Illustrated Glossary
Census tract (CT)

Definition

Census tracts (CTs) are small, relatively stable geographic areas that usually have a population of fewer than 7,500 persons, based on data from the previous Census of Population Program. They are located in census metropolitan areas (CMAs) and in census agglomerations (CAs) that had a core population of 50,000 or more in the previous census.

Image for Census tract

For more information on census tract, consult the Dictionary, Census of Population, 2021.

CT tutorial

Census tracts (CT) are small geographic units created in all census metropolitan areas (CMAs) and in those census agglomerations (CAs) with a core population of 50,000 or more in the previous census. They provide a level of geography between the CMA or CA and the dissemination area that allows for more detailed economic and social analysis.

Census tract boundaries are created by a committee of local specialists (for example, municipal planners and others) in cooperation with Statistics Canada.

According to the 2021 Census, there are a total of 6,247 census tracts in all 41 CMAs and 914 of the 111 CAs.

Census tracts (CTs) are created using adjacent dissemination blocks (DBs) as building blocks. The rest of this tutorial illustrates the six main rules that must be followed when delineating CT boundaries.

Rule 1: Census tract boundaries must follow permanent and easily recognizable physical features.

Rule 2: Starting with the 2016 Census, CT boundaries must follow the boundaries of the Census subdivision types associated with ‘on reserve’ population.

Rule 3: The population of a CT usually range between 2,500 and 7,500 persons, based on data from the previous Census of Population Program. CTs on reserves, in the central business district, in major commercial and industrial zones, or in peripheral areas can have populations outside this range.

These first three rules are demonstrated in this map of the Calgary (Alberta) census metropolitan area (CMA). Firstly, the CT boundaries clearly follow rivers and roads within the CMA limits. Secondly, the Indian reserve (IRI), Tsuu T'ina Nation 145 (Sarcee 145), respects the limits of the CT. Thirdly, since the size of a CT is based on its population rather than on its land area, those CTs that are in more densely populated areas are generally smaller than those in more sparsely populated areas.

Census tracts in the census metropolitan area of Calgary (Alberta), 2021 Census

Census tracts in the census metropolitan area of Calgary (Alberta), 2021 Census

This map shows the census tract boundaries in the census metropolitan area of Calgary (Alberta).

Firstly, census tract boundaries can be seen to follow physical features such as roads and rivers. Secondly, the Indian reserve (IRI), Tsuu T'ina Nation 145 (Sarcee 145), respects the limits of the census tract. Thirdly, census tracts are smaller in the more densely populated areas than in the rural, more sparsely populated areas.

Source: Statistics Canada, 2021 Census of Population.

Rule 4: Census tracts (CTs) should be as homogeneous as possible in terms of socioeconomic characteristics, such as similar economic status and social living conditions at the time of its creation.

Rule 5: The shape of CTs should be as compact as possible.

This map shows selected census tract boundaries in the core of the Victoria (British Columbia) census metropolitan area. The census tracts displayed are in the more densely populated area of the core and are, therefore, more compact than those found in the periphery.

Selected census tracts in the core of the Calgary (Alberta) census metropolitan area, 2021 Census

Selected census tracts in the core of the Calgary (Alberta) census metropolitan area, 2021 Census

This map shows selected census tract boundaries in the core of the Calgary (Alberta) census metropolitan area. The census tracts displayed are in the more densely populated area of the core and are, therefore, more compact than those found in the periphery.

Source: Statistics Canada, 2021 Census of Population.

Rule 6: Census tract (CT) boundaries respect aggregate dissemination area, census metropolitan area, census agglomeration and provincial boundaries, but do not necessarily respect census subdivision (municipality) boundaries.

Census tract boundaries are relatively stable and can be used for data analysis and the study of trends over time.

Census tract 825 0203.03 in the Calgary (Alberta) census metropolitan area, 2021 Census

Census tract 825 0203.03 in the Calgary (Alberta) census metropolitan area, 2021 Census

This map shows that CT 825 0203.03 in the Calgary (Alberta) census metropolitan area encompasses all or part of three census subdivisions: Calgary (CY), Rocky View County (MD) and Chestermere (CY).

Source: Statistics Canada, 2021 Census of Population.

Report a problem on this page

Is something not working? Is there information outdated? Can't find what you're looking for?

Please contact us and let us know how we can help you.

Privacy notice

Date modified: