionary
Reference period
2021

Definition

This variable records a person's relationship status based on their current living arrangements. It identifies whether they form a couple relationship with another person living in the same usual residence, and the nature of that relationship.

Scope

Persons aged 15 years and over usually resident and present in the household on Census night

Categories

CodeCategory

1

Married in a registered marriage

2

Married in a de facto marriage

3

Not married

@

Not applicable

V

Overseas visitor

Number of categories: 5

Not applicable (@) category comprises:

  • Persons aged under 15 years
  • Persons who are visitors (from within Australia)
  • Persons in non-classifiable households
  • Persons in non-private dwellings
  • Persons in migratory, off-shore and shipping SA1s

Category definitions

  • 'Married in a registered marriage' means two people live together as husband, wife or partner and their marriage if formalised through registration.
  • 'Married in a de facto marriage' means two people live together as partners who are not in a registered marriage. It includes people who report de facto, partner, common law husband/wife/spouse, lover, girlfriend or boyfriend.
  • ‘Not married’ means neither a registered nor a de facto marriage. This includes people who live alone, with other family members, and those in shared accommodation.

Question(s) from the Census form

What is the person’s relationship to Person 1/Person 2?

    What is the person’s relationship to Person 1/Person 2?
    What is Person 2's relationship to Person 1?

    Examples of other relationships: Son-in-law, Grand-daughter, Uncle, Boarder.

    More information

    Husband or wife of Person 1

    De facto partner of Person 1

    Child of Person 1

    Stepchild of Person 1

    Brother or sister of Person 1

    Unrelated flatmate or co-tenant of Person 1

    Other relationship to Person 1 (please specify)

      More information

      Additional information relating to the question on: What is Person 2's relationship to Person 1?

      More information

      What is Person 2's relationship to Person 1?

      Examples of other relationships: Son-in-law, Grand-daughter, Uncle, Boarder.

      More information

      If more than one response applies, select only the option that shows the relationship that most closely applies.

      What is the person’s current marital status?

        What is Person 1's current marital status?
        What is Person 1's current marital status?

        ‘Married’ refers to registered marriages.

        More information

        Never married

        Widowed

        Divorced

        Separated but not divorced

        Married
          Additional information relating to the question on: What is Person 1's current marital status?
          What is Person 1's current marital status?

          ‘Married’ refers to registered marriages.

          More information

          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’.

          How this variable is created

          Data on the relationships people have with others in the same dwelling, including de facto partnerships or social marriages, is from the relationship in household question on the Census form. This variable is derived from the Relationship in household (RLHP) and Registered marital status (MSTP) variables.

          Relationships are based off a ‘reference person’. This is usually Person 1 on the Census form. Where this isn’t Person 1, a more appropriate person on the form is chosen during coding. For example, an adult is chosen rather than a child, or in the event of multiple family households, additional reference people are chosen.

          To further identify some partnerships, additional information is used during data processing. This includes considering people who were recorded as temporarily absent on Census night, registered marital status, name, and usual residence. Unless a social marriage is identified for a person, they are regarded as 'not married'.

          History and changes

          A question on Marital status has been asked in every Census since 1911. A separate variable recording de-facto or social marital status was first created in 1986 and has been used in every Census since then.

          In 2011, this variable provided data about how a person is married in a 'social way' (i.e. their current living status), regardless of response to the Registered marital status.

          In 2016, the processing of Social marital status was changed to align with ABS Family Standards. A social marital status of 'Married in a registered marriage' is defined as a person who lives with another person in a couple relationship and to whom they are also legally married to in a registered marriage.

          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 only.

          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

          Marriage law changes

          Registered marriages now include all couples. Amendments to the Marriage Act 1961 came into effect on 9 December 2017 enabling all couples to legally marry. The amendments removed references to sex or gender and redefined marriage as 'the union of two people to the exclusion of all others'.

          No changes have been made to the output categories, however more people will be applicable to category 1 – Married in a registered marriage than in previous censuses. Conversely, less people will be applicable to category 2 - Married in a de facto marriage, and 3 - Not married.

          Related variables and glossary terms

          Other ABS sources