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Definition

Household composition is a derived variable that classifies households according to the relationships between usually resident people. Households are classified according to the presence, number and type of family nuclei, and the presence of related and unrelated people.

The following supporting concepts are defined in the Glossary and references:

  • family nucleus
  • household
  • related people
  • unrelated people
  • usual residence.

Operational issues

Family versus household

It is important to distinguish between the concept of family and the concept of household. A family (or family nucleus) is defined as a couple, with or without child(ren), or one parent and their child(ren), all of whom have usual residence together in the same household. The children do not have partners or children of their own living in the same household. A household is one or more people usually resident in the same dwelling, who share living facilities (see ‘household’ in the Glossary and references). A household can contain one or more families, or can contain no families at all. A household that does not contain a family nucleus could contain unrelated people, related people, or could simply be a person living alone.

Household composition is a derived variable that classifies all households according to the relationships between the people in them, and whether there is a family nucleus present or not. Family type is the derived variable that classifies family nuclei according to the presence or absence of couples, parents and children. To illustrate the difference: there is no family type category for a person living alone, while the household composition classification has a category called ‘one-person household’.

Related versus unrelated people

Related and unrelated people are defined in the Glossary and references. In summary, related people are those who have familial relationships (related by birth/biologically, or by registered marriage or civil union, de facto relationship, fostering or adoption). Unrelated people have a non-familial relationship. For more information on how related and unrelated people are coded, see the statistical standard for Relationship between members in a private dwelling.

Explanatory notes

Changes since the 1999 review of the standard

A new flexible approach has been used for the household composition classification. This will balance the needs of users who want simple classifications while at the same time ensuring greater consistency and comparability across collections.

To achieve this, a core classification framework was developed for some social topics, including household composition. This core framework contains a comprehensive list of categories which meet the needs of all current collections. A survey does not need to use every level of a classification, nor do they need to use every category within a level, and they may aggregate certain combinations of categories as required. For the current survey specific aggregations or more information please contact the classifications and standards team.

Other changes made to the household composition standard were minimal. Categories that contained the wording 'not further defined' were changed to 'nfd'. Where data using 'nfd' categories is published, the following footnote must be added for explanation: nfd not further defined.

The wording 'relationship between family nuclei unknown' was removed from the following level 3 categories for 'two-family household':

  • two 2-parent families not further defined (relationship between family nuclei unknown)
  • one 2-parent family and a 1-parent family not further defined (relationship between family nuclei unknown)
  • two 1-parent families not further defined (relationship between family nuclei unknown).
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