Dictionary, Census of Population, 2016
Low-income status

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


'Low-income status' refers to the income situation of the statistical unit in relation to a specific low-income line in a reference year. Statistical units with income that is below the low-income line are considered to be in low income.

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

Statistical unit(s)

Economic family
Private household


Low-income status

Reported in

2016 (100% data); 2011Note 1 (30% sample); 2006, 2001, 1996, 1991, 1986 and 1981 (20% sample). For availability prior to 1981, refer to Appendix 2.0.

Reported for

Population in private households and, depending on the definition used, economic families and persons not in economic families aged 15 years and over in private households, or private households where low-income concepts are applicable (see Remarks)

Question number(s)

Derived variable


In low income
Not in low income
Not applicable


This variable was referred to as income status in previous censuses.

Low-income status can be defined using different low-income concepts.

In the 2016 Census, five different low-income indicators are available. Four lines were defined by Statistics Canada:

One line was defined by Employment and Skills Development Canada (ESDC) and is only available for the sampled population:

Four dimensions generally distinguish the low-income lines:

They are summarily presented in Table 4.1, Summary of low-income lines in the 2016 Census of Population Program.

See also Low income lines and Low income in Canada - A multi-line and multi-index perspective from the Income Research Paper Series (Catalogue no. 75F0002M) for detailed definitions and discussions of each line.

Members of a household all share the same low-income status for the LIM-AT and LIM-BT.

Members of an economic family all share the same low-income status for LICO-AT, LICO-BT and MBM.

See also prevalence of low income; low-income gap; low-income gap ratio.

Low-income concepts do not apply to the full population. For example, persons living in collective households are excluded from the concepts because their living arrangements and expenditure patterns can be quite different from those of persons living in private households.

The low-income concepts are also not applied in the territories and in certain areas based on census subdivision type (such as Indian reserves). The existence of substantial in-kind transfers (such as subsidized housing and First Nations band housing) and sizeable barter economies or consumption from own production (such as product from hunting, farming or fishing) could make the interpretation of low-income statistics more difficult in these situations.

Since their initial publication, Statistics Canada has clearly and consistently emphasized that the low-income lines are not measures of poverty. Rather, low-income lines reflect a consistent and well-defined methodology that identifies those who are substantially worse off than average. These measures have enabled Statistics Canada to report important trends, such as the changing composition of those below the low-income lines over time.

For additional information about 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.


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