Underlying concepts

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Family, Household and Income Unit Variables
Reference period

Name of variable

The name of the variable is Registered Marital Status.

Definition of variable

Nominal definition

The variable Registered Marital Status is defined as a person's relationship status in terms of whether they currently have, or have had, a legally registered marriage with another person with whom they hold or held a valid marriage certificate.

People who have a relationship or civil union registered under the Relationships Act 2003 (Tasmania), Relationships Act 2008 (Victoria), Civil Partnership Act 2008 (Australian Capital Territory), Relationship Register Act 2010 (New South Wales) or the Civil Partnerships Act 2011 (Queensland) are not partners in a registered marriage under the Marriage Act 1961.

The Marriage Act 1961 states that a person may be married at 18 years; however, people from the age of 16 years may apply to a Judge or Magistrate in a State or Territory for an order authorising a marriage. The Act allows for recognition of official marriages that took place in other countries where people may be able to marry at younger ages.

Registered Marital Status is a characteristic of the counting unit 'person'.

Operational definition

The operational definition of Registered Marital Status is the same as the nominal definition (see above). However, as responses are obtained by a direct question, the result will depend on the respondent's perception of their marital status. For example, some respondents in de facto relationships may report their Registered Marital Status as Married although they are not in a registered marriage. This means that operationally, answers to the the question may not directly reflect the nominal definition.

Scope of the variable

The variable Registered Marital Status applies operationally to all people aged 15 years and over in Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) surveys and the Census of Population and Housing. Although the legal age of marriage in Australia is 18, this age range supports the inclusion of the exceptions to this rule that are noted in the 'Nominal definition' section, above.

Supporting variables

Registered Marital Status has no supporting variables.

Discussion of conceptual issues

It is possible to report marital status in more than one way. For example, someone who is currently living in a de facto relationship and is separated from a previous registered marriage could be described as both de facto and separated. They would be reported as Separated in the Registered Marital Status classification, and In a de facto relationship in the Social Marital Status classification.

No specific measurement issues apply to the Registered Marital Status variable beyond the normal constraints affecting statistical collections, such as problems with confidentiality and standard errors which may prevent the output of data for some of the categories of the classification.

Traditional marriages - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

The ABS recommends that partners in traditional marriages involving Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people should be coded as being married in a registered marriage even though such marriages are not registered under the Marriage Act 1961. This 'functional recognition' is endorsed in the Australian Law Reform Commission Report 31 (1986).

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