About the Community Well-Being index

Definitions and background information about the index.

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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:

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 the individual reports.

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 and 2016, 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 3 distinct series of CWB index scores. The first 2 series were published before 2016 and are now obsolete. In 2019, the CWB index scores from 1981 to 2011 were recalculated. Specifically, the methodology was adjusted slightly to address changes to how income and the working-age population in the labour force were measured in the census. These changes were applied consistently for all the years covered under the 1981 to 2016 time series.

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

Well-being refers to the social, economic and political conditions essential to fulfilling enjoyable lives. There is no unique and 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. 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 communities over many decades while also comparing them with non-Indigenous communities.

The Office of the Auditor General recently 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. Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) and Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) aim to continually develop and improve measures of well-being.

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 CSDs types that are affiliated with First Nations or Indian bands are Indian reserves and Indian settlements. In 2016, Indian reserves represented 96% of all CSDs that are related to First Nations or Indian bands.

CIRNAC and ISC use a list of First Nations communities that includes legally-defined Indian reserves. The list also includes communities not legally defined as reserves, but that contain significant First Nations populations and are associated with a First Nations group.

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 as there are only 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, socially and culturally to the communities in which they live. An internal study based on 2006 data showed that including non-Indigenous residents in Indigenous communities' CWB scores 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 Registered Indian and Inuit Human Development Indices?

The CWB index was developed following the release of the Registered Indian and Inuit Human Development Indices, which measure well-being at the national and regional levels. These indices were developed to replicate the United Nations Development Program's Human Development Index, which measures and compares an index derived from life expectancy, education and wealth in some 170 countries around the world. After data users and stakeholders suggested that First Nations and Inuit socio-economic conditions varied greatly by community, the CWB index was developed in 2004 to measure this important dimension of well-being.

Why can't I find my community in the Community Well-Being index database?

Your community will not appear in the 2016 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 on the CIRNAC and ISC websites can help you find First Nations communities and provide the names of the reserves that represent the First Nation. These reserves usually have the same names as the ones used in the CWB index database.

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