6503.0 - Household Expenditure Survey and Survey of Income and Housing, User Guide, Australia, 2015-16  
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The Survey of Income and Housing (SIH) and the Household Expenditure Survey (HES) provide detailed estimates of household income, wealth and expenditure collected from individual households. These estimates are used to analyse the distribution of economic resources and expenditure across the population, and to compare the financial resources available to various population subgroups. These analyses support the development, implementation and evaluation of social and economic policies, particularly for potentially disadvantaged groups such as pensioners, one-parent families and the unemployed. The HES estimates of expenditure are also used to determine the ‘basket of goods’ that helps compile the Consumer Price Index (CPI) as well as the relative importance of each expenditure class in calculating the index.

The Australian System of National Accounts (ASNA) also provides estimates of income, wealth and expenditure for the household sector as a whole. The ASNA is designed to provide a systematic summary of Australian economic activity and to present a statistical picture of the structure of the economy and the detailed processes that make up domestic production and its distribution. Within the national accounting framework, the data show how the household sector relates to the corporate and government sectors in Australia and enables comparison with the rest of the world.

As the SIH, HES and ASNA estimates of household income, wealth and expenditure have been developed for different purposes, there are a number of differences in the resulting estimates. This chapter describes and quantifies some of the main scope, definitional and methodological differences between the income, wealth and expenditure estimates from the two collections.

This analysis updates comparisons which were previously made available in the Survey of Income and Housing, User Guide, Australia (cat. no. 6553.0) and Household Expenditure Survey, Australia, Summary of Results (cat. no. 6530.0) publications. All tables containing data from the data comparisons are provided in three data cubes which are available from the 'Downloads' tab of this publication. These data cubes provide the SIH, HES and ASNA estimates, tables listing the adjustments undertaken to account for scope and measurement differences between SIH, HES and ASNA, and a comparison of individual income, wealth and expenditure items.



The ASNA estimates used in this comparison are from the annual publication Australian System of National Accounts, 2016-17 (cat. no. 5204.0). Unpublished estimates from ASNA are also used to better align ASNA and SIH/HES concepts. The ASNA presents aggregate estimates which are compiled from many data sources, mostly statistical surveys or as by-products of government administrative processes. Aggregates in the ASNA are balanced between the supply of goods and services and the demand for goods and services, this can result in slight deviations from other published source data. This is done in order to maintain additivity in the estimates as well as balance within the supply-use framework. Details of the data sources used to compile the ASNA estimates are available in Australian National Accounts: Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2015 (cat. no. 5216.0).

The unadjusted estimates of income presented in this comparison are from tables 36, 37, 42, 48, and 49 in the data cubes for ASNA, 2016-17 (cat. no. 5204.0).

The ASNA estimates of wealth are those underlying the household balance sheet presented in table 41 of ASNA, 2016-17 (cat. no. 5204.0), with the memorandum item for consumer durables taken from table 10 of the same publication. Balance sheet data are presented with respect to 30 June of each year. To improve comparability with the SIH estimates, ASNA wealth data have been averaged for the two relevant SIH years, e.g. 2015-16 is the average of balance sheet estimates for June 2015 and June 2016.

The unadjusted estimates of expenditure presented in this comparison are from table 42 in the data cubes for ASNA, 2016-17 (cat. no. 5204.0).


The SIH is conducted biennially and enumerated over a 12 month period.

Income data for the period 2003–04 to 2015–16 are used in this comparison. Estimates for 2003–04, 2005–06, 2007–08, 2009–10, 2011–12, 2013–14 and 2015–16 (SIH years) relate to ‘current’ financial year income which is based on estimates of usual income being received at the time the data were collected from respondents. The SIH also collected full year, or annual income, with respect to the ‘previous’ financial year. Estimates for non-SIH years relate to ‘previous’ financial year income.

Wealth data from the SIH has been collected in every SIH since 2003–04, except in 2007–08. This comparison includes data for the years 2003–04, 2005–06, 2009–10, 2011–12, 2013–14 and 2015-16. Respondents are asked to report the value of their assets and liabilities at the time they are surveyed. Therefore, the wealth estimates in SIH are assumed to relate to the average level of household net worth during that year.


The 2015-16 cycle of the HES collected information about income, wealth, housing and expenditure from residents in private dwellings in Australia (excluding very remote areas). Every six years, the HES and the SIH are run together, and 2015-16 is the latest cycle of the joint surveys.

For most types of expenditure, data are taken from diaries in which survey respondents record their expenditure over a two week period, beginning the day of initial contact. Diary-derived estimates therefore refer to expenditure during the reference year. Estimates for infrequently purchased or more expensive items are derived from the household questionnaire, which collects expenditure information for goods and services on a recall basis. These less frequently occurring items are collected over periods longer than the two week diary reporting period so that sufficient numbers of households report expenditure to enable the calculation of reliable expenditure estimates.