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Marital status-legal and social

Definition

'Marital status' is a person's reported status with respect to the marriage laws or customs of the country. It applies to people aged 15 years and over.

There are two types of marital status:

  • 'Legal marital status': this is a person's status with respect to registered marriage or civil union.
  • 'Social marital status': this is a person's reported status with respect to consensual union. A consensual union is a relationship between two people usually resident in the same dwelling who consider their relationship to be akin to a marriage or civil union. People who are in a consensual union are partnered; people who are not in a consensual union are non-partnered.

Relationship to questionnaire(s)

Data on legal marital status comes from question 23 on the individual form (PDF 395kb).

Data on social marital status is derived from questions 19 and 23 on the individual form (PDF 395kb).

Subject population

The subject population is the people, families, households or dwellings to whom the variable applies.

The subject population for legal marital status and social marital status is the census usually resident population aged 15 years and over.

Non-response rate

The 2006 non-response rate for legal marital status was 7.3 percent.

The 2006 non-response rate for social marital status was 6.6 percent.

The 2001 non-response rates were 6.6 percent for legal marital status and 6.4 percent for social marital status.

Quality Management Strategy priority level

Legal marital status and social marital status are defining variables.

The Census Quality Management Strategy assigns a priority level to all census variables.

Defining variables cover key subject populations that are important for policy development, evaluation or monitoring. These variables are given secondary priority in terms of quality, time and resources across all phases of the 2006 Census.

All data must meet minimum quality standards in order to make it suitable for use.

Comparability with 1996 and 2001 Census data

There are issues affecting the comparability of this data with the 1996 and 2001 Census data:

  • For legal marital status, it is not possible to compare the first marriage and subsequent marriage categories over time, because this information was collected in 1996 but not in 2001 or 2006.
  • The 2006 Census was the first census following the legalisation of civil unions. The Civil Union Act 2004 came into force on 26 April 2005, with the first ceremonies taking place on 29 April 2005. For both the legal marital status and the social marital status variables, new categories were introduced for civil unions. Other marital status categories such as 'separated', 'widowed' and 'never married' were also changed to accommodate the introduction of civil unions.
  • In 1996, the legal marital status variable did not have a 'response unidentifiable' category, but the 2001 and 2006 legal marital status variables do have this category.
  • The 1996 social marital status variable did not have a 'non-partnered, not further defined' category, but the 2001 and 2006 social marital status variables do have this category.

Significant issues

There are significant data quality issues regarding the civil unions data. Civil unions data for both legal marital status and social marital status is not fit for use. The rest of the marital status data is not affected by this quality problem and shows the expected distributions.

Statistics on registered civil unions collated by Statistics New Zealand, from registrations supplied by the Department of Internal Affairs, show that 766 people in civil unions were registered in New Zealand up to 7 March 2006.

Table, People in Civil Unions.

The 2006 Census data for legal marital status shows that 7,905 people reported that they were 'legally joined in a civil union'. The social marital status data from the 2006 Census indicates that 3,264 people reported that they lived with a civil union partner. These figures are significantly higher than was expected and are believed to be due to respondent misinterpretation regarding what a civil union is.

The 'joined in a civil union' and 'civil union partner' categories from the legal marital status and social marital status classifications, respectively, will not be available in published or customised outputs. Published or customised tables on legal marital status will include the data from the 'joined in a civil union' category in: the 'not elsewhere included' category for tables that have 'not elsewhere included', or; in the 'response unidentifiable' category for tables that have 'response unidentifiable'. Published or customised tables on social marital status will include the data from the 'civil union partner' in the 'partnered, not further defined' category.

Other things to be aware of

  • The legal age for marriage in New Zealand is 16 years old.
  • The data shows a small number of 15-year-olds with an unlikely legal marital status of 'married', 'joined in a civil union', 'separated', 'divorced' or 'widowed'.
  • All census data was subject to considerable checks (including edits) during processing and evaluation, to ensure that it meets quality standards and is suitable for use. These checks were applied to data supplied both on paper and on Internet forms. In addition to these quality checks, the Internet form had built-in editing functionality that directed respondents to the appropriate questions and ensured that their responses were valid. As a result of this, data from Internet forms may be of higher overall quality than data from paper forms. The significance of this will depend on the particular type of analysis being done.
  • There were differences between how the forms were completed on the Internet and on paper for this variable:
    • The Internet form allowed only one response to be selected for the legal marital status question. If a further response was selected, the response given previously disappeared. Multiple responses to this question were possible when forms were completed on paper.
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