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1 Since the estimates in this publication are based on information obtained from occupants of a sample of dwellings, they are subject to sampling variability. That is, they may differ from those estimates that would have been produced if all dwellings had been included in the survey. One measure of the likely difference is given by the standard error (SE), which indicates the extent to which an estimate might have varied by chance because only a sample of dwellings was included. There are about two chances in three (67%) that a sample estimate will differ by less than one SE from the number that would have been obtained if all dwellings had been included, and about 19 chances in 20 (95%) that the difference will be less than two SEs. Another measure of the likely difference is the relative standard error (RSE), which is obtained by expressing the SE as a percentage of the estimate.
2 Due to space limitations, it is impractical to print the SE of each estimate in the publication. Instead, a table of SEs is provided to enable readers to determine the SE for an estimate from the size of that estimate (see table T1). The SE table is derived from a mathematical model, referred to as the 'SE model', which is created using data from a number of past Labour Force Surveys. It should be noted that the SE model only gives an approximate value for the SE for any particular estimate since there is some minor variation between SEs for different estimates of the same size.
CALCULATION OF STANDARD ERROR
3 An example of the calculation and the use of SEs in relation to estimates of persons is as follows. Table 1 shows that the estimated number of people in Australia who were discouraged job seekers was 117,200. Since the estimate is between 100,000 and 150,000, table T1 shows that the SE for Australia will lie between 6,050 and 7,250 and can be approximated by interpolation using the following general formula:
5 In general, the size of the SE increases as the size of the estimate increases. Conversely, the RSE decreases as the size of the estimate increases. Very small estimates are thus subject to such high RSEs that their value for most practical purposes is unreliable. In the tables in this publication, only estimates with RSEs of 25% or less are considered reliable for most purposes. Estimates with RSEs greater than 25% but less than or equal to 50% are preceded by an asterisk (e.g.*3.2) to indicate they are subject to high SEs and should be used with caution. Estimates with RSEs of greater than 50%, preceded by a double asterisk (e.g.**0.4), are considered too unreliable for general use and should only be used to aggregate with other estimates to provide derived estimates with RSEs of less than 25%.
PROPORTIONS AND PERCENTAGES
6 Proportions and percentages formed from the ratio of two estimates are also subject to sampling errors. The size of the error depends on the accuracy of both the numerator and the denominator. A formula to approximate the RSE of a proportion is given below. This formula is only valid when x is a subset of y.
8 Therefore, the SE for the proportion of discouraged job seekers who were females is 3.0 percentage points (=(46.9/100)x6.5). Therefore, there are about two chances in three that the proportion of females who were discouraged job seekers was between 43.9% and 49.9% and 19 chances in 20 that the proportion is within the range 40.9% to 52.9%.
9 Published estimates may also be used to calculate the difference between two survey estimates (of numbers or percentages). Such an estimate is subject to sampling error. The sampling error of the difference between two estimates depends on their SEs and the relationship (correlation) between them. An approximate SE of the difference between two estimates (x–y) may be calculated by the following formula:
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