Relationship status: legally registered relationship status and partnership status in current relationship (information about this variable and its quality)

Description

Relationship status is a person's reported status with respect to the marriage laws or customs of the country. It is collected for any person aged 15 years and over, who usually resides in New Zealand.

There are two types of relationship status:

  • legally registered relationship status (previously known as legal marital status): a person's status with respect to registered marriage or registered civil union
  • partnership status in current relationship (previously known as social marital status): a person's status with respect to their current relationship - either partnered or non-partnered.

Civil union

A civil union is a legally registered relationship, which is entered into by two people of the same or opposite-sex who must have entered into the civil union according to the laws and customs of the country in which they entered into the civil union. A civil union also includes opposite-sex couples that have changed their relationship from a marriage to a civil union in New Zealand.

Partnered

A partnered person is related to another person through:

  • marriage or civil union
  • a de facto relationship.

Marriages, civil unions and de facto relationships include both same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples. Same-sex marriage in New Zealand has been legal since 19 August 2013.

De facto relationship

A de facto relationship is between two people who usually reside together as a couple in a relationship in the nature of marriage or civil union, and who are not married to, or in a civil union with, each other.

Statistics

Representation

Variable Details

Other Variable Information

Relationship status contains two variables:

  • Legally registered relationship status
  • Partnership status in current relationship

Priority level

Priority level 2

We assign a priority level to all census variables: Priority 1, 2, or 3 (with 1 being highest and 3 being the lowest priority).

Relationship status is a priority 2 variable. Priority 2 variables cover key subject populations that are important for policy development, evaluation, or monitoring. These variables are given second priority in terms of quality, time, and resources across all phases of a census.

The census priority level for relationship status remains the same as 2013.

Quality Management Strategy and the Information by variable for relationship status (2013) have more information on the priority rating.

Overall quality rating for 2018 Census

Poor quality

Data quality processes section below has more detail on the rating for this variable.

Caution is advised when using this variable at small geographies. Please see Recommendations for use and further information section below.

The External Data Quality Panel has commented on the quality of this variable. Final report of the 2018 Census External Data Quality Panel has more information.

Subject population

Census usually resident population aged 15 years and over

‘Subject population’ means the people, families, households, or dwellings to whom the variable applies.

How this data is classified

Legally registered relationship status

Legally registered relationship status recode – alternate version CensusV1.0.00

Legally registered relationship status is a flat classification with the following categories:

0111 Married (not separated)

0211 Separated

0212 Divorced or dissolved

0213 Widowed or surviving civil union partner

0311 Never married and never in a civil union

9999 Not elsewhere included

‘Not elsewhere included’ contains the residual categories of ‘response unidentifiable’ and ‘not stated’.

Partnership status in current relationship

Partnership status in current relationship level 2 recode – alternate version Census V1.0.0

Partnership status in current relationship is a flat classification with the following categories:

10 Partnered, nfd

11 Spouse

13 De facto partner

20 Non-partnered, nfd

21 Non-partnered, separated (marriage or civil union)

22 Non-partnered, divorced or dissolved (marriage or civil union)

23 Non-partnered, widowed or surviving civil union partner

25 Non-partnered, never married and never in a civil union

99 Not stated

The Standards and Classifications page provides background information on classifications and standards.

Explanatory note

Due to data quality issues, civil union data will be output as ‘not elsewhere included’ for legally registered relationship status and as ‘partnered, nfd’ for partnership status in current relationship. This is the same process as the 2013 Census. For further information, refer to the Data quality processes section.

The classifications for the relationship status variables in the 2018 Census are consistent with the classifications used in the 2013 and 2006 Censuses.

Question format

Legally registered relationship status data is collected on the individual form (question 26 on the paper form).

Partnership status in current relationship data is derived from two questions on the individual form: living arrangements (question 17) and legally registered relationship status (question 26 on the paper form).

Stats NZ Store House has samples for both the individual and dwelling paper forms.

There has been a change to the question format since the 2013 Census. In the 2013 Census, the living arrangements question used to derive partnership status was listed as five separate tick boxes for husband or wife, civil union partner (split by opposite and same sex) and de facto partner (also split by opposite and same sex). For the 2018 Census, the five previous tick boxes have been collapsed into one – ‘my husband or wife, partner or de facto.

There were differences in the way a person could respond between the online and paper forms.

On the online individual form:

  • built-in routing functionality directed individuals in the subject population to the appropriate questions
  • if a respondent indicated ‘I live alone’, no other living arrangement boxes could be ticked.

On the paper individual form:

  • conflicting responses were possible, for example ticking both ‘I live alone’ and ‘my wife or husband, partner or de facto’ to the living arrangements question ‘who lives with you at your usual address?’.

How this data is used

Outside Stats NZ

  • In a variety of government planning and monitoring activities such as the development of housing, public health, and welfare systems.
  • Used to produce marriage rates for research and modelling purposes.

Within Stats NZ

  • Used to calculate marriage and divorce rates.
  • To examine changes in living arrangements over time, such as the increasing number of people who are not married but live with a partner.

2018 data sources

No alternative data source or imputation was used to replace missing responses or responses that could not be classified for legally registered relationship status. Partnership status in current relationship is derived from some admin sourced living arrangements information for individuals who were admin enumerated. The administrative data sources section below has more information.

2018 Legally registered relationship status –
census usually resident population aged 15 years and over
Source Percent
Response from 2018 Census 83.3 percent
2013 Census data 0.0 percent
Administrative data 0.0 percent
Statistical imputation 0.0 percent
No information 16.7 percent
Total 100 percent
Due to rounding, individual figures may not always sum to the stated total(s)  
2018 Partnership status in current relationship –
census usually resident population aged 15 years and over
Source Percent
Response from 2018 Census 83.6 percent
2013 Census data 0.0 percent
Administrative data 1.0 percent
Statistical imputation 0.0 percent
No information 15.3 percent
Total 100 percent
Due to rounding, individual figures may not always sum to the stated total(s)  

The ‘no information’ percentage is where we were not able to source relationship status data for a person in the subject population. The majority of these missing responses were where an individual was admin enumerated, with a small proportion where there was no response to the relationship status questions on a received census form.

Administrative data sources

There were no administrative sources used to directly source missing item responses for either of the relationship status variables. However, for the living arrangements variable (used to derive partnership status in current relationship), when an individual was admin enumerated any available living arrangement data was also brought over from the Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI).

Data from the following sources was used for living arrangements for admin enumerated individuals (if available):

  • Births register, Department of Internal Affairs
  • Benefit dynamics data, Ministry of Social Development
  • WFF research dataset, Working for Families
  • Migration data, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Please note that when examining relationship status data for specific population groups within the subject population, the percentage with ‘no information’ may differ from that for the overall subject population.

Addition of administrative records to the New Zealand 2018 Census Dataset: An overview of statistical methods has more information on the timeliness of administrative data.

Missing and residual responses

‘No information’ in the data sources table, is the percentage of the subject population coded to ‘not stated’. In previous censuses, non-response was the percentage of the subject population coded to ‘not stated.’

Percentage of ‘not stated’ for the census usually resident population aged 15 years and over:

Legally registered relationship status

  • 2018: 16.7 percent
  • 2013: 8.7 percent
  • 2006: 7.3 percent.

Partnership status in current relationship

  • 2018: 15.3 percent
  • 2013: 7.0 percent
  • 2006: 6.6 percent.

Responses that could not be classified or did not provide the type of information asked for (response unidentifiable) remain in the data, where we have been unable to find information from another source. In the data sources tables, these residuals are included in the ‘Response from 2018 Census’ percentage.

For output purposes, these residual category responses are grouped with ‘not stated’ and are classified as ‘Not elsewhere included’.

Percentage of ‘not elsewhere included’ for the census usually resident population aged 15 years and over:

Legally registered relationship status

  • 2018: 17.4 percent
  • 2013: 9.5 percent
  • 2006: 7.9 percent.

Partnership status in current relationship

Partnership status in current relationship does not have a ‘not elsewhere included’ category.

2013 Census data user guide provides more information about non-response in the 2013 Census.

Data quality processes

Overall quality rating: Poor quality (legally registered relationship status and partnership status in current relationship)

Data was evaluated to assess whether it meets quality standards and is suitable for use.

Three quality metrics contributed to the overall quality rating:

  • data sources and coverage
  • consistency and coherence
  • data quality.

The lowest rated metric determines the overall quality rating.

Data quality assurance for 2018 Census provides more information on the quality rating scale.

Data sources and coverage: Poor quality

We have assessed the quality of all the data sources that contribute to the output for the variable. To calculate a data sources and coverage quality score for a variable, each data source is rated and multiplied by the proportion it contributes to the total output.

The rating for a valid census response is defined as 1.00. Ratings for other sources are the best estimates available of their quality relative to a census response. Each source that contributes to the output for that variable is then multiplied by the proportion it contributes to the total output. The total score then determines the metric rating according to the following range:

  • 98–100 = very high
  • 95–<98 = high
  • 90–<95 = moderate
  • 75–<90 = poor
  • <75 = very poor.

No alternative data sources or imputation were used to replace missing responses for legally registered relationship, and partnership status in current relationship contained a small amount of admin data for admin enumerated individuals only. Therefore, the final metric 1 quality rating for both variables reflects the lower than expected response to the census overall, the percentage of individuals who were admin enumerated, and the percentage that did not answer the relationship status questions.

For legally registered relationship status, the low proportion of data from received forms contributed to the score of 0.83, determining the poor quality rating.

Quality rating calculation table for the sources of legally registered relationship status –
census usually resident population aged 15 years and over
Source Rating Percent of total Score contribution
2018 Census form 1.00 83.33 0.83
No Information 0.00 16.67 0.00
Total 100.00 0.83
Due to rounding, individual figures may not always sum to the stated total(s) or score contributions.      

For partnership status in current relationship, the low proportion of data from received forms contributed to the score of 0.85, determining the poor quality rating.

Quality rating calculation table for the sources of partnership status in current relationship –
2018 census usually resident population aged 15 years and over
Source Rating Percent of total Score contribution
2018 Census form 1.00 83.64 0.84
Admin data 0.75 1.02 0.01
No Information 0.00 15.34 0.00
Total 100.00 0.85
Due to rounding, individual figures may not always sum to the stated total(s) or score contributions.      

Consistency and coherence: Moderate quality

The relationship status variables are mostly consistent with expectations across consistency checks. There is an overall difference in the data compared with expectations and benchmarks that can be explained through a combination of real-world change, a change in how the variable has been collected, and the low response rate.

While there is a high level of missing data for these variables, the data does show general expected trends for some categories. For example, for legally registered relationship, the most common responses are still ‘Married (not separated)” and ‘Never married and never in a civil union’. For partnership status in current relationship, the most common responses are still ‘Spouse’ and ‘Non-partnered, never married and never in a civil union’.

Quality issues to note:

  • the categories of ‘never married and never in a civil union’ for legally registered relationship status, and ‘non-partnered and not further defined’ for partnership status in current relationship did not follow expected trends. These inconsistencies may be due to the lower response rate for these variables.
  • the count of civil unions is considerably higher than the number of registered civil unions in New Zealand. This was the same in the 2013 Census. As with the 2013 Census, civil union data will be output as ‘partnered nfd’ for partnership status in current relationship and as ‘not elsewhere included’ for legally registered relationship status.

Data quality: High quality

The data quality checks for legally registered relationship status and partnership status in current relationship included edits for consistency within the dataset and cross-tabulations to the national and regional council level of geography.

Both relationship status variables have only minor data quality issues. The quality of coding and responses within classification categories is high. Any issues with the variables appear in a low number of cases (typically in the low hundreds).

Recommendations for use and further information

For the relationship status variables in the 2018 Census, the overall quality of the data is poor due to the low response rate. However, some data can still be compared to 2013 and 2006 Census with caution.

When using this data you should be aware that:

  • due to the high level of missing data for these variables the use of counts is not advised. The data that was received was of high quality, so proportions may be calculated using ‘total stated’ as the denominator.
  • civil union data from both legally registered relationship status and partnership status in current relationship is not fit for use. This may be due to respondent misunderstanding of what qualifies as a civil union as opposed to a marriage or de facto relationship. Civil union data has been recoded to ‘partnered, nfd’ for output for partnership status, and to ‘not elsewhere included’ for legally registered relationship status. This was the same process followed in the 2013 Census.
  • caution is advised when using these variables at small geographies. At small geographies, there will be variability in the percentage of administrative data or missing data for a given area. This means some small geography areas will have poorer quality data than the overall quality rating.

Comparisons with other data sources

Although there are surveys and sources other than the census that collect relationship status data, data users are advised to familiarise themselves with the strengths and limitations of the sources before use.

Key considerations when comparing relationship status information from the 2018 Census with other sources include:

  • census is a key source of information on relationship status for small areas and small populations. Many other sources do not provide detail at this level.
  • census aims to be a national count of all individuals in a population while other sources such as the Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) and the General Social Survey (GSS) measuring this variable are only based upon a sample of the population.

Contact our Information Centre for further information about using this variable

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