Household incomes stagnant in Auckland 2006-13, some neighbourhoods experience income declines

The average household income in Auckland, has been more or less static in real terms between the 2006 and 2013 censuses. (Auckland mean household income 2006: $82,966 in 2013 dollars; in 2013: $80,370). But buried within this metropolitan average, are experiences ranging from real increases to declines. Here, we look at the geographical patterns of household income changes between over this seven year period. Figure 1 shows Auckland’s census area units from the 2013 census classified by amount of change in average household income from 2006 to 2013.

AuckHHIncomes1

It can be seen from this map that most neighbourhoods have exhibited little or no change in average household income level (within ±10 per cent either increase or decrease for the whole 7 year period). There are very few neighbourhoods having either more than a 10 per cent real increase or more than a 10 per cent real decrease.

Figure 2 shows CAUs classified into ten income levels, or deciles. Decile ten neighbourhoods are concentrated in central and eastern Auckland and the North Shore, while decile one neighbourhoods are found in southern and western suburbs. A comparison with Figure 1 suggests that there is little or no correlation between socio-economic status of neighbourhoods and amount or direction of change in average income.

AuckHHIncomes2

A scatter plot of income change by income level confirms the tight clustering within that ± 10 per cent income change band, and also little apparent association between average household income of neighbourhood and income change 2006-2013 (Fig. 3).

Income change vs income level 2006-13

A close inspection of the data does however show some differentiation. There were only nine CAUs experiencing a real increase in neighbourhood average income of 10 per cent or more; six of them were from deciles 8,9 and 10. If you take the seventy-six CAUs experiencing any real increase (even just 1 per cent in those 7 years); half of these were also in deciles 8,9,and 10.

Similarly, of the 57 CAUs experiencing a real decrease of 10 per cent or more, 37 of them (65 per cent) were from deciles 1, 2 and 3.

Averages, as they say, conceal as much as they reveal, and care has to be taken in interpretation of these changes. shifts in average income of a neighbourhood may reflect either changing fortunes of individual households resident there, or it may reflect changes in household composition of the neighbourhood, or it may mean that the geographical area has changed.

The analysis in this article had to take into account changes in the geographical areas of CAUs. In 2006, there were 394 CAUs in the Auckland isthmus, from Kumeu in the north, to Pukekohe in the south. In 2013, the number of CAUs was now 412, because of population growth. Meshblocks were taken away from some CAUs and given to others; some entirely new CAUs were created. An example is Stonefields, a new development in the vicinity of Remuera. It was created from meshblocks formerly part of the St Johns and Mt Wellington North CAUs, and became a new decile 10 CAU in its own right. It features as the extreme outlier on the right hand side of Figure 3. It records an income increase of 52 per cent, because the average CAU household incomes of Mt Wellington North and St Johns were about $73,000 in 2006, but Stonefields in 2013 had an average household income of $110,862. The explanation for the large rise is most probably that the meshblocks now making up Stonefields had households with incomes higher than the average in the CAUs they were part of in 2006.

But the number of cases of CAUs newly created between 2006 and 2013 were in the minority. Of the 412 CAUs existing in 2013, 351 of them had existed in 2006. In other words, it was only necessary to trace 2013 CAUs back to meshblocks belonging to other CAUs in the the 2006 census, in 61 cases.

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