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1287.0 - Standards for Income Variables, 2010  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 15/03/2010   
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Contents >> Standard variable - Total income >> Collection methods

On this page:
Introduction
Personal income modules
Detailed module
Basic module
Short module
Single question module
Household income module
Standard input


INTRODUCTION

44. Ideally, 'Total income' should be collected as a separate value for each different source of income rather than as a single value for types of income or total income. This is because some components of income are conceptually different e.g. gross or net of expenses, and may relate to different reference periods e.g. received fortnightly or annually. A more precise measure of 'Total income' is achieved if each source is addressed separately rather than asking the respondent to recall and to sum all their sources in response to one or two questions for a fixed reference period.

45. However, it is recognised that it is not always feasible to collect income data at this level of detail and the standard incorporates a range of collection modules which produce measures of 'Total income' which vary in their level of precision and detail.

46. 'Total income' data may be collected and analysed in respect of the following statistical units: persons; income units; families; and households. When income is collected from each individual member of the household it can be aggregated to any level required. However not all surveys require interviews to be conducted with each member of the household. In these circumstances, the standard 'Household income module' may be used in conjunction with a personal income module to collect the income of other members of the household in order to produce estimates of household income.


STANDARD QUESTION MODULES


47. This section provides the four standard personal income modules and the standard household income module.

Personal income modules

48. There are four standard personal income question modules designed to meet a wide range of user requirements while retaining as much conceptual and operational consistency as possible. The choice of module will depend on the analytical requirements of key users and on any operational constraints.

49. The four standard personal 'Total income' modules are:

    • the detailed module;
    • the basic module;
    • the short module; and
    • the single question.

50. The length of the modules varies considerably depending on the level of detail of the income information being collected. The shorter modules do not attempt to collect irregular or lump sum receipts such as severance and termination payments, irregular overtime or bonuses, lump sum government payments such as the Baby Bonus and lump sum workers' compensation payments. Detailed module

51. The detailed income module is not technically part of the standard, due to its length, complexity and reliance on information that is not collected as part of the module. It is included here for completeness. The detailed module is designed for use in the specialised income surveys conducted by the ABS i.e. the Survey of Income and Housing (SIH) and the Household Expenditure Survey (HES).
52. The operational definition of income is fully implemented in the detailed module (see Underlying concepts for the operational definition). It comprises over 300 questions, but many respondents are asked only a few of these questions, depending on the nature of the income they receive. The module collects the amount of income received for the current period as well as the previous financial year in dollar values from each source of income at the detailed level of the classification. Sufficient information is collected to enable the imputation of personal income tax, the Medicare Levy and the Medicare Levy Surcharge, thereby enabling the derivation of disposable income.

53. The detailed module is used to collect income information in respect of all people, over the age of 15 years, in the selected household. This makes it possible to produce 'Total income' data at the person level, to aggregate data to the household level, and to provide information about various combinations of persons within the household such as income units.

54. The detailed module is designed for computer assisted personal interviewing and is not suitable for a telephone interviewing environment because of its length and complexity. Due to its length and complexity, and because it requires information collected elsewhere in the survey which is not part of the module, it is not recommended for use except in the intended vehicles. There are changes made to this module in each survey cycle i.e. every two years. For these reasons, anyone considering using it in a different collection should consult the ABS early in their collection development phase.

55. A paper representation of the computer assisted interview, detailed income module, used in the most recently conducted SIH or HES is published on the ABS website, see <www.abs.gov.au> (ABS Home Page/Themes/People/Personal, Family and Household Finances).

Basic module

56. The basic module is suitable for use in both computer assisted personal interviews and telephone interviews.

57. The basic module comprises approximately 30 questions and provides a broad measure of 'Total income'. It is recommended for use in surveys where a broad measure of income is needed for cross-classificatory purposes e.g. health status, education and training, crime and justice, family and community, culture and leisure. For practical reasons, the operational definition of income derived from the basic module is limited to receipts that are usually or regularly received and are able to be reported by households. Irregular, lump sum or one-off payments such as the Baby Bonus or irregular financial support received from a family member not living in the same household are excluded. Further details are in Appendix D.

58. The basic module is recommended ahead of the short module for most uses as it provides greater precision and flexibility for dissemination and analysis. The collection of income from individual sources enables analyses that would not otherwise be possible. For example, the amounts of Family Tax Benefit received are collected separately allowing analysis or modelling to take account of its non-taxable status.

59. The basic module can be used to collect income information in respect of all members in the household aged 15 years and over, where all household members are interviewed or where the selected respondent answers on behalf of other household members. Where time constraints do not allow the basic module to be used to collect income information for all household members, the selected respondent should be asked the basic module. Following this, the selected respondent can then be asked the short module to obtain the income for each of the other household members. While it is preferable to collect each persons income separately in order to enable the calculation of total household income, where this is not possible the standard 'Household income module' can be used to obtain the income of other household members as a single figure.

60. The module collects the amount of income received in dollar values from sources of income at the narrow level of the classification enabling the derivation of 'Main source of income' where there have been no 'don't know' responses or refusals to income questions. Where main source of income is required, it is recommended that an additional question be asked of respondents who have refused or do not know a particular income amount (refer to the standard for 'Main source of income' for more details). 'Main source of income' at the household level can only be derived if the basic module has been used to collect income information in respect of all members of the household.

61. While the basic module is designed for computer assisted personal interviewing it can be adapted for a paper and pencil instrument. Versions of the basic module are available for both computer assisted personal interview (refer Appendix A under the downloads tab) and computer assisted telephone interview (refer Appendix B under the downloads tab).

62. For surveys of Indigenous populations, a tailored version of the basic income module is available for non-remote indigenous populations. A separate income module is available for remote Indigenous populations. Further details are in Appendix C under the downloads tab. Short module

63. The short module is suitable for use in both computer assisted personal interviews and telephone interviews.

64. The short module includes three main questions and an optional fourth question for user where Main source of income is required. It is is designed for use where time or space constraints preclude use of the Basic module. The short module is less accurate than the basic module, collecting only one dollar value, that is, total income from all sources. For practical reasons, the operational definition of income derived from the short module is limited to receipts that are usually or regularly received and able to be reported by households. Irregular, lump sum or one-off payments such as the Baby Bonus and irregular financial support received from a family member not living in the same household are excluded. Further details are in Appendix D under the downloads tab.

65. The short module can be used to collect income information in respect of all members of the household, where all household members are interviewed. However, many surveys interview only one household member. In these circumstances, it is recommended that the standard 'Household income module' also be used to obtain the income of other household members in order to enable the calculation of total household income.

66. The short module is provided below. Question 4 can be included where there is a need to obtain 'Main source of income'.
      Q1. Interviewer: Short Prompt Card

      Could you please tell me if [you/(proxy name)] receives income from any of these sources:
      Multiple responses allowed for this question

      1. Wages or salary?
      2. Profit or loss from own unincorporated business or share in partnership?
      3. Any Government pension, benefit or allowance?
      4. Any other regular source?
      5. None of the above

      Q2
      . Before income tax [, salary sacrifice,] or anything else is taken out, how much [do you/ does (proxy name)] usually receive from [this source/these sources] in total?

      Interviewer: If respondent unable to answer, prompt for their best estimate

      Amount (dollars)
      Nil
      Loss

      Q3
      . What period does that cover?

      1. Week
      2. Fortnight
      3. Four weeks
      4. Calendar month
      5. Year

      Q4
      . Interviewer: Short Prompt Card

      What is [your/(proxy name)'s] main source of income?

      1. Wages or salary (including from own incorporated business)
      2. Own incorporated business or share in a partnership
      3. Government pension or allowance
      4. Rental investment property
      5. Superannuation, an annuity or private pension
      6. Dividends from shares and/ or interest
      7. Nil or negative
      8. Other
Single question module

67. The single question module is suitable for self-enumeration.

68. Comprising one question only, this module provides a very broad measure of 'Total income'. It is designed for use in self-enumerated questionnaires where simplicity and brevity are important, and a very broad measure of income is considered adequate for analytical purposes. The amount of income received is collected as a dollar value at the person level. For practical reasons, the operational definition of income derived from the single question module is limited to receipts that are usually or regularly received and able to be reported. Irregular, lump sum or one-off payments such as the Baby Bonus and irregular financial support received from a family member not living in the same household are excluded. Further details are in Appendix D.

69. This is the recommended single question for self-enumeration.
      What is the total of all wages/salaries, government pensions/allowances and other income the person usually receives?
Do not deduct: tax, superannuation contributions, amounts salary sacrificed, or any other automatic deductions.

Include income from the following sources:
      Wages and salaries
        • overtime
        • commissions and bonuses
        • income from own incorporated business (e.g. Pty Ltd.)
      Government pensions, benefits and allowances
        • age pension
        • family tax benefit
        • parenting payment
        • disability pension
        • unemployment benefits
        • youth and student allowances
        • any other government pensions/allowances
      Unincorporated business income
        • profit or loss from unincorpoated business/farm (eg. sole traders, partnerships)
      Other income
        • income from superannuation
        • private pensions
        • child support
        • workers' compensation
        • interest
        • dividends from shares
        • profit or loss from rental properties (exclude expenses)
        • any other income


Amounts per week, per fortnight or per year
70. A version of this question, collecting 'Total income' in ranges, is currently used in the Census of Population and Housing, because this option is easily processed and because of concerns about maintaining high response rates. Collection of income amounts in ranges limits accurate aggregation of income unit, family or household income and analysis of the data produced. This approach is under review, but will not be changed for the 2011 Census.

Household income module

71. The household income module is intended for use in collections which do not collect separate income information from all members of the household. It is intended to be used to supplement personal income information collected through either the short or basic income modules to collect the income of other members of the household in order to produce estimates of household income. The household unit is the preferred unit for most analyses of income data .
      If a household contains more than 1 person aged 15 years or over the following question module is asked to collect household income:
      The next question is about the income of members of [your/(proxy name)'s] household aged 15 years or over, excluding [yourself/ (proxy name)].
      Q1. Before income tax, salary sacrifice or anything else is taken out, how much income in total do these people usually receive from all sources?
      Interviewer: Enter dollar amount. If respondent unable to answer, prompt for their best estimate.
          1. Amount ---> Q2
          2. Nil ---> End

      Q2
      . What period does that cover?

      1. Week
      2. Fortnight
      3. Four weeks
      4. Calendar month
      5. Year.
      6. Other (please specify)

STANDARD INPUT

72. The standard input for income is actual dollar amounts. In collections using income ranges, the input categories are those ranges.

73. Income can have positive, zero or negative values. While most incomes are reported as a positive value, people can report negative incomes if they incur losses in their unincorporated businesses or have negative returns from their investments.

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