1200.0.55.003 - Religious Affiliation Standard, 2012, Version 1.1  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 26/09/2012  First Issue
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Classification and Coding

The standard classification and classification criteria
Religious Affiliation data in Australia is collected, aggregated and disseminated using the Australian Standard Classification of Religious Groups (ASCRG) (cat no. 1266.0).

Three classification criteria are used to form the categories of the classification:
        • similar religious beliefs

        • similar religious practices

        • cultural heritage.

The term 'religious group' is used in the ASCRG to describe groups of religions, separately identified religions, and subsets of religions such as religious denominations, administrative and organisational groupings, groups of churches, individual churches, and breakaway groups. They are described in the classification as religious groups in that each is comprised of a group of people who share common religious beliefs and practices, or belong to organisations that are unified by a common religious theme.

The ASCRG has a three level hierarchical structure.

The second level of the classification comprises 32 'narrow groups'. Narrow groups comprise between one and 14 religious groups which are similar in terms of the classification criteria.

The third and most detailed level of the classification consists of base units known as 'religious groups'. The classification consists of 115 religious groups. Some religious groups are residual categories, or 'not elsewhere classified' (nec) categories, which contain entities that are not listed separately in the classification.

The first and most general level of the classification comprises seven 'broad groups'. These are formed by aggregating narrow groups (and hence religious groups) which are broadly similar in terms of the classification criteria.
Broad Group 7 No Religion comprises entities which are identifiable and useful groupings which, while not satisfying the criteria of a religion, are necessary to enable the capture of the full range of responses to questions on religious affiliation.

The code structure

One, two or three, and four digit codes are assigned to the broad, narrow and religious group levels units of the classification respectively. The first digit identifies the broad group in which each religious group or narrow group is contained. The first two or three digits taken together identify the narrow group in which each religious group is contained. The four digit codes represent the religious groups.

The following examples illustrate the coding scheme:

Broad Group2Christianity
Narrow Group24Pentecostal
Religious Group2413Revival Centres
Broad Group6Other Religions
Narrow Group605Chinese Religions
Religious Group6053Taoism
Residual categories and codes

In each broad and narrow group a four digit code, ending in the digits '99' or '9', is reserved as a residual or 'not elsewhere classified' (nec) category.

Further details regarding the residual categories and codes used when coding religious affiliation data can be found in the ASCRG (cat. no. 1266.0).

Supplementary codes

Supplementary codes are not part of the classification structure. They exist for operational reasons only, and no data would be coded to them if sufficiently detailed responses were obtained in all instances. They are used to process inadequately described responses in statistical collections. The codes are of three types:

      • 'Not further defined' (nfd) codes, ending in zero, used to code responses which cannot be coded to the religious group level of the classification but which can be coded to either the narrow or broad group levels of the classification.

      • Operational codes, commencing with '000', used to code 'inadequately described' responses. These responses present particular problems as they cannot be allocated a religious group, narrow group or broad group code within the classification structure.

      • Operational codes, consisting of a broad group and a religious group level code, may be used if there is insufficient information available to attribute a religious group to any particular narrow group. Currently this type of operational code is only used to code '2001' 'Apostolic Church, so described', as the response 'Apostolic Church' lacks sufficient information to code it to an appropriate narrow group.

Scope of the variable

The variable Religious Affiliation applies to all persons.

Application of the classification to other variables

The Religious Affiliation classification is not applicable to any other variable.

Coding procedures and coding indexes

Responses to the Religious Affiliation question are coded to the ASCRG (cat. no. 1266.0) and the supplementary codes. Each religion response is matched with an entry in the ASCRG to determine the correct code.

The coding index has been developed to assist in the implementation and use of the ASCRG and should be used when coding responses to questions relating to Religious Affiliation. It contains a comprehensive list of the most probable responses to questions relating to religious groups and their correct classification codes. Use of the coding index enables responses to be coded accurately to the appropriate category of the classification.

Further details regarding the classification and coding of religious affiliation data can be found in the ASCRG (cat. no. 1266.0).

Copies of the coding index can be found by accessing the data cube attached to the ASCRG publication (cat. no. 1266.0) on the ABS website (www.abs.gov.au).