Evaluating the Evidence on Income Inequality in Australia in the 2000s

Melbourne Institute Working Paper No. 26/13

Date: July 2013

Author(s):

Roger Wilkins

Abstract

Published ABS data from the Survey of Income and Housing (SIH) show a substantial increase in income inequality between 2001 and 2010. However, almost all of the increase occurred over a period when changes in survey methodology and income concept were occurring. I document these changes, present results of analysis of the SIH unit record data, and present independent evidence on income inequality trends using the HILDA Survey, tax records and National Accounts. I conclude that the SIH overstates the growth in income inequality, even when the income variable examined is notionally consistently defined across surveys. The extent of overstatement is uncertain, however, reflecting ambiguity about the nature and extent of changes to the distribution of household market income.

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  • Income inequality, household surveys, decomposition