Dictionary, Census of Population, 2016
Total income

Release date: May 3, 2017 Updated on: September 13, 2017


'Total income' refers to the sum of certain incomes (in cash and, in some circumstances, in kind) of the statistical unit during a specified reference period. The components used to calculate total income vary between:

- Statistical units of social statistical programs such as persons, private households, census families and economic families;

- Statistical units of business statistical programs such as enterprises, companies, establishments and locations; and

- Statistical units of farm statistical programs such as farm operator and farm family.

In the context of persons, total income refers to receipts from certain sources, before income taxes and deductions, during a specified reference period.

In the context of census families, total income refers to receipts from certain sources of all of its family members, before income taxes and deductions, during a specified reference period.

In the context of economic families, total income refers to receipts from certain sources of all of its family members, before income taxes and deductions, during a specified reference period.

In the context of households, total income refers to receipts from certain sources of all household members, before income taxes and deductions, during a specified reference period.

The monetary receipts included are those that tend to be of a regular and recurring nature. Receipts that are included as income are:

Receipts excluded from this income definition are:

For the 2016 Census, the reference period is the calendar year 2015 for all income variables.

Statistical unit(s)

Economic family
Census family
Private household


Not applicable

Reported in

2016 (100% data); 2011Note 1 (30% sample); 2006, 2001, 1996, 1991, 1986 and 1981 (20% sample); 1971 (33% sample); 1961 (20% sample).

Reported for

Population aged 15 years and over in private households

Question number(s)

Variable derived based on administrative tax and benefit records received from the Canada Revenue Agency.


Positive or negative dollar value or nil


Information on total income was collected in the 1961, 1971, 1981, 1986, 1991, 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2016 Censuses and in the 2011 National Household Survey. The major differences between censuses with respect to income are summarized below.

For detailed information about the data collection method, coverage, reference period, concepts, data quality and intercensal comparability of the income data, refer to the Income Reference Guide, Census of Population, 2016.


(a) In 2016, income data were derived for all households. In previous cycles, income data were only collected from a sample of households, with the exception of households in remote areas and on Indian reserves where 100% households were enumerated.

(b) In 1961, data were collected by canvassers. In subsequent censuses, the main collection method used was self-enumeration. For 2006 and 2011, two modes of collection were used: self-reporting and administrative data. In these two cycles, respondents were given the option of allowing Statistics Canada access to tax data files provided by the Canada Revenue Agency. In 2006, information from the income tax and benefit returns was used to derive income. In 2011, two administrative files – the income tax and benefit returns and the Canada child tax benefit files – were used as inputs to the estimates. In 2016, administrative data were the sole source for income data. To enhance population coverage and data quality, an expanded number of administrative files were used to compile income data.

(c) Because of the various options of reporting income for tax purposes to the Canada Revenue Agency available to Hutterite colonies, all individuals in them have been assigned zero income between 1981 and 2011.

(d) Income components not available through administrative files, such as non-taxable provincial benefits and refundable tax credits, were calculated for individuals based on the program specifications and eligibility criteria.

Reference period

Except for 1961, income reported was for the calendar year prior to the census. The 1961 Census gave the respondents the option to report their income either for the 12 months preceding the census or for the 1960 calendar year.


(a) The 1961 Census excluded from income estimates all farm households, all collective households and all households in the Northwest Territories.

(b) Prior to 2016, only the 1971 Census collected information on income from institutional residents.

(c) Since 1991, income information is collected from non-permanent residents. (See the definition for immigrant status: non-permanent resident.)

(d) In the 2006 Census, the universe also included persons aged 15 years and over living in non-institutional collective dwellings. However, a processing error set income for persons in residences for seniors to zero.

(e) The 2011 National Household Survey only covered persons living in private households.

(f) In the 2016 Census, income data were collected for the entire population, but standard products are only based on the population in private households for enhanced comparability between the short-form and long-form questionnaires, as well as for data quality concerns surrounding selected collective dwellings. Additional details are available in the Data quality Section of the Income Reference Guide, Census of Population, 2016.


(a) The 1961 Census did not collect data on income from farming. Therefore, this source of income was excluded from total income in that census.

(b) The 1971 Census, for the first time, included some child benefits (family allowance) in total income. Since then, there has been several legislative and program changes to the child benefits programs.

Summarized below are the child benefits included in total income in different census cycles:

(c) Benefits from wage-loss replacement plans or income-maintenance plans are included with wages and salaries since the 2001 Census. In prior censuses, these amounts were included as part of other money income.

(d) Since administrative data were used to obtain income information starting in the 2006 Census, the following changes were made to source income components to better harmonize with the concept of income under the taxation system. Taxable benefits associated with employment, research grants and royalties were since included as part of wages, salaries and commissions. Research grants and royalties were formerly included as part of other money income, while taxable benefits and allowances from employment were formerly excluded. Regular payments to motor vehicle accident victims from provincial or territorial governments, formerly included in other income from government sources, were since excluded.

(e) In previous censuses, income received in the reference period by persons who became immigrants in the census year was not included in total income. Due to changes in the income data collection and processing strategies in 2016 and the non-availability of the immigration responses for the full population, this condition was not imposed to individuals who became immigrants in 2016. These people might have had income in 2015 as non-permanent resident.

(f) Various censuses differed with respect to combinations of income sources. For details, see income sources, Appendix 4.1, Components of income in 2015, as well as the dictionaries for previous census cycles.

See also after-tax income.

(g) In all censuses, the income concept excluded gambling gains and losses, lottery prizes, money inherited during the year in a lump sum, capital gains or losses, receipts from the sale of property, income tax refunds, loan payments received, lump-sum settlements of insurance policies, rebates received on property taxes, refunds of pension contributions as well as all non-taxable 'in kind' benefits, such as free meals, living accommodations, or agricultural products produced and consumed on the farm.

(h) Total income excludes any returns (positive or negative) incurred in registered tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs). It was not possible to separate capital gains or losses, which is not considered as income in the standard definition of total income, from other forms of income within a TFSA.


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