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Economic families—or simply 'families' for the remainder of this report—consist of two or more people related by blood, marriage or adoption living in the same dwelling.1 Family earnings are defined as the sum across all family members of total annual earnings from wages and salaries, plus net self-employment income in the calendar year preceding the census. In this section of the report, families with no earnings are excluded, to better gauge trends in earnings, rather than changes in the propensity of families to work. The focus is on families of working age, that is, couple families where at least one partner is aged 15 to 64 and, similarly, lone-parent families where the parent is aged 15 to 64.
Economic family counts refer to those enumerated on Census Day, May 16, 2006. However, all earnings results are for the calendar year preceding the census, that is, 2005. These results are frequently compared to earlier census findings for 2000, 1990 or 1980. All money estimates are expressed in terms of their value, or purchasing power, in 2005. This is referred to, in the report, as '2005 constant dollars.'
Trends in family earnings are affected by the same factors as individual earnings, including changes in the returns to education, changes in relative earnings by age, and changes in the earnings of men and women. In addition, family earnings are affected by changes in labour market participation in families associated with rising female employment. These changes may offset or compound each other.