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Social Wellbeing

Example of our work regarding SOCIAL ISSUEs

Edition 43/ 2019 Household Incomes inNew Zealand: trends in Indicators of Inequality and Hardship 1982 to 2018

Title: Household Incomes in New Zealand: Trends in Indicators of Inequality and Hardship 1982 to 2018
Publisher & Date: Ministry of Social Development: November 2019
Type of Document: Research Report
Length, style: 331 pages, (technical and difficult reading in places)

There is also a shorter overview paper (a mere 55 pages)

Recommended readership: Social sector subscribers
Content summary: This is the Ministry’s annual report on household incomes, studying both individual and household income levels, and giving consideration to factors such as before and after housing costs, and family structures.

The report is important as it is a key source document for many other reports and statements on household income.

Note: as this report applies a range of estimating methods to calculate household income and poverty, various political and lobby groups can sometimes be selective as to which statistics they draw from, to better highlight their cases.  The discussion on page 146 on what the report does not say is also useful in understanding how the statistics can sometimes be misrepresented.  We therefore advise subscribers using this data to ensure they are familiar with the precise methodological approach being applied.  That said, in our analysis of all the data presented we found the following non-contestable findings:

  • Low incomes for Māori are consistently higher than European / Pākehā (roughly double), whatever measure is used.
  • Between 22% and 28% of Māori are in the lowest income quintile.
  • Māori tamariki are significantly over-represented as living in poverty / poorer households.  Around one-third of Māori children, i.e. circa 90,600 tamariki, live in households that fall below various hardship measures.

The table below provides more specific information on Māori individual and household incomes from this report.

What is being measured Māori NZ European Important details
Household Income (median) $32,200 $44,600 This is a measure of median household income – before consideration of housing costs.  The figure takes into account household size, i.e. it is not the same as median individual income (which is higher).  (Refer page 86.)
Individual Income disparities 28% are in the lowest income quintile grouping


10% are in the highest income quintile grouping

15% are in the lowest income quintile grouping


27% are in the highest income quintile grouping

This is a measure of individual income after housing costs are considered.  This finding shows that the proportion of Māori with low incomes is nearly double that of NZ Europeans. (Refer page 48.)
Children living in income-poor households 32% 15% This is calculated using the after housing costs, 50% relative median measure.  Refer page 167.
Quality rating:[1] Marginal
Assessment Rationale: This report continues to make a highly valuable data contribution to understandings of household income and poverty levels in New Zealand.  It collates new data each year, and its overall methodological approach is sound.  But it is also, to a degree, needlessly dense.

In relation to Māori analysis there are significant gaps, and much room for improvement – as discussed in our introduction.  Despite Māori being a key client base for this Ministry, this research unit continues to treat Māori as a fringe group, and in places clumps Māori/Pasifika together (not understanding that these are separate people groups).   The Ministry’s new Māori strategy centred on Treaty partnership has not yet been implemented in this work programme.  A Māori centred lens over this research has been overdue for many years.

Recommendations: A parallel report specifically on Māori household income matters ought to be prepared, bringing together the disparate data in this report, and filling up research gaps.  This should be prepared in partnership with Māori.
Extracts of Note: “The higher poverty rate for Maori children reflects in part the relatively high proportion of Maori children living in sole-parent beneficiary families and households (around 47% of all sole parent beneficiary recipients are Maori).” (Page 167)

 “Low-income rates for those in the Maori, Pacific and Asian groups are consistently higher than for those in the European/Pakeha ethnic group (roughly double), whatever measure is used.” (Page 153)

Hyperlink: www.msd.govt.nz/about-msd-and-our-work/publications-resources/monitoring/index.html

[1] Refer to the rubrics table in the endnotes for quality ratings.