1304.5 - Stats Talk WA, Jun 2010  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/06/2010   
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My Suburb
Where are you on the ladder?

League tables are everywhere (just ask a Dockers supporter)!

In sport we use them to determine how well our football teams are performing or how many medals Australia has won at the Olympics.

In finance we measure how well our investments are doing. We even may use them in our workplace to determine how many sales we’ve made for the month and maybe rank who the best sales person is.

Ranking is used everywhere to gauge, to judge and to measure. So why, when used within the area of measuring social economics, is there so much debate and controversy?

With the recent My School website release, there are those who believe that even our children’s schools will be tabled and this will create division within the school system. Others feel that it empowers parents to make informed choices, while still others say the NAPLAN system of testing is not a suitable way to test educational outcomes.

Indicating Advantage/Disadvantage
A major issue of concern, is the belief that indicators used to compare across schools are not valid and do not represent the ‘real’ socio economics of their particular area.

Whatever you think of the My School website, it would be of benefit to you to explore just how these indicators work and how they are used to form this comparison.

It is interesting to consider how it is possible for social economics to be successfully measured.

If you do visit the My School website one thing you will notice, is that the Australian Bureau of Statistics data has been used in the building of the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA) which is the measure specifically developed for the My School website.

High rise apartments

Don’t Shoot the Messenger
Naturally 2006 Census data is used, as it is the most reliable small area data available, but what is of interest is that the ABS has its own Socio Economic Index for Areas (SEIFA) based on the census and part of this is used in the creation of the My Schools ICSEA.

The ICSEA uses 15 of the 35 ABS SEIFA variables to create its Index mainly because SEIFA is not designed specifically for use within education. Instead the SEIFA compares suburbs. So instead of My School, it is more My Suburb.

The SEIFA indexes are rankings. Each index ranks different geographic areas of Australia according to a ‘score’ that is created for the area based on characteristics of people, families and dwellings within that area.

It is used by both government and private organisations in ways such as targeting areas for business or services, ‘demographic profiling’, strategic planning, design of sample surveys, and social or economic research. A roundabout way of saying, to find out who needs what, where.

Of course you cannot just rank a suburb on how many Mercedes Benz’s are parked in driveways. Just how does the ABS work out what’s a disadvantage and what’s an advantage? The answers may surprise you.

Population Projection Perth 2010 to 2050

Measures of Disadvantage
Surely how much you earn (or in this case don’t earn) would be the best indicator to use? Not so, grasshopper. It’s actually whether or not you have a post-school qualification. Next most significant indicator of disadvantage is being without an internet connection. Finally, low income comes in as the third most important indicator.

Other major indicators of disadvantage are working as a labourer, paying low housing rent and having a long-term health condition.

Now if you’re reading this and are a lowly paid labourer without qualifications, renting cheaply, feeling a bit crook and with no internet connection, don’t get discouraged. These indicators are, well, indicators. They don’t factor in things like money in the bank, lifestyle, love or happiness.

Measures of Advantage
At the other end of the measurement scale however, money does seem to matter, high income being ranked the most significant indicator of advantage, followed by having an internet connection and being a “Professional”. Interestingly paying a high rent is rated as more of an indicator of advantage than paying a high mortgage. Go figure.

Perth city skyline
Jacob's Ladder - Perth

So where is your suburb ranked?
The ABS has released a ‘league table’ for both the top 20 most Advantaged and the top 20 most Disadvantaged, Statistical Local Areas or (SLAs) in Australia. You may be happy to know that WA has no SLAs in the most Disadvantaged table and 2 SLAs in the most Advantaged table. It is probably no surprise to most that they are the shire of Peppermint Grove (number 9) and the town of Cottesloe (number 17).

Of course if you wish to look at the full list, or want to check out any information relating to SEIFA you can see it all on our website:

Maybe the real question is not about advantage and disadvantage, but one of happiness. Possibly we should do what the nation of Bhutan has done and bring in a ‘Gross National Happiness’ Indicator which defines quality of life as measured in more holistic and psychological terms. Perhaps one day in the future you may see the question, ‘Are you Happy?’ appear on the census form. We’ll see.

In the meantime SEIFA data will continue to be used in conjunction with other data like Naplan or Health Data as in the above graph, as a way of measuring well…us.

So what are the top 5 ranked suburbs in WA according to SEIFA?
After all the furore caused by My School, if you think I’m going to print them here you need your head read….then perhaps ranked!

Phil Smythe

Article by Phil Smythe, Client Liaison Unit - Rates himself as pretty happy by all accounts.