Survey of Income and Housing, User Guide, Australia

Latest release

Describes the definitions, concepts, methodology and estimation procedures used in the Survey of Income and Housing.

Reference period
2019-20 financial year


The purpose of this guide

This User Guide publication contains details about the Survey of Income and Housing (SIH) conducted in 2019–20. It includes information about the purpose of the survey, the concepts and contents, and the methods and procedures used to collect the data and derive the estimates. The publication also outlines the differences between the 2019–20 survey and earlier SIH surveys. Its purpose is to help users of the data understand the nature of the surveys, and the potential of these surveys to meet user needs. 

The 2019–20 SIH collected information from a sample of 15,011 households over the period July 2019 to June, 2020.

Main purposes of the survey

The SIH is a household survey which collects information on sources of income, amounts received, household net worth, housing, household characteristics and personal characteristics. The principal objective of the survey is to facilitate the analysis and monitoring of the social and economic welfare of Australian residents in private dwellings. The main users are government and other social and economic analysts involved in the development, implementation and evaluation of social and economic policies.

Income and wealth data are used by economic and social analysts and policy makers to:

  •     understand the distribution of economic resources among private households in Australia
  •     identify households most at risk of experiencing economic hardship
  •     understand the effects of taxation and income support systems on the well-being of people and households.

Housing data are used for:

  •     housing affordability studies
  •     analysis of housing occupancy, including levels of home ownership and housing utilisation
  •     comparison of the housing costs by tenure type.

History of collection

The SIH was conducted annually from 1994–95 to 1997–98, and then in 1999–2000, 2000–01 and 2002–03. Commencing in 2003–04 the SIH has been conducted every two years and is integrated with the Household Expenditure Survey (HES) every six years. 

Previous surveys of household income were conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in 1979, 1982, 1986 and 1990. These surveys were generally conducted over a two-month period, compared to a twelve-month period for the SIH. The SIH also included improvements to the survey weighting and estimation procedures, changes to the scope and coverage of household income and changes to interviewing methods.

Comprehensive household wealth data has been collected in every cycle of the SIH since 2003–04, except for 2007–08.

The 2009–10 and 2015–16 SIH and HES also included an additional sample of metropolitan households whose main source of income was a government pension or allowance to support the compilation of the Pensioner and Beneficiary Living Cost Index (PBLCI). From 2009–10, the SIH continues to include an additional sample of households outside of greater capital city areas to support housing indicators in regional areas.

Post-release changes

19 December 2022:

  • Corrections to the data item list in conjunction with the re-issue of the basic and detailed Microdata products

13 July 2022:

  • Minor corrections to data item list in conjunction with the basic Microdata release

1 July 2022:

  • Minor corrections to data item list

10 May 2022: 

  • Additional datacube added to the data downloads section (Data Comparability between SIH and other ABS Sources)
  • Typographical error fixed in Superannuation section
  • Formatting errors fixed in Data collection and processing section
  • Typographical errors fixed in Classifications and standards section
  • Added hyperlinks in Historical information section
  • Added CAWI to the Abbreviations section
  • Added hyperlinks to the Wealth Comparison section
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