Dictionary, Census of Population, 2021
Census family

Release date: November 17, 2021Updated on: July 13, 2022


Census family is defined as a married couple and the children, if any, of either and/or both spouses; a couple living common law and the children, if any, of either and/or both partners; or a parent of any marital status in a one‑parent family with at least one child living in the same dwelling and that child or those children. All members of a particular census family live in the same dwelling. Children may be biological or adopted children regardless of their age or marital status as long as they live in the dwelling and do not have their own married spouse, common‑law partner or child living in the dwelling. Grandchildren living with their grandparent(s) but with no parents present also constitute a census family.

Statistical unit(s)


Reported in

2021, 2016 and 2011; 2006, 2001 and 1996 (20% sample); 1991, 1986 and 1981. For availability prior to 1981, refer to Appendix 2.1.

Reported for

Population in private households

Question number(s)

Derived variable: Questions 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7


Not applicable


The census family and its associated classifications and variables are derived according to responses to the questions on gender, date of birth, marital status, common‑law status and relationship to Person 1. In addition, consideration is given to the order in which household members are listed on the questionnaire. Prior to 2021, sex was used instead of gender.

The concepts of census family, census family status and census family structure have remained the same in the census since 2001. Prior to 2001, the census family concepts were the same from 1976 to 1996. The changes made to the census family concepts in the 2001 Census are described under "Census family" in the 2011 Census Dictionary and under "Historical comparability" in the Families Reference Guide, 2011 Census. Key conceptual changes related to families are also described by census year in the Families, Households and Marital Status Reference Guide, Census of Population, 2021. More historical information about family concepts over time is contained in the appendix of the article "Enduring diversity: Living arrangements of children in Canada over 100 years of the census," no. 11, Demographic Documents (Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 91F0015M).

Related 2021 data products

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