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Data sources

There have been two surveys focused on income.  The Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) was conducted until 1997 and the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID) began in 1993.  The estimates of Income in Canada and Income Trends in Canada are drawn from both surveys.  Estimates from 1976 to 1992 are based on SCF data while estimates from 1998 to 2008 are based on SLID data.  For the 1993-1997 period, estimates are based on a combined sample of both SCF and SLID1.

1976 to 1992

Some of the SCF information is available through the SLID database including most of the income variables as well as others, such as demographic information.  This permits users to access a longer period of historical data from a unique database2. Variables were adapted as much as possible to SLID concepts.

Here is the list of SCF variables available in SLID database.

There were three changes made to the definition of families. One of the concepts modified was the “head of the family”.  In the original SCF the family type was defined using the characteristics of the “head of the family”.  For example the head of the family in a couple was always the male.  In SLID the family type is based on the characteristics of “major income earner” regardless of the sex.  Converting the SCF into SLID, the major income earner concept was used to define the family type within couples but no other family types were changed.  This has caused a shift from elderly families to non-elderly families since wives are on average younger than husbands especially for older couples.

Another concept modified was the definition of lone-parent families.  In original SCF, to be defined as a lone parent family, the parent had to be without a spouse, had at least one child below 18 years old, all children had to be unmarried and with no other family member could be present.  In SLID, a lone parent family is defined as a family with a parent without a spouse, with at least one child below 18 years old. The conversion resulted in a decrease in the numbers of “other non-elderly families” and an increase of lone-parent families.

Another concept modified relates to families where children are not the natural, adopted or foster children of the adult in the family. For example in original SCF, a family where a child lived with his grandparents was defined as a two-parent family with children.  In SLID, this family would be defined as a couple with other relatives. The impact of the conversion was a decrease in the number of two-parent families with children and an increase in the number of couples with other relatives.

Beside the family type concept changes there were two significant modifications related to jobs. In SCF, working full year meant working 50 weeks compared to 52 weeks for SLID.  For this reason, after the conversion there were less full year full time workers and their average earnings increased. Additionally, job characteristics in SCF were defined based on the job involving the greatest number of usual hours worked during the reference week of the Labour Force Survey (LFS).  If the respondent had not worked during the reference week , the job characteristics were defined by the most recent job within the last year (for the 1996 and 1997 reference years) or the last five years (for the 1976 to 1995 reference years).  With the conversion of SCF into SLID, job characteristics were kept only if the respondent had worked during the reference year.  This change explains why respondents who had not worked during the reference year do not have have job characteristics.

There was only one modification to income. Amounts for the Federal Sales Tax Credits from 1987 to 1990 were moved from provincial and territorial tax credits to Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) Credits.  This explains why a value is found for GST and HST between 1987 and 1989.

1993 to 1997

The Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics was introduced in 1993. When SLID was originally created, changes in income concepts were kept to a minimum while nonetheless making some important improvements in survey practices3. Both surveys took place during this period with SCF last being conducted in 1997.

One notable improvement that occurred as a result of new survey techniques introduced in SLID is better coverage of small income amounts received by respondents. It has been observed in surveys conducted by questionnaire that respondents tend to forget or neglect small income amounts they received in the past. This means an underestimation of income in general. The use of administrative income tax files in SLID for approximately 80% of sample respondents means that there is considerably better coverage of non-zero amounts of income, and in general, a greater number of recipients of most kinds of income.

1998 to 2008

For this period SLID is used exclusively.


1. While the combined sample is used in these two publications, microdata covering the SCF sample (1976-1997) and SLID sample (1993 to 2007) are also available in the SLID database. 

2. Users still have the choice of using the SCF original files, if it better suits their needs.

3. Before replacing the SCF series with SLID, a study was done on the overlapping reference years, particularly the years 1996 and 1997.  The results of the study are contained in a research paper,  A Comparison of the Results of the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID) and the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) 1993-1997: Update (75F002MIE99007).