Distributions, Dimensions and Determinants: The New Zealand Census 2013 and General Social Survey 2008-2012 Results Relating to Inequality

By Crothers, Charles | New Zealand Sociology, April 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

Distributions, Dimensions and Determinants: The New Zealand Census 2013 and General Social Survey 2008-2012 Results Relating to Inequality


Crothers, Charles, New Zealand Sociology


1 Introduction

Adding the 2012 tranche of data to the earlier 2008 and 2010 rounds of the New Zealand General Social Survey (NZGSS) generates a large data-set of high quality which includes a wide array of measures relating to inequality, the distribution of resources and Standard of living (SOL) and which therefore provides the information for a usefully sophisticated (i.e. multivariate) description of inequality in contemporary New Zealand. Although the quality of measurement of some key items is rather thin (often restricted to a single fairly 'global' measure1) the advantages of the NZGSS are its up-to-datedness, the solid sample size (n=25,737: confidence intervals for fairly equal distributions are under 1%) and the ability (since unit record data is available) to carry out multivariate analyses. Access to the NZGSS Curf is provided under the conditions of the Statistics Act 1975: the results presented here are the work of the author.

The NZGSS is a multidimensional, biennial survey on social and economic outcomes of New Zealanders aged 15 years and over who are usual residents in private dwellings (excluding off-shore islands). General Social Surveys are included within the statistical programmes in countries including Australia (2002 on), the United Kingdom, Canada (1985 on), and more generally in the OECD which thus provides some international comparability. The NZGSS uses a three-stage sample selection method, similar to other Statistics New Zealand's household surveys2. Response-rates have declined slightly over time and are now below the target of 80% (see Table 1). One individual in the household completes the household questionnaire, on collective information (e.g. family relationships and household income), and one individual in the household aged 15 years or over is randomly selected to answer the personal questionnaire. Some questions in the personal questionnaire (such as the Economic Living Standard Index: ELSI) questions, including adequacy of income to meet everyday needs) are not asked of respondents who are under 18 years of age. Interviews are conducted using computer-assisted personal interviews and last an average of 45 minutes. The survey has two sets of weights attached, one for the household and one for the person3.

In addition, early results from the 2013 census allow some updating of time-series in relation to labour force status, employment status, occupation, education, income and tenure. Attention is also drawn (where available) to disaggregations by Maori ethnicity (those people who specified 'Maori' as either their sole ethnic group, or as one of several ethnic groups) and gender. Where possible 2006 and 2001 comparisons are presented (limited in order avoid too many complications with backward compatibility of coding categories). The main approach to the data is to compare relative proportions at each census period, although it can also be interesting to examine other measures of changes over time (and an even more sophisticated analysis might provide per annum changes bearing in mind the 5 year gap between 2001 and 2006 censuses, whereas there was a 7-year gap between the 2006 and 2013 censuses.)

This research note describes the results for the NZGSS measures for each of these aspects of inequality, including whether there has been substantively significant change since 2008, and the extent to which multiple measures 'hang together' or might form the basis for a summative scale. Commentary is necessary to point to limitations in the measurements and how the findings relate to other studies. Measures available (those also available from the census are marked with an asterisk) include:

- Personal and household (hh) incomes*

- Sources of personal income

- Tenure *

- Dwelling Size and crowding

- SOL index summing various nonmonetary advantages/lacks

- Neighbourhood Deprivation index

- Educational Qualifications*

- Employment arrangements*

- Occupation*

- Subjective SOL. …

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