Understanding and Improving Data Quality Relating to Low-Income Households

Melbourne Institute Working Paper No. 18/03

Date: July 2003


David Johnson
Rosanna Scutella


Concerns have been expressed about the reliability of income and expenditure data from Australian Bureau of Statistics surveys for those on low incomes. This paper analyses the factors behind the apparently low incomes recorded by many Australian households, in particular, in major ABS data collections, and the implications of these for income distribution and ‘poverty’ analysis. The paper seeks to identify the extent to which these arise from the concepts of income used in these surveys, which may result in the data being inappropriate for other analysis; and the degree to which it can be ascribed to inadequate reporting of incomes. The paper draws some conclusions about how the existence of such problems should be treated in income distribution and related poverty analysis, and whether any specific actions should be taken by analysts to derive data appropriate for the purposes of their analysis. It also considers some methodologies that can be adopted to reduce the impact of any identified problems in future data collections.

Download Paper