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This publication is based on data from the 2008 Survey of Household Spending. Data were collected by personal interviews conducted from January to April 2009 from a sample of more than 15,400 private households in all provinces. The survey gathered detailed information on spending patterns, dwelling characteristics, and household equipment in 2008.

This 2008 edition of “Spending Patterns in Canada” is the third year the data were collected by computer assisted personal interview (CAPI) using a laptop personal computer. The publication is downloadable from the Statistics Canada website ( in either electronic HTML format, or in printable PDF format.

“Spending Patterns in Canada” contains summary level spending data, household equipment, and housing conditions for Canada, the provinces and territories and selected major municipalities. Detailed spending data by geography, income, household type, and tenure can be ordered from Statistics Canada for a fee. For ordering information, see the section Related products of this publication.

Since 1999, the SHS has included households in the northern territories in every odd numbered year. The Canada level averages for 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2007 represent data for the ten provinces and the territories. The 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008 data for Canada include the ten provinces only.

The average spending for a category is calculated for all households, including those with and those without expenditures for the category. Average spending also includes sales taxes.

The expenditures in this release are not adjusted for inflation. The rate of inflation for selected items is mentioned where it affects the analysis of year-to-year changes in spending.

Where data is analyzed by income level, households are divided into five groups or quintiles based on income. Each quintile represents one-fifth of all households. They are created by ranking households in ascending order of total household income, and organizing them into five groups of equal number. Households in the lowest income group are from the lowest quintile, and have 1.5 members on average, one third the size of households in the highest income quintile, which average 3.4 members.

Due to introduction of the new electronic CAPI questionnaire for the 2006 survey, changes were made to the data processing and quality control steps. Automatic edits built into the electronic questionnaire replaced the balanced edit and regional office editing performed in previous years. For 2007 and 2008 reference year balance edit checks were re-instated.

To streamline and simplify data collection, there were important changes in the methodology for 2006. SHS data for 2008 were also collected in the similar manner. The reference date for household composition, tenure, dwelling characteristics and household equipments are as of the time of the interview instead of December 31st of the reference year. Spending data were collected on a full-year basis for every household member at the time of the interview, including those who joined the household in 2008 or 2009 regardless whether the previous household existed or the person was living alone. As a result, an important difference between the 2006-2008 SHS and previous SHS methodology is the elimination of the distinction between “part-year” and “full-year” members and households.

Since the data prior to 2006 were based on full-year households only, in order to maintain comparability, data for the 1997-2005 have been revised to include both full-year and part-year households.

The sample size for 2008 survey is smaller than 2007 survey by 28%. The reduction of the sample size compared with previous years will have an impact on the data quality. The sample was reduced for budgetary reasons, to free up resources to develop the new Survey of Household Spending Redesign which will eventually replace the existing survey design. The current plan is to have one more survey of the same design for reference year 2009, and beginning with reference year 2010 the new survey design will replace the existing survey. Also, users should note that due to unreliability of the data which was the result of low sample size, the data for Québec City, Ottawa and Victoria for 2008 were suppressed.

For more details, see the Data quality, concepts and methodology — Definitions section of this publication, or consult the SHS User Guide, available for free on the Statistics Canada website.