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1996 CENSUS OF POPULATION AND HOUSING
The collection ranges used on the Census form were chosen after analysing data from the Survey of Income and Housing (SIHC), in which income was collected in actual dollars rather than ranges.
Household and family income
Household and family incomes (HIND and FINF) were derived by summing the personal incomes. However, it is not possible to sum income ranges. To overcome this, weighted income data from the SIHC was used to impute a value.
The imputation process
This process involved analysis of the SIHC data to determine the imputation values to be used. Each SIHC record had the appropriate Census range identifier (as defined above) allocated to it. Then, for each range, a mean, median and mid-point were calculated and allocated to each record in that range. Further analysis was needed to determine which of these three measures would be used to impute income for Census records.
Using three 'income groups' - unit income (used in SIHC and not applicable to the Census), family income, and household income, the next step of this exercise analysed the number of groups in each income range when each of the three measures was used, and this was compared with the 'true' number of income groups calculated when using reported income values. For example, when the reported income of individuals was summed to create family income, 10.6% of families had a weekly income of $120-$159 (Range 6). When mean values were summed to create family income, slightly more families were in income Range 6 (10.7%). This increased to 10.8% when using median values, and 11.0% when using midpoint values.
This analysis of income units, families, and households was done for Australia, state, and met/ex met regions, and the conclusion was reached that mean values were the most appropriate to use.
For the 1996 Population Census the estimated dollar incomes, calculated using SIHC mean values, were:
These are the values used when summing records to create household and family incomes, and in calculating median values. NOTE: Personal Income is only published in ranges, so these estimated values will not apply.
There were 3 major limitations inherent in this process:
(a) calculating median values for open ended ranges;
and the related problems of
(b) the change of income range between personal and household or family incomes; and
(c) the introduction of sampling error.
1. Median Values for open-ended ranges.
To determine a median value it is necessary to identify the range in which the median lies and then to estimate where within the range the median would be. A problem arises when the median lies within a range which does not have two specified finite end points. After some analysis it was recommended to retain the default value (ie. $2,000 in the case of HIND and FINF) and indicate, as a table note, that when this value appears in the table the true median income is some value in the range $2000 or more. (See Footnote (b) below)
The mean income values from the SIHC used as the impute values are subject to sampling error, since SIHC is a sample survey. It would be appropriate to indicate that the household and family income ranges, and therefore any derivations based on these values such as median income values for these units, are subject to both sampling and non-sampling error.
Census agreed to include a suitable statement:
Imputing a dollar value for each income range - Footnotes- to use when creating a HIND or FINF Table
When creating tables containing either Family Income (FINF) or Household Income (HIND) the following issues should be footnotes using the following suggested wording:
(a) Due to operational limitations, the family (household) income imputation methodology may result in an undercount of the number of families/households in the $1500 - $1999 range and a balancing overcount in the $2000 range. No other income ranges are affected. This may also affect the median income estimate if the median falls in either of these ranges.
(b) The calculation of median income is based on imputations made from the Survey of Income and Housing Costs, and as such is subject to sampling error. This is particularly evident if the median falls into the highest income range, where the quoted median is a proxy only and should be regarded with caution.
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