2033.0.55.001 - Census of Population and Housing: Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA), Australia, 2016 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/03/2018   
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All


Some broad guidelines on the appropriate use of SEIFA:

  • The indexes are assigned to areas, not to individuals. The indexes indicate the average socio-economic characteristics of the people, families, and households living in the area.
  • As measures of socio-economic conditions, the indexes are best interpreted as ordinal measures. They can be used to rank areas, and are also useful for understanding the distribution of socio-economic conditions across different areas. Also, the index scores are on an arbitrary scale. The scores do not represent some quantity of advantage or disadvantage. For example, we cannot infer that an area with an index value of 1000 is twice as advantaged as an area with an index value of 500. For ease of interpretation, it is generally recommended that the index rankings and quantiles (such as deciles and percentiles) are used for analysis, rather than the index scores. Index scores are still provided in the output, and can be used for more technically complex analysis. For more information on the index scores, rankings and deciles, please refer to the "SEIFA Measures" section of this guide.
  • The variables that contribute to each index should be considered when deciding which index to use. For example, if a user is interested in finding areas of disadvantage for allocation of services they will probably want to use the Index of Relative Socio-economic Disadvantage. On the other hand, if a user wanted to focus on finding areas containing relatively high proportions of people in unskilled jobs or with low levels of educational qualifications, the Index of Education and Occupation should be used. A full list of the variables included in each index is provided in the pages about the individual indexes in this guide. The indexes are primarily designed to compare the relative socio-economic characteristics of areas at a given point in time, not to compare individual areas across time. There are a number of issues that make longitudinal or time series analysis of SEIFA difficult to interpret. If comparisons over time are being made, the use of quantiles (such as deciles and percentiles) is recommended, rather than ranks or scores.

More detail on these guidelines can be found in Chapter 6 of the Technical Paper, which is available from the Downloads tab.


Topics not represented in the index

Users of the indexes should examine the variables contained in each index (see the pages about the individual indexes in this guide
) to ascertain whether they are appropriate for analysis. There are two aspects of advantage which the indexes do not represent well. Firstly, the indexes do not directly measure wealth, and secondly, there is very limited information available through the Census about the infrastructure within an area. Both of these measures may provide more information about the level of advantage and disadvantage in an area. Other potential topics that could be associated with advantage and disadvantage but are not captured on the Census include health (beyond the single disability variable used in SEIFA), crime, and the environment.

Area vs. Individual

The indexes reflect the socio-economic well-being of an area, rather than that of individuals. They were calculated at the SA1 level, and reflect SA1 characteristics. Because the people within an SA1 are not identical, the index scores for an SA1 do not directly reflect the relative advantage or disadvantage of an individual residing in that SA1. For example, it is possible for a relatively advantaged person to be a resident in an SA1 which may have a low score on some or all of the indexes. This needs to be taken into consideration when both using and validating the indexes. For further reading on finer level indexes and diversity within areas please see the 
'SEIFA: Getting a Handle on Individual Diversity Within Areas' article.