About the Community Well-Being index

Definitions and background information about the index.

On this page

What is the Community Well-Being index?

The Community Well-Being (CWB) index measures socio-economic well-being for individual communities across Canada. It has 4 components: education, labour force activity, income and housing.

The CWB index:

Before the first release of the CWB index in 2004, no systematic way of tracking well-being in First Nations and Inuit communities was available.

More information about the 4 components of the index is available in a summary report published by Indigenous Services Canada.

What data were used to calculate the Community Well-Being index?

The CWB scores are composed of data related to education, labour force activity, income and housing. The source of the data is the Census of Population for 1981 to 2006, 2016 and 2021, as well as the 2011 National Household Survey. In 2011, Statistics Canada replaced the long-form census with the National Household Survey. For more detailed information, please consult Statistics Canada's census reference materials.

Why do the new Community Well-Being scores differ slightly from older ones?

The CWB index is continuously updated and improved.

There are 4 distinct series of CWB index scores. The first two series were published before 2016 and are now obsolete. In 2019, the CWB index scores from 1981 to 2011 were recalculated and reported with 2016 scores (3rd series). Specifically, the 3rd series methodology was adjusted to address changes to how income and the working-age population in the labour force were measured in the census. This same approach was used with 2021 data. Thus, the current 4th series includes the addition of 2021 scores to the 3rd series, allowing a comparison across a forty year period (1981 to 2021) in a consistent manner.

Are there other dimensions of well-being that could have been included?

Well-being refers to the social, economic, health and political conditions essential to fulfilling enjoyable lives. There is no universally accepted definition of well-being. In fact, perceptions of well-being vary according to several factors, including geographic location, economy, language, and culture.

The components included in the CWB index are not intended to represent a complete list of dimensions of well-being, but rather focus on select aspects of socio-economic well-being. One of the reasons that the CWB index focuses on education, labour force activity, income and housing is that such information is readily available through the census. As well, the census is the only data source in Canada where one can analyze the social conditions of First Nations and Inuit individual communities over many decades while also comparing them with non-Indigenous communities.

In 2018, the Office of the Auditor General noted that a more holistic portrait of community well-being would be to place the CWB index within a broader dashboard of other important indicators such as health or language.

Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) has been continually developing and improving measures of well-being. ISC employs the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) to provide an additional well-being lens, considering vital dimensions such as a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable and having a decent standard of living. Furthermore, ISC's Annual Report to Parliament and the associated Compendium Report to the Department's 2023 Annual Report to Parliament highlight gaps on a broader range of socio-economic indicators, including income, education, housing, children in foster care, language use and justice between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada.

How is a First Nations or Inuit community defined?

In the CWB index, communities are defined in terms of census subdivisions (CSDs). The term CSD is used by Statistics Canada for municipalities, as determined by provincial or territorial legislation, or areas treated as municipal equivalents for statistical purposes. The 2 main CSD types that are affiliated with First Nations or Indian bands are Indian reserves and Indian settlements. In 2021, of all CSDs that are related to First Nations or Indian bands, Indian reserves made up 96.5%, Indian settlements made up 2.0%, and 6 other land types made up 1.5% (Dictionary, Census of Population, 2021 – Census subdivision (CSD)).

Inuit communities do not have specific legal status in Canada in the same way as First Nations reserves. However, Inuit organizations have pursued and signed Land Claim Settlements in 4 regions of Inuit Nunangat. All CSDs within these 4 regions are considered to be Inuit communities. The 4 regions are, from east to west:

All other CSDs are defined as non-Indigenous communities. The CWB index does not provide scores for Métis communities, including for the 8 Métis-designated settlement areas in Alberta, a smaller level of geography than CSDs.

It is worth noting that each CWB score represents an average of all residents of a given community (Indigenous or non-Indigenous) since all residents contribute economically and socially to the communities in which they live. On the 2021 Census, non-Indigenous residents made up 13.3% of the total population in Inuit Nunangat. Similarly, amongst those residing on First Nations reserves, non-Indigenous residents make up 13.7% of the total on-reserve population. However, there were notable regional differences. For example, in the Prairie provinces, the non-Indigenous population comprised only 1.8% of the on-reserve population. In contrast, in British Columbia, the non-Indigenous population made up closer to half (41.3%) of the on-reserve population, partly due to urban reserves, particularly in and around Vancouver.

An internal study based on 2006 data showed that including non-Indigenous residents in the CWB scores of First Nations and Inuit communities had little impact on broad CWB patterns. Nevertheless, some community scores were influenced by their non-Indigenous populations. It is not recommended, therefore, to treat the score of a First Nations or Inuit community as a proxy for its First Nations or Inuit residents.

How is the Community Well-Being index related to the application of the Human Development Index to Indigenous Peoples in Canada?

The CWB index complements the application of the Human Development Index to Registered Indians, non-status First Nations, Inuit and Self-Identified Métis people in Canada, which measure well-being at the national and regional levels. This application is similar to the methodology of the United Nations Development Programme's Human Development Index, which measures life expectancy, years of schooling and gross national income per capita in 191 countries around the world. After data users and stakeholders suggested that the socio-economic conditions for First Nations, Inuit and non-Indigenous populations varied greatly at the individual community level, the CWB index was developed in 2004 to measure well-being at the community level.

Why is my community missing from the Community Well-Being index database?

Your community will not appear in the 2021 CWB index database if:

It is also possible that your community is in the CWB index database, but that you know it by a different name. The First Nations Profiles can help you find First Nations communities and provide the names of the reserves that represent the First Nation. These reserves often have the same names as the ones used in the CWB index database.

Why are CWB component scores for my community missing from the Community Well-Being index database?

For some communities, overall CWB scores are available, but component scores (education, labour force, income, and housing) have not been released publicly (i.e., have been suppressed) in order to preserve confidentiality. Statistics Canada suppresses census income information for communities with populations of less than 250 and for communities that contain fewer than 40 households. Thus, if a community's population is between 65 and 249, overall CWB scores are available to the public, but component scores are not released.

However, it is important to note that component scores for communities subject to suppression are included in calculations of aggregate average overall, component and subcomponent scores at the national and regional levels. However, there is one exception. If a region had only one CSD with a population between 65 and 249, that one CSD is removed from the aggregate calculation to maintain its confidentiality. In contrast, calculations of ranges and distributions in reporting by ISC exclude suppressed component scores.

Contact us

Specific requests for other data or information can be sent to our Public Enquiries Centre.

Did you find what you were looking for?

What was wrong?

You will not receive a reply. Don't include personal information (telephone, email, SIN, financial, medical, or work details).
Maximum 300 characters

Thank you for your feedback

Date modified: