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Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics: 2007 Survey Overview

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Survey objectives
What's new?
Survey design
Household relationships
Computer-assisted telephone interviewing

Survey objectives

The Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID) is an important source for income data for Canadian families, households and individuals. Introduced in 1993, SLID provides an added dimension to traditional surveys on labour market activity and income: the changes experienced by individuals and families through time. At the heart of the survey's objectives is the understanding of the economic well-being of Canadians.

Starting with reference year 1998, the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID) officially replaced the annual Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) as the main source of information on family income. Over the 1993-1997, the two surveys were run in parallel and estimates for this period is now produced by combining both samples. The income content of the two surveys is similar, though SLID makes use of a mixed collection mode that combined survey data with data from administrative sources. On the other hand, SLID adds a large selection of variables that capture transitions in Canadian jobs, income and family events.

SLID, as a longitudinal survey, interviews the same people from one year to the next for a period of six years. The survey's longitudinal dimension allows evaluation of concurrent and often related events, which yields greater insight on the nature and extent of poverty in Canada: What socio-economic shifts do individuals and families live through?  How do these shifts vary with changes in their paid work, family make-up, receipt of government transfers and other factors? What proportion of households are persistently poor year after year, and what makes it possible for others to emerge from periods of low income?

SLID also provides information on a broad selection of human capital variables, labour force experiences and demographic characteristics such as education, family relationships and household composition. Its breadth of content combined with a relatively large sample makes it a unique and valuable data set.

What's new?

Integrated SCF-SLID sample for the 1993-1997 period

For up to last year’s publications, estimates for the period 1976-1995 were produced using the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) while the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID) took over starting in 1996.  Beginning with the 2007 release, estimates from 1976 to 1992 are based on SCF data while estimates from 1998 to 2007 are based on SLID data.  To take advantage of the fact that SCF and SLID were both active between 1993 and 1997, the estimates for this period are based on a combined sample of SCF and SLID. 

Classification changes

Periodically, Statistics Canada introduces new classification systems. These new systems result from a need to reflect changes in social and economic circumstances, such as the growth of the high tech industries; or from the need to develop internationally compatible classification systems. There were minor revisions to the classification.
Starting this year (2009), the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics adopted Statistics Canada's new classification systems for industry and occupation, using the North American Industry Classification System 2007 (NAICS) and the National Occupational Classification - Statistical 2006 (NOC-S) respectively. These changes have the following impact on SLID data:

  • The greatest change introduced by this revision was within the telecommunications area of the Information and Cultural Industries sector. The updates made to this sector reflect the rapid changes in the structure of these industries, including the merging of activities.
  • With two exceptions, all NAICS 2007 revisions occurred within sector boundaries. The exceptions were: (1) Real Estate Investment Trusts, which moved from the Finance and Insurance sector to the Real Estate and Leasing sector; and (2) Executive Search Consulting Services, which moved from the Professional, Scientific and Technical Services sector to the Business, Building and Other Support Services sector.
  • The structure of NOC-S 2006 remains unchanged from that of NOC-S 2001. No major groups, minor groups or unit groups have been added, deleted or combined, though some groups have new names or updated content. Therefore, the SLID data was not impacted by this revision.

Introduction of new variables

Cross-sectional weights

As a consequence of the integration of the SCF and SLID samples for the 1993-1997 period, new  cross-sectional weight variables are created this year to ease the use of weights for data users. Cross-sectional weights are now available if one wants to use data from the SCF sample exclusively or if one wants to use data from the SLID sample exclusively or if one wants to use data from the combined sample of SCF and SLID for the years that they overlap. Starting this year, all SLID products releases statistics based on this combined sample weight for the overlapping years. Since last year, both surveys use the same concepts and variable definition.

Industry classification

As of reference year 2007, the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics adopted Statistics Canada's new classification system for industry using the North American Industry Classification System 2007 (NAICS). These industry classifications will be available for all persons aged 16 to 69 who have a job in the reference year. Starting this year, all SLID products releases statistics based on this updated classification (NAICS).

Market Basket Measure

As of 2007, several new variables were added to allow complete analysis of low income based on the Market Basket Measure (MBM).  These include the thresholds, disposable income and flags indicating if the family’s income is below the MBM thresholds.  Based on these, the ratio of income to MBM indicates how close the family income is to the MBM.

Pension income splitting

Eligible individuals were able to allocate up to one-half of their pension income to their lower-income spouse or common-law partner.

Two new variables were added concerning the elected split-pension amount, one variable for the pension transferee or the amount received and one variable for the pensioner or the amount transferred to the spouse or common-law partner.

Other government transfers

The Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB) was included in other government transfers.  It is a refundable tax credit intended to provide tax relief for eligible working low-income individuals and families.

Changes to variables

Retirement pensions

Retirement pension income now includes the elected split-pension amount received or transferred. A new variable called Private retirement pensions, which excludes the pension.

Survey design

SLID is a household survey that covers all individuals in Canada, excluding residents of the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, residents of institutions and persons living on Indian reserves or in military barracks.

The SLID sample is composed of two panels. Each panel consists of roughly 17,000 households and about 34,000 adults, and is surveyed for a period of six consecutive years. A new panel is introduced every three years, so two panels always overlap.

Figure 1. Overlapping design of SLID sample

In January, interviewers collect information regarding respondents' labour market experiences, educational activity and family relationships. The demographic characteristics of family and household members represent a snapshot of the population as of the end of each calendar year. Interviewers also collect information on income to take advantage of income tax time when respondents are more familiar with their tax returns. Over 80 percent of respondents give us their permission to consult their income tax file.

Household relationships

This survey could be called the Survey of Labour, Income and Family Dynamics, since it has complete information on complex family structures and changes. How does it do this?

Unlike most household surveys, which describe how household members are related to one specific reference person, SLID asks explicitly about the relationship among all members of a household. Information on complex family structures - for example, blended or multigenerational families - can help in understanding family dynamics.

However, because families change, it isn't possible to present data for exactly the same families over time. Instead, the same individuals are analysed in light of their family characteristics, for example, their family's income or whether they belong to a blended family.

Computer-assisted telephone interviewing

SLID uses computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) for data collection. With CATI, interviews are conducted over the phone and simultaneously entered in a computer that guides the interviewer through the questionnaire. 

Because of its complexity as a longitudinal survey, SLID benefits greatly from CATI's potential for improving data quality. For example, there are many dates to collect in the course of a labour interview - dates worked, dates of jobless spells, absences from work and so on. With CATI, interviewers can remind respondents of information they provided in a previous interview. This helps respondents remember start and end dates of jobs and reduces the tendency to incorrectly associate these dates with the beginning or end of calendar years.

Computer-assisted interviewing helps keep track of members returning to the household and individuals returning to employers, rather than treating these members of employers as completely new.

Proxy response is accepted in SLID. This procedure allows one household member to answer questions on behalf of any or all other members of the household, provided he or she is willing to do so and is knowledgeable.