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Relationship to head of subfamily

Codes and Frequencies

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SUBFREL describes the relationship of the individual to the head of the subfamily (in most cases, conjugal unit). It is distinct from RELATE, which identifies a person's relationship to the head of the household. There can be multiple subfamilies within households. The particular subfamily to which a person belongs is recorded in SUBFNUM.

Persons living alone without other family are identified as "heads" of family.

Comparability — Index

United States

Comparability — General

Explicit subfamily relationship information is only available in selected samples. For households that have only one subfamily, SUBFREL and RELATE have identical values.

In the Canada 1971-2001 samples, persons are not organized into households.

Comparability — Brazil [top]

The definition of subfamilies differs between 1960 and later years. In 1960, all persons related to the head of household are part of the first subfamily; other subfamilies are composed strictly of persons unrelated to the household head (secondary families). Later Brazilian censuses identify both related and unrelated subfamilies.The 2010 census does not identify subfamilies.

Two groups of subfamily relationships deserve note:

Employees, boarders, and guests: These categories of relationship are treated differently over time. Employees, boarders, and guests are combined in 1960; they are given their own code at the same level of detail as employees and boarders. Guests are explicitly included with boarders in 1970 and 1980. Guests appear to be included in the "agregado" category of non-relatives in 1991 and 2000. Relatives of employees are separately identified beginning in 1980.

Agregado: Unrelated persons who were not employees or boarders, who were living permanently with the family.

Comparability — Canada [top]

All samples except for 2011 are composed of persons not organized into households. SUBFREL indicates their subfamily relationship, but the rest of the household members are not in the data.

Persons in collective households are not identified in 1970; most are included with non-relatives.

Comparability — Fiji [top]

Subfamily relationships appear to be inferred for the 2007 Fiji census by the statistical office for a subset of household members: the household head's children, grandchildren and parents/parents-in-law. All others, even if they are married or raising children, are treated as members of the primary family.

Comparability — Greece [top]

In the 2011 sample, men are used as the reference, except families with single mothers and subfamilies where there is only one person.

Comparability — Hungary [top]

Parents and parents-in-law are inferred from "ascendant relatives," which presumably also includes some grandparents. All samples except 1980 distinguish unmarried partners from married spouses.

Comparability — Ireland [top]

Subfamily relationships are reported for all Irish samples except 1996. Other relatives of a family head who do not have a spouse or children of their own are combined with non-relatives and visitors in 1971-1981 in the other relative or nonrelative category. After 1986, other relatives meeting these conditions are identified as such within subfamilies. Visitors and non-relatives are combined into one category in the years 1986 and 1991, while visitors are separately identified in 2002. In 2006, visitors are given codes that express their relationship to the household or family head (e.g. child, nonrelative).

Because subfamily relationships are not specified for persons in the third subfamily in the 1986 and 2002 samples, we code these as unknown. This affects only a small number of cases.

Comparability — Mexico [top]

As identified in the 1970 Mexican data, subfamilies are constituted of a person with a spouse and/or offspring. Subfamilies may consist of persons not related to the head of the household (i.e., they may be secondary families).

Comparability — Togo [top]

Subfamilies are only identified in the 1970 sample. In that sample, the subfamily number was inferred by the national statistical office. The definition for what constitutes a subfamily is not well-documented, but empirically, subfamilies usually consist of a couple with or without children or a single parent or guardian and their unmarried children. Persons not in a subfamily (which can be determined by reference to SUBFNUM) are coded as a family Head.

Comparability — United States [top]

Persons in group quarters or not in a sub-family are classified as "other relative or non-relative."


  • Brazil 1960: All persons
  • Brazil 1970: All persons
  • Brazil 1980: All persons
  • Brazil 1991: All persons
  • Brazil 2000: All persons
  • Canada 1971: All persons
  • Canada 1981: All persons
  • Canada 1991: All persons
  • Fiji 2007: All persons
  • Greece 2011: All persons
  • Hungary 1970: All persons
  • Hungary 1980: All persons
  • Hungary 1990: All persons
  • Hungary 2001: All persons
  • Hungary 2011: All persons
  • Ireland 1971: All persons
  • Ireland 1979: All persons
  • Ireland 1981: All persons
  • Ireland 1986: All persons
  • Ireland 1991: All persons
  • Ireland 2002: All persons
  • Ireland 2006: All persons
  • Mexico 1970: All persons
  • Poland 1978: All persons
  • Poland 2002: All persons
  • Togo 1970: All persons
  • United States 2010: All persons
  • United States 2015: All persons


  • Brazil: 1960, 1970, 1980, 1991, 2000
  • Canada: 1971, 1981, 1991
  • Fiji: 2007
  • Greece: 2011
  • Hungary: 1970, 1980, 1990, 2001, 2011
  • Ireland: 1971, 1979, 1981, 1986, 1991, 2002, 2006
  • Mexico: 1970
  • Poland: 1978, 2002
  • Togo: 1970
  • United States: 2010, 2015