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Household Economic Survey: Year ended June 2013
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  28 November 2013
Data quality

Period-specific information 
This section contains information about changes affecting the latest data.

General information
This section contains information about the data that does not generally change between releases.

Period-specific information

Recall period

The full HES was carried out from 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013. Respondents were asked about their spending up to 12 months before the interview.

Expenditure data was collected by the following methods:

  • 12-month recall (for single payments of $200 (or $100) or more)
  • latest payment (for regular commitments such as electricity, telephone, rates, rent, insurance, and superannuation)
  • 14-day diary keeping.

The diagram below demonstrates how the recall period can overlap with a previous reporting period.

Graph, recall period for the HES, 2013.

External influences

Data in this release was collected between 1 July 2012 and 30 June 2013. Changes in income and expenditure may be influenced by one-off events. Events that could have influenced the HES 2012/13 data are the:

  • increase in the adult minimum wage from $13.50 to $13.75 (effective from 1 April 2013)
  • increase in government transfer maximum rate of 0.61 percent for main benefits and student allowances (effective from 1 April 2013)
  • increase in New Zealand Superannuation rate of 2.44 percent (effective from 1 April 2013)
  • increase in GST from 12.5 percent to 15 percent in October 2010.

Rent payments collected in HES include rent from all private eligible households. This includes rent payments for council and state-owned dwellings. HES does not collect rent payments made by businesses, including insurance companies. For example, if EQC or an insurance company is paying rent for a household, this is not collected by HES. This is of particular importance for data collected in Canterbury in 2012/13, where a number of earthquake-damaged households have had their rent paid by the EQC or an insurance company.

Changes to questionnaires

We made minor changes to the questionnaires in 2012/13 to account for real-world changes since 2011/12.

While many of the ELSI questions used in HES (Income) 2011/12 were retained in HES 2012/13, we made some changes. We altered some wording, either in the question or in the answer options, and six new questions were added. These included questions about accommodation problems, and the extent to which respondents are limited when spending on essential and non-essential items. A general life satisfaction question in HES 2012/13 replaced a question that related specifically to satisfaction with the respondent's standard of living.

See Household Economic Survey 2012/13 flowcharts for the latest questionnaires.

See Differences between full HES and HES (Income) for details of the differences between full HES and HES (Income).

Response rate to HES 2012/13

The target response rate for HES is 70 percent of eligible households. We achieved a 67.3 percent response rate for the year ended 30 June 2013.

We calculate the response rate by determining the weighted number of eligible households who responded to the survey as a proportion of the estimated weighted number of total eligible households in the sample.

Imputation for HES 2012/13

Imputation replaces missing values with actual values from similar respondents.

The table shows the effect of imputation for the 2012/13 survey. As a result of imputing records, the response rate for the year ending 30 June 2013 improved from 63.0 percent to 67.3 percent.

Number of individuals before and after imputation
Year ended June 2013

Number of people aged 15+

Eligible individuals pre-imputation


Individuals imputed


Recovered records


Eligible individuals post-imputation


See imputation for more information.

Split between expenditure on household maintenance and alterations/additions

For both the 2006/07 and 2009/10 HES years some expenditure that should have been coded to alterations was instead coded to maintenance. This data has now been revised, with a resulting shift in expenditure away from maintenance and towards alterations/additions when compared with that published previously for these years.

See Revision note: Household Economic Survey for more details.

Changes to mortgage and loans derivations

During the HES (Income) 2011/12, we enhanced the derivations for mortgages and loans to better utilise incomplete respondent data. This ensures we can output an estimate of interest and principal expenditure – previously, in some cases, nothing was derived. We applied these changes to all years of HES and HES (Income) data from 2006/07 onwards, including the figures in this release.

Email to request these revised tables, tables showing the effect of changes to population benchmarks, and the mortgages and loans derivations.

Changes to New Zealand Household Expenditure Classification

The New Zealand Household Expenditure Classification (NZHEC) was reviewed between 2009/10 and 2012/13. We made minor changes at the item level to reflect real-world changes. For example, we created a new item for tablet computers and electronic-book readers in the computing equipment class of the recreation and culture group. An example of where two items are combined is that of filing cabinets being included in the general office-type furniture classification in the household contents and services group.

See Household Economic Survey classifications for the current and previous classifications.

Sampling errors

The tables below summarise the sampling errors for income source in the years 2010/11, 2011/12, and 2012/13; and for expenditure type in 2009/10 and 2012/13. The tables also indicate the variability of the estimates for the three samples.

We advise care when interpreting income or expenditure estimates with sampling errors greater than 20 percent. They are less statistically reliable than estimates with sampling errors less than or equal to 20 percent.

See Reliability of survey estimates for more information.

Sampling errors for average annual household income, by income source (for households receiving that source of income)
Year ended June – 2011, 2012, and 2013

Income source 

Level sampling error (%)




 Wage and salaries












 Private superannuation




 New Zealand Superannuation and war pensions




 Other government benefits




 Other sources




 Total regular income





Sampling errors for average weekly household expenditure, by expenditure type (for households with that type of expenditure)
Year ended June – 2010 and 2013

Expenditure type

Level sampling error (%)
2009/10(1) 2012/13
Food 2.6 3.8
Alcoholic beverages 6.0 6.3
Clothing and footwear 8.0 10.9
Housing and household utilities 4.6 5.8
Household contents and services 7.3 7.1
Health 8.9 8.5




Communication 4.7 3.8
Recreation and culture 4.4 4.6
Education 15.5 13.1
Miscellaneous goods and services 4.5 4.8
Other expenditure 7.4 8.8
Sales, trade-ins, and refunds  17.9 20.6

1. Data for this year is revised

Contact for more detailed sampling errors. 

General information

Scope of the survey

The target population for the HES is the usually resident population of New Zealand living in private dwellings, aged 15 years and over. This population does not include:

  • overseas visitors who expect to be resident in New Zealand for less than 12 months
  • people living in non-private dwellings such as hotels, motels, boarding houses, hostels, and homes for the elderly
  • patients in hospitals, or residents of psychiatric or penal institutions
  • members of the permanent armed forces in group living facilities; for example, barracks
  • people living on offshore islands (excluding Waiheke Island)
  • members of the non-New Zealand armed forces
  • non-New Zealand diplomats and their families.

Children at boarding schools are also not surveyed, but expenditure on behalf of those children is included in the record-keeping of the parent or guardian. The survey population is therefore marginally different from the target population.

For survey purposes, a ‘household’ comprises a group of people who share a private dwelling and normally spend four or more nights a week in the household. They must share consumption of food or contribute some portion of income towards the provision of essentials for living as a group.

HES components

The HES has five survey components:

  • a household questionnaire 
  • an expenditure questionnaire 
  • an income questionnaire for each household member 15 years and over
  • expenditure diaries for each household member 15 years and over
  • an economic living standards index (ELSI) short-form questionnaire for one member per household who is aged 18 years or over (chosen randomly).

We use computer assisted interviewing for HES – first introduced in the 2006/07 interview period.

See HES flowcharts for survey questionnaires for 2012/13.

Sample design information

We select the sample for the HES using a two-stage stratified cluster design. Households are sampled on a statistically representative random basis, from rural and urban areas throughout the North and South Islands.

The HES sample has approximately 5,000 private households. Information is obtained for each member of sampled households that fall within the scope of the survey and meet survey coverage rules.

Reliability of survey estimates

Two types of error are possible in estimates based on a sample survey – sampling error and non-sampling error.

Sampling error: is a measure of the variability that occurs by chance because a sample rather than an entire population is surveyed.

Non-sampling errors: arise from biases in the patterns of response and non-response, questionnaire design, inaccuracies in reporting by respondents, and errors in recording and coding data. We endeavour to minimise the impact of these errors by applying best-practice survey methods and monitoring known indicators (eg non-response).


A proxy may provide information in ‘family type’ households where:

  • the whole household is informed about the survey. All agree to participate, but are not able to be present when the questionnaires are administered
  • children are away at boarding school
  • people don't work and have no source of income
  • people are elderly, sick, or mentally incapacitated. 

In all proxy interviews, the interviewer must be convinced the proxy is totally familiar with the other respondent’s information.


Imputation replaces missing values with actual values from similar respondents. We use a hierarchical hot-deck method to identify donors, with the donor's income questionnaire (and diary in full HES years) replacing that of the non-respondent.

We introduced imputation into the HES in 2009/10. We also applied it to data for 2006/07 (full HES) and 2007/08 and 2008/09 (HES (Income)). We apply imputation to a household where the household does not supply all the required income or diary information, but supplies sufficient information to be retained in the sample.

For households where at least one adult in the household has a fully completed income questionnaire, we impute income questionnaires for other household members who have not fully completed their income questionnaire(s). We apply the same process when diaries are not supplied by all eligible members of the household (in full HES years). In addition, we impute age for respondents who do not provide an age.

Before imputation was introduced, we discarded households where one or more questionnaire(s) were missing. With imputation, some of these households are recovered. 

Population weighting adjustments

The population weighting we use for the full HES and HES (Income) is integrated weighting. This statistical method adjusts the output to match externally sourced population benchmarks. In particular, it takes account of undercoverage in the survey for specific population groups such as young males and Māori.

The population used for the integrated weighting was benchmarked to estimates based on the 2006 Census.

Changes to benchmarks used in full HES and HES (Income)

The term ‘benchmark' refers to using external totals to adjust sample weights to produce desired population (or sub-population) totals.

During the HES (Income) 2011/12, we applied new region-by-household benchmarks to all full HES and HES (Income) data since 2006/07. This means the entire series of HES data from 2006/07 has been revised. We advise our customers to use the revised benchmark figures for all analysis.

Before the new region-by-households benchmarks were introduced, we investigated to see if they had a significant effect on the key estimates for the HES. All changes in the mean and median regional estimates caused by changing the benchmarks were well within sample error.

See Regional benchmarks for HES for more information.

HES data is also benchmarked to other external sources (eg numbers in subpopulations for sex, region, Māori/Non-Māori, and five-year age groups) to ensure we report accurately.

Under-reporting expenditure

For some types of housing-cost expenditure, the estimated amount for all private households is less than expenditure reported from other data sources.

There are three main reasons for this difference.

  • Expenditure by residents of non-private households, or by those ineligible for the survey (eg overseas visitors), is excluded from this survey.
  • Respondents to the survey forget or omit some types of purchases because they are unable to recall expenditure, or cannot refer to records at the time of the interview.
  • A bias associated with non-response affects some statistics.

We don't adjust the data to compensate for any under-reporting.

Consistency with other periods

The HES has a relatively small sample size (approximately 5,000 households). Although we adjust survey results for various demographic variables (age, sex, and region), there can be variability in survey estimates from one survey collection period to the next. This variability is because a different group of households is selected for each survey.

In this 2012/13 release, as in the 2009/10 full HES release, we revised expenditure figures for 2006/07 and 2009/10 to exclude items such as diary-sourced housing costs, and to adjust for the different level of detail collected in the expenditure questionnaire between the full HES years and HES (Income) years. These adjustments remove some differences in the way data is collected in the two versions of the survey, and improve time-series comparability.

Other differences between the surveys, including questionnaire structure, are not adjusted for. There is evidence that these may affect the comparability of mortgages and loan expenditure data between the full HES and HES (Income) years. These differences particularly affect the comparability of total housing-cost figures, of which mortgages are a significant part.  

See Differences between the full HES and HES (Income) for more information on the differences between the surveys.  

Changes to Auckland and Waikato regions

On 1 November 2010, the new Auckland Council replaced the existing councils of Rodney district, North Shore city, Auckland city, Waitakere city, Manukau city, Papakura district, and part of Franklin district.

The former Auckland Regional Council was amalgamated into the new Auckland Council. This resulted in a minor change to the boundary between Auckland and Waikato regions.

We produce the statistics for HES (Income) 2010/11 onwards using the new boundaries. The new boundaries do not significantly affect HES measures.

Interpreting the data 

Factors influencing a household's expenditure or income include household size, household composition, geographic location, and employment-related factors.

All income figures refer to gross (before tax) income, and housing cost expenditure includes GST, where it applies.

The five broad regions we report on are based on the regional council areas of Wellington and Canterbury, the Auckland Council area, and the combined regions of ‘Rest of the North Island’, and ‘Rest of the South Island’. This level of geographical breakdown is the lowest available for the HES surveys due to the sample design.

Full HES estimates in the HES (Income) release: data exclusions

To make the HES (Income) and full HES as comparable as possible, we exclude some expenditure that is not collected in HES (Income), such as diary-sourced housing costs expenditure, from the full HES years of 2006/07, 2009/10, and 2012/13 – when these are referenced in the HES (Income) releases.

A small amount of insurance expenditure that is only collected in the full HES years is assigned to an expenditure code used by the HES (Income). To further increase comparability between full HES and HES (Income), starting with the 2010/11 release, this expenditure is now also excluded when comparing housing costs between years. 
We don't adjust for differences between the surveys, including questionnaire structure.

Using material standard of living data

The economic living standards index (ELSI) (short-form version) questionnaire collects information on material standard of living. ELSI asks questions about ownership of particular items, or doing certain activities, and the extent that people economise. We also ask respondents how they rate their life satisfaction.

From the ELSI questionnaire we publish selected results for ratings, satisfaction levels, and adequacy of income to meet everyday needs. Statistics NZ does not produce an index measurement of economic standard of living from this data. Other agencies can use such index data in conjunction with other measures (eg income, expenditure on housing costs, or household demographics), to give an indication of the material standard of living of New Zealanders.

Suppressed estimates

Data in the information release are suppressed if based on fewer than five people or households. Data are also suppressed if they have a relative sample error of 51 percent or higher (21 percent for cross-tabulated data).

Customised data

The tables in this information release do not contain all possible analyses of full HES data. Data requests can be customised to users' specifications.

Contact for more information.

More information

See HES and HES (Income) for more information about HES.


While all care and diligence has been used in processing, analysing, and extracting data and information in this publication, Statistics NZ gives no warranty it is error-free and will not be liable for any loss or damage suffered by the use directly, or indirectly, of the information in this publication.


Our information releases are delivered electronically by third parties. Delivery may be delayed by circumstances outside our control. Statistics NZ does not accept responsibility for any such delay.

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