The Structure and Distribution of Household Wealth in Australia

Melbourne Institute Working Paper No. 12/04

Date: July 2004


Bruce Headey
Gary Marks
Mark Wooden


2002 saw the first large-scale survey of household wealth carried out in Australia since World War I. Conducted as part of the second wave of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (or HILDA) Survey, it covered all main components of asset portfolios and debts. This paper uses these data to provide an overview of the structure and distribution of household wealth in Australia, providing estimates of the mean and median levels of household wealth by type of asset or debt, and estimates of the degree of inequality of wealth holdings. The data confirm that wealth is very unequally distributed, with the bottom half of the distribution owning less than 10 per cent of total household net worth (assets less debts), while the wealthiest 10 per cent account for 45 per cent of total net worth. The paper also includes an analysis of the factors associated with household wealth that indicates that wealth is significantly related to a range of factors including age, country of birth, parental occupational status, education, marital status, working hours, income, self-reported savings behaviour, a willingness to take risks and even various lifestyle behaviours, such as smoking and alcohol consumption.

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