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ABS responds to "Meet the Jilkminggans -- the most disadvantaged Australians" (Crikey.Com 4 March 2008 and subsequent articles)
 

The Australian Bureau of Statistics advises reporting in Crikey articles this week has been grossly misleading in regards to the preliminary release of the Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage ("Meet the Jilkminggans -- the most disadvantaged Australians", 4 March 2008 and subsequent articles).

The Crikey article uses Census Collection District figures as representative of wider areas. This is not statistically valid and it is also grossly misleading. The article also reverses the index of disadvantage rankings to determine advantaged areas. Again this is not statistically valid and provides a grossly misleading and incorrect result.

Media are encouraged to contact the ABS if they are reporting on the preliminary release of the Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage due to its complex and technical nature. The ABS recommends the best source of comparing the relative socio-economic conditions of cities and towns is the full release of Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA) which will be released on Wednesday 26 March, 2008.


Background
This preliminary index was released on 18 February, 2008 in a product titled Census of Population and Housing: Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA), Australia - Data only, 2006 Preliminary (cat. no.2033.0.55.001).

The Australian Bureau of Statistics recommends taking caution when using this Index and urges users to be aware of the following points:

  1. The Preliminary Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage is an index of an area, not of individual residents in an area. The socio-economic conditions of individual residents in any one area will vary and there may be relatively advantaged residents living in areas labelled as disadvantaged, and vice versa.
  2. The Preliminary Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage is a measure of relative disadvantage only and is compiled using census variables that show disadvantage, such as unemployment and low income. Therefore it is statistically incorrect and misleading to reverse the rankings to determine relatively advantaged or "best" areas. The index which measures advantage is the Index of Relative Socio-Economic Advantage/Disadvantage which is due for release on 26 March.
  3. The Preliminary Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage is based on Census Collection Districts, not suburbs. Therefore it is not statistically valid to identify one collection district as being representative of a wider area. It is also misleading.
  4. The Preliminary Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage takes into account a range of factors in determining both the social and also economic conditions of an area. The index is not an index of "social disadvantage".
  5. There are four Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas and they are designed to be used in conjunction with each other. By itself, the preliminary release of the Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage may not paint a complete picture of an area.


The ABS advises using the full release of Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas due for release on 26 March 2008

The Australian Bureau of Statistics advises that the best source of comparing the relative socio-economic conditions of cities, towns and other areas across Australia is the full release of Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA), which will be released on Wednesday 26 March 2008. The full release contains indexes for collection districts, statistical local areas, postcodes, and local government areas.

The complete set of Socio-Economic Indexes which will be released on 26 March, 2008 include: 1. Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage, 2. Index of Relative Socio-Economic Advantage/Disadvantage, 3. Index of Economic Resources and 4. Index of Education and Occupation.

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