The Changing Socio-Demographic Composition of Poverty in Australia: 1982 to 2004

Melbourne Institute Working Paper No. 12/07

Date: March 2007


Roger Wilkins


The extent of income poverty and its socio-demographic composition are examined using all ABS income surveys conducted over the period 1982 to 2004. There has been some increase in the proportion of the population in poverty, particularly since 1997, but of more note are the substantial changes in the socio-demographic composition of those in poverty. Compared with the start of the sample period, persons in poverty at the end of the period were much more likely to be older, in families without dependent children, holding post-school qualifications and/or foreign-born. In part, these changes reflect broader changes in the composition of the population. However, changes in the risks of poverty associated with different characteristics have also produced large changes in the composition of the poor, and have in some cases counteracted or reversed effects of demographic change. Specifically, the risk of poverty has increased for the elderly, non-dependent youth, single people, foreign-born persons and those without post-school qualifications, and it has decreased for sole parent families and residents of Queensland, the ACT and the Northern Territory.

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