2013 census suggests income inequality continues to increase

The NZ Herald ran an article in December 2013 stating that newly released incomes data from the 2013 census indicated that since 2006, there had been falls in real terms of the median personal income in deprived parts of Auckland. Meanwhile, median personal incomes of the affluent areas had been more or less static over that time.

A calculation of the Gini inequality index for personal incomes of the national population provides some corroboration for the view that inequality, after showing a drop at the time of the 2006 census, has now increased again (Figure 1). (Although inequality of both individual and household incomes had been lower in 2006, the level of inequality then was still higher than in the preceding 30 years. Income inequality has been increasing since the 1970s).


Source: NZ Census 2013

The latest Ministry of Social Development Household Incomes Report shows trends in household incomes up to 2012. The degree of household income inequality in the 2004 – 2012 period appears to have been volatile. Their analysis of the Household Economic Survey (HES) shows that inequality of household incomes was lower in 2012 than it had been in 2004-07 or 2001. Superimposition of a trendline over the volatility suggests that the general trend since the early 2000s is for a slight decline in inequality.1

On the other hand, the MSD report shows that the degree of household income inequality in the year 2011 was higher than in 2012, 2007, 2004 or 2001.2

Household incomes data from the 2013 census will not be available for some time to come. When we are finally able to piece together evidence from the 2013 census and the HES, we may have to draw the conclusion that the general trend over the past decade has been towards more inequality.

  1. Ministry of Social Development (2013), Household Incomes in New Zealand: Trends in Indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2012, Wellington, Ministry of Social Development, pp. 10, 84-88 

  2. That is, when measured with the Gini index. When measured with a ratio of the 90th and 10th percentiles, it is lower 

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