6503.0 - Household Expenditure Survey and Survey of Income and Housing, User Guide, Australia, 2015-16  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 10/10/2017   
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This User Guide publication contains details about the Survey of Income and Housing (SIH) and the Household Expenditure Survey (HES) conducted in 2015-16. It includes information about the purpose of the survey, the concepts and contents, and the methods and procedures used to collect the data and derive the estimates. The publication also outlines the differences between the 2015-16 survey and earlier SIH and HES surveys. Its purpose is to help users of the data understand the nature of the surveys, and the potential of these surveys to meet user needs.

The 2015–16 SIH collected information from a sample of 17,768 households over the period July, 2015 to June, 2016. Of the 17,768 households that completed the SIH, 10,046 were also included in the HES. The 2015-16 SIH and HES included an additional sample of metropolitan households whose main source of income was a government pension or allowance to support the compilation of the Pensioner and Beneficiary Living Cost Index (PBLCI).


The SIH and HES are household surveys which collect information on sources of income, amounts received, household net worth, housing, household characteristics and personal characteristics. The HES also collects detailed information about household expenditure and financial stress. The principal objective of these surveys is to facilitate the analysis and monitoring of the social and economic welfare of Australian residents in private dwellings. The main users are government and other social and economic analysts involved in the development, implementation and evaluation of social and economic policies.

Income and wealth data are used by economic and social analysts and policy makers to:

  • understand the distribution of economic resources among private households in Australia;
  • identify households most at risk of experiencing economic hardship; and
  • understand the effects of taxation and income support systems on the wellbeing of people and households.

Housing data are used for:
  • housing affordability studies;
  • analysis of housing occupancy, including levels of home ownership and housing utilisation; and
  • comparison of the housing costs by tenure type.

Expenditure data are used to:
  • understand the effects of taxation and welfare payments on the cost of living for people and families;
  • identify the changes occurring in people's spending habits; and
  • support the compilation of key economic indicators, including the National Accounts and the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and Pensioner and Beneficiary Living Cost Index (PBLCI).


The SIH was conducted annually from 1994–95 to 1997–98, and then in 1999–2000, 2000–01 and 2002–03. Commencing in 2003–04 the SIH has been conducted every two years, and is integrated with the Household Expenditure Survey (HES) every six years.

Previous surveys of household income were conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in 1979, 1982, 1986 and 1990. These surveys were generally conducted over a two-month period, compared to a twelve-month period for the SIH. The SIH also included improvements to the survey weighting and estimation procedures, changes to the scope and coverage of household income and changes to interviewing methods.

Previous Household Expenditure Surveys were conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in 1974-75, 1975-76, 1984, 1988-89, 1993-94, 1998-99, 2003-04 and 2009-10, however, current results are only comparable back to 1984.

Comprehensive household wealth data has been collected in every cycle of the SIH since 2003–04, except for 2007–08.

The 2009-10 and 2015-16 SIH and HES have also included an additional sample of metropolitan households whose main source of income was a government pension or allowance to support the compilation of the Pensioner and Beneficiary Living Cost Index (PBLCI). The SIH continues to include an additional sample of households outside of greater capital city areas to support housing indicators in regional areas.


Content collected on solar energy installation and usage is a new addition to the 2015-16 SIH and HES. Analysis using this data can be found in Household Income and Wealth, Australia, 2015–16 (cat. no. 6523.0). An index of service accessibility has also been added to the survey data. The Metropolitan Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia (Metro ARIA) enables analysis of economic wellbeing and expenditure in relation to accessibility of services for metropolitan areas and summary results can be found in Household Expenditure Survey 2015–16, Summary of Results (cat. no. 6530.0).