Data sources, methods and definitions

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Data sources

Data from the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS) and census data from 1991 and 2006 were used in this study (additional data from the 1996 and 2001 censuses were used to examine the proportion of university graduates over time). The study covered employed men and women aged 25 to 34. In the NHS, a random sample of 4.5 million dwellings was selected, accounting for almost 30% of all private dwellings in Canada (but it excluded persons living in institutional collective dwellings such as hospitals, nursing homes and penitentiaries; Canadian citizens living in other countries; and full-time members of the Canadian Forces stationed outside Canada). The overall response rate for the NHS, a voluntary survey, was 68.6%. The final responses are weighted so that the data from the sample accurately represent the NHS' target population.

The census is conducted every five years. All households receive the short form, which asks for basic information only. Prior to 2011, a 20% sample of households received the long form which, in addition to the basic information, also asked more detailed questions on matters including labour market activities.

The choice of the census and NHS data for this study is motivated by the fact that a large sample size was needed for university-educated men and women aged 25 to 34. Also, other sources, such as the Labour Force Survey, do not include key variables such as field of study, location of study, and immigration status (before 2006).


Employed: A person is considered employed if he or she had a job in the reference week (week preceding the census/survey)—includes persons who were temporarily absent for the entire week because of vacation, illness, a labour dispute at work, maternity/parental leave, bad weather, fire or family responsibilities, or for some other reason. Individuals who had a job in the previous year, but did not have a job in the reference week, were excluded from the sample.

Occupations: Occupation classifications are based on the four-digit National Occupational Classification (NOC), according to the following:

  • 2011 NHS and 2006 Census: Occupations based on NOC 2006 (Human Resources and Skills Development Canada)
  • 1991 Census: Occupations based on NOC 1990 (Human Resources and Skills Development Canada).

Field of study: Refers to the predominant discipline or area of learning or training of a person's highest postsecondary degree.

Overqualified workers: Individuals with a university degree working in jobs that do not require a university degree. Two measures are considered: (1) university degree-holders working in jobs that require a college education or less; and (2) university degree-holders working in jobs that require a high school diploma or less. The education–occupation matching process is based on the education–occupation matrix developed by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.

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