1504.0 - Methodological News, Jun 2001  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 21/07/2001   
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This project is tackling two questions about the distribution of income in Australian cities:

  • Are neighbourhoods within cities becoming more income-homogeneous?
  • How are changes in income inequality within and between neighbourhoods related to changes in city-wide inequality?

Typically, studies of income inequality describe changes in population income inequality; they examine particular population sub-groups that characterise (or dominate) segments of the income distribution, but the spatial distribution of income is rarely examined. Describing changes in income inequality in Australian cities will provide information about how cities are developing and whether there are emerging geographical patterns of disadvantage.

The project team will use data from the Census of Population and Housing covering the period 1976 to 1996.

Before we can begin the analysis, we have to consider what defines a "neighbourhood". The most disaggregated level of geography available in Australian Census data is Census Districts (CDs). In most cities, CDs contain on average 200 households and 600 people. We plan to use CDs (as well as a higher level of geography) to characterise neighbourhoods.

We will address a number of additional issues such as:
  • how to estimate income inequality indices when we use grouped rather than continuous income data;
  • taking account of differences in household size and composition when measuring individual income; and
  • describing how the distribution of education and employment are related to the distribution of income.
Statistics Canada recently completed a project that analysed changes in income inequality in Canadian cities. Once the ABS has completed its analysis, the ABS and Statistics Canada plan to compare results. Given the many similarities in institutional arrangements and urban and economic development between Australia and Canada, these comparisons will help identify explanations for changes in income inequality.

The Project Team is Nick Biddle, Steven Kennedy and Cristy Williams.

For more information, please contact Steven Kennedy: (02) 6252 5462.

E-mail: steven.kennedy@abs.gov.au