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Household incomes, material wellbeing, poverty, inequality and hardship

MSD’s work programme includes a range of publications which report on social and economic wellbeing with a view to assisting public discussion, policy development and other research. They cover a range of themes, and where possible, set New Zealand in an international context (EU and OECD especially):

  • household income distribution (incomes both before and after deducting housing costs) overall and for selected groups, with trends since 1982
  • incomes for beneficiary families/households from 1947
  • housing costs for renters and owners
  • income and wealth inequality
  • material wellbeing and material hardship trends for households from 2007 onwards.

The publications are listed below with links through to their place on the website.

Household Incomes Reports

The Household Incomes Report provides information on the distribution of household income in New Zealand, income inequality, low-income (poverty) rates overall and for a range of sub-groups, with special sections on older New Zealanders and the ‘Working Poor’. Incomes before and after deducting housing costs are covered, together with information on trends in housing costs for renters and owners. The findings in the report are based in the main on analysis of data from Stats NZ’s Household Economic Survey (HES).

Material Wellbeing Reports

The Material Wellbeing Report provides information on the material wellbeing of New Zealanders using non-income measures (or non-monetary indicators). It draws on data from Stats NZ’s Household Economic Survey and the 2008 Living Standards Survey (see below) to report trends and relativities among sub-groups and New Zealand’s ranking internationally.

Child Poverty Reports

The demographics of child poverty, survey-based descriptions of life ‘below the line’ including the use of child-specific indicators, trends in material hardship and income poverty rates for children, and international comparisons – with discussion of some of the challenges in measuring child poverty and interpreting child poverty statistics.

International comparisons of housing costs

The focus in this 2021 report is on housing costs for renters and owners rather than for those in the market for buying or selling. It adds an international dimension to the existing housing affordability time series already available in the Household Incomes Report (Section C)., using data from Stats NZ’s 2017-18 HES, and from the OECD and the EU.

Living Standards Surveys 2000, 2004 and 2008, and the associated reports

In 1999, the Super 2000 Taskforce commissioned a comprehensive survey of the living standards of older people. Three separate surveys were conducted in order to meet the objectives of the research, each with an associated report. One survey was of older New Zealanders in general and the second was of older Māori. The third survey was a sample of working-age people. Although the Super 2000 Taskforce was disbanded in March 2000, the survey and the related streams of research were continued by the then Ministry of Social Policy (now the Ministry of Social Development).

The 2004 Living Standards Survey report updated the information in the first report from the 2000 survey and expanded it by looking into a wider range of factors that can affect people's material wellbeing and living standards, such as life history, personal health and access to childcare.

The 2008 Living Standards Survey was much shorter than the one in 2004, and the focus was on further development of indices of material wellbeing and hardship, and on international comparisons.

Working Papers

As a part of ongoing work in the area several Working Papers (WP) have been published to facilitate discussion and record work-in-progress. See the Working Papers for the years 2007, 2009 and 2019.

In addition, see the Total Incomes WP which reports on a new dataset which enables the exploration of the full range of financial support that is actually received by main benefit clients.

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