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About data in 2013 Census QuickStats about income

Statistics NZ sources of income data

Statistics NZ produces a number of income measures, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Surveys such as the Household Economic Survey (Income) are best for annual measures of household and personal income in New Zealand and are used for official income statistics. On the other hand, as census covers the population as a whole, it can be more useful in detailed regional and demographic breakdowns.

Further sources of income data at a more aggregated level are available from: New Zealand Income SurveyLinked Employer-Employee Database, and the Quarterly Employment Survey. Each measure of income is useful for different purposes. Familiarise yourself with the strengths and limitations of individual data sources before comparing with census data. The User guide for wage and income measures sets out each measure's design and purpose.

2013 Census QuickStats about income

2013 Census QuickStats about income gives you information about topics related to income.

Find out about sources and amounts of:

  • personal income
  • family income
  • household income.

All 2013 data in this report is based on the census usually resident population count aged 15 years and over from New Zealand's 2013 Census of Population and Dwellings, held on 5 March 2013.

Because the 2011 Census was cancelled after the Canterbury earthquake on 22 February 2011, the gap between this census and the last one is seven years. The change in the data between 2006 and 2013 may be greater than in the usual five-year gap between censuses. Be careful when comparing trends.

Coupled with this gap is the change in the economic situation in New Zealand between 2006 and 2013. The New Zealand economy entered recession in early 2008. We had six successive quarters of negative gross domestic product growth as the global financial crisis developed. Economic growth averaged 4 percent a year from 2002 to 2006, while growth from 2007 to 2013 was about 1.4 percent. Keep this change in economic conditions in mind when comparing income from 2013 with income in 2006 and 2001.

Definitions and limitations of census income measures

To fully understand the information presented in 2013 Census QuickStats about income, you'll need to know how we collect income data during the census and the limitations this places on interpreting the data.

Total personal income

Total personal income received is the before-tax income of a person in the 12 months ending 31 March 2013. This means that the income reported is gross rather than disposable income. The census question that asks about the total personal income of people provides the respondents with a list of income ranges or bands to choose from. We use bands because income can be a sensitive topic, and asking respondents to state their actual income will often mean fewer people answer the question. Respondents may also have difficulty recalling exactly how much income they received.

Because we collect income data in bands, we estimate median incomes. Where medians are provided, use them with caution so as not to give an impression they are precise figures – they are not.

Family and household incomes are derived by combining total personal income data for all adult (aged 15 years and over) members of a family or household. This means that any missing personal income information affects response rates for total family and total household incomes.

If someone did not state their income, or they were absent on census night, we set the income for the family or household to ‘not stated’, unless the family or household had already reached the $150,001 or more threshold. (This threshold was $100,001 or more in 2001 and 2006.) This has affected the quality of these variables – take care when using them.

Sources of income

'Sources of personal income' identifies the various sources from which a person aged 15 years and over received income at any time in the 12 months ending 5 March 2013. 'Sources of personal income' is a multiple-response question. Respondents were asked to mark all the boxes that described a source of income for them. When a person reported more than one source, we counted them in each source they reported. This means that in sources of income tables, adding the people, families, or households for each source of income will exceed the total number of people, families, or households. Percentages are calculated on the population that stated their income, not the multiple count of people, families, or households. Percentages will not add up to 100.

Time reference periods

The reference periods are different for income variables and for workforce variables that may be cross-tabulated with income variables. For example, occupation relates to the week before census day, sources of personal income relates to the 12 months ending on census day, and total personal income relates to the 12 months ending on 31 March 2013. You can’t assume, for example, that someone employed as a labourer in the previous week has been a labourer all year and received only wage and salary income.

Another issue is recall bias – errors that come from respondents trying to remember income and income sources from a year ago. Income from earlier may be more prone to recall bias and less reliable than data reported about more recent events. While prompts are provided to enhance recall, prospective measures of income will generally be more accurate.

Finally, all census income data reported is nominal. This means we have made no adjustment for inflation. While income from 2006 and 2001 may be less than income in 2013, no adjustment is made for the purchasing power of this income or any changes in New Zealand tax rates.

Definitions and information about the data (Section 16) has more details. The definitions of total income and sources of income will help you interpret the data in this QuickStat.

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