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Relationship to head, Europe

Codes and Frequencies

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ERELATE describes for the European samples the relationship of the individual to the head of household -- sometimes called the householder or reference person.

ERELATE has been classified according to the recommendations of the Conference of European Statisticians for the 2010 Population and Housing Censuses.

Comparability — Index

United Kingdom

Comparability — General

Most countries have generally defined a household as one or more persons who live together and share meals. Most countries define household composition based on habitual residence, but some use residence on census night (de facto) as the standard.

The definition of household "head" differs across samples. In some cases the selection of the household head is left to the respondent and is in essence culturally determined; in other cases a set of rules specify who should be identified as the head.

EUROSTAT and UNECE have recommended a one-digit level classification with an optional two-digit level. There are six general categories for the first digit of ERELATE. The first five are for the head or relatives of the head, and the sixth is for non-relatives. The general categories are largely comparable across samples. There are some discrepancies, however, and the details at the second digit vary.

The data for Germany 1970, Spain 1981, The Netherlands, and United Kingdom 2001 are samples of individuals, not households. Although relationship to head is known, only one person per household is included in the sample. These samples are therefore not suitable for studying household and family composition.

The "child" category includes children-in-law in Austria 1971, Germany 1970, and France 1982-1990. "Child" includes both children-in-law and grandchildren in 1962-1975 France. The 1985 and 1990 Turkish censuses included a joint category of children-in-law and grandchildren, which we have separated using marital status.

The Hungarian samples do not provide precise relationship-to-household-head information for persons in subfamilies. In Hungary 1970 and 2001, persons in a secondary family are only included in "not stated/unknown." In Hungary 1980 and 1990, persons in a subfamily generally keep their relation to the head of the primary household. The samples do provide relationship to the head of one's subfamily in the variable SUBFREL.

Comparability — Belarus [top]

In 2009, "child" includes biological and step-children. The 1999 sample refers only to "daughter or son."

Comparability — France [top]

The definition of household and the relationships identified in the French censuses do not vary greatly over time.

The "child" category includes children-in-law in 1982-2011, and both children-in-law and grandchildren in 1962-1975.

Relationships were expressed relative to the "head of household" for 1962-1975, and relative to the "person on the first line" for 1982-1990. There were no explicit restrictions concerning who could be designated household head, but a number of rules dictated who could be the person on the first line.

Comparability — Germany [top]

The "child" category includes children-in-law. The 1970 sample is not organized into households. The later German samples are organized into households but lack relationship information.

Comparability — Greece [top]

The 2001 and 2011 samples are the only one that distinguishes between spouses and unmarried partners.

In 2011, relationship-to-head is inferred from the type of family nucleus and the relationships within nuclear families. For this sample, the specific relationship-to-head is unknown for persons outside the first family.

Comparability — Hungary [top]

The relationship data for Hungary are complex. The Hungarian samples 1970-2011 provided relationship to family head, not to head of household. We inferred relationship to household head using different means in each sample. Users may wish to examine the unharmonized source variables to fully explore our decision-making and other data possibilities with these samples.

In 1970, all persons outside the primary family have an unknown relationship to the household head.

In 1980 we know the relationship of subfamilies to the primary family in two-family households. Relationships are not known for persons in three- or four-family households, which are relatively rare. Within related second families, parents/parents-in-law, children/children-in-law, and grandchildren of the household head can be identified by using individuals' ages and relationships within subfamilies.

The 1990 data are similar to 1980, but they offer slightly richer information about the relationship of subfamilies to the head of household.

In 2001, the relationship-to-head is unknown for persons outside the first family. Moreover, other relatives and other non-relatives cannot be distinguished from each other and are combined at the most general digit of ERELATE.

In 2011, the relationship-to-head was available only for the spouse or cohabiting partner; children and ascendants were identified using the relationship-to-family-head but only for those within the family of the household head.

Unmarried partners of the head are identified in all samples except 1980.

In 1980, 1990, and 2011 "ascending line relatives" are coded as parents/parents-in-law, but the category presumably also contains smaller numbers of other relatives such as grandparents.

Comparability — Ireland [top]

Category availability varies widely across samples. The 1971-1981 samples only identify head, spouse, and child, with all other relatives combined with non-relatives.

Comparability — Netherlands [top]

Heads are not identified in any of the Netherlands samples. All samples are person-level samples (not households), so each household is equal to one person. Therefore, anyone identified as married, cohabitating, a single parent, or living alone was assumed to be the head of the household. This overestimates the number of true household heads in the Netherlands.

The 2001 sample does not identify institutional households.

Comparability — Poland [top]

Relationship-to-head is inferred from that to the family head in 1978. This sample allows identifying specific relationships only for the household head, spouse/partner, and child in the first subfamily; persons in other subfamilies are classified as "other."

The 2002 sample has detailed relationships for all household members.

Comparability — Portugal [top]

The samples are consistent other than the detailed non-relative codes.

Comparability — Romania [top]

The 2002 sample distinguishes between spouses and unmarried partners; otherwise the categories between samples are consistent. In each sample children include foster children as well as step, adopted, and biological.

In 2011, only the head of household, spouse/partner, and child are separately identified. Other household members are grouped into "Other relative" or "Non-relative". Foster children are considered as non-relatives in 2011.

Comparability — Russia [top]

Spouse includes unmarried partner in 2010.

Comparability — Spain [top]

The 2001 sample distinguishes between spouses and unmarried partners. Persons not living in family households are coded to "not stated/unknown" in the 2001 sample.

Comparability — United Kingdom [top]

The 1991 sample allowed for the identification of a joint head of household. The 2001 sample did not -- implying that the head of household is not absolutely comparable over the two samples.

The 2001 sample does not categorize children-in-law separately from other relatives, but the 1991 sample does. Boarders are identified in the 1991 sample. Group quarters individuals (coded as "other") are identified in 2001.


  • All persons


  • Austria: 1971, 1981, 1991, 2001
  • Belarus: 1999, 2009
  • France: 1962, 1968, 1975, 1982, 1990, 1999, 2006, 2011
  • Germany: 1970
  • Greece: 1971, 1981, 1991, 2001, 2011
  • Hungary: 1970, 1980, 1990, 2001, 2011
  • Ireland: 1971, 1979, 1981, 1986, 1991, 1996, 2002, 2006, 2011
  • Italy: 2001, 2011, 2011Q1, 2012Q1, 2013Q1, 2014Q1, 2015Q1, 2016Q1, 2017Q1, 2018Q1
  • Netherlands: 1960, 1971, 2001, 2011
  • Poland: 1978, 2002
  • Portugal: 1981, 1991, 2001, 2011
  • Romania: 1977, 1992, 2002, 2011
  • Russia: 2002, 2010
  • Slovenia: 2002
  • Spain: 1981, 1991, 2001, 2005Q1, 2005Q2, 2005Q3, 2005Q4, 2006Q1, 2006Q2, 2006Q3, 2006Q4, 2007Q1, 2007Q2, 2007Q3, 2007Q4, 2008Q1, 2008Q2, 2008Q3, 2008Q4, 2009Q1, 2009Q2, 2009Q3, 2009Q4, 2010Q1, 2010Q2, 2010Q3, 2010Q4, 2011Q1, 2011Q2, 2011Q3, 2011Q4, 2012Q1, 2012Q2, 2012Q3, 2012Q4, 2013Q1, 2013Q2, 2013Q3, 2013Q4, 2014Q1, 2014Q2, 2014Q3, 2014Q4, 2015Q1, 2015Q2, 2015Q3, 2015Q4, 2016Q1, 2016Q2, 2016Q3, 2016Q4, 2017Q1, 2017Q2, 2017Q3, 2017Q4, 2018Q1, 2018Q2, 2018Q3, 2018Q4
  • Switzerland: 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000
  • Turkey: 1985, 1990, 2000
  • United Kingdom: 1991, 2001