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Government Publications - Census of Canada

Census Variables


Census variables  are essentially topics (for example Age and Sex) to which numerical data are assigned. Data for these variables are presented according to a standardized, hierarchical system such as those for occupations, industries, or geographic areas. 

Census characteristics can be descibed as the subheadings that fall under the Census Variable heading. For example a variable heading is Type of Dwelling- census characteristics are  single detached house, semi-detached house, row house, apartment - building with fewer than five storeys etc. that fall under the variable heading.

Definitions of variables are available in the Census Dictionary published with each census. 

Census variables are grouped into the following categories:

Counts & Demographic data Language
Ethnic Origin Aboriginal Places
Population group Schooling
Religion Unpaid Work
Place of Birth, Place of Birth of Parents, citizenship &immigration Labor market activities
Income Families & Households
Housing Institutions & Other Collectives



Variables are also organized into four distinct "Universes":

  • Population Universe 
    Provides information on the characteristics of Canada's population, such as demography, language, mobility, immigration, labour force activity and income
  • Family Universe 
    Pertains to the characteristics of family units. Both census and economic families are included.
  • Household Universe 
    Covers the characteristics of a person or a group of persons who occupy a private dwelling
  • Dwelling Universe 
    Describes the characteristics of dwelling units in Canada.