Fri 24 Apr 2015 1:29AM

Total personal income

SD Sophie Davies Public Seen by 252

The variable ‘total personal income’ is the basis of census data on income. It is commonly combined with other income information to provide family or household income.

A high level of non-response is an ongoing issue for quality of this variable.

We propose a review of income bands used for this variable, to reflect real- world change in incomes and allow better analysis of the data.

Our current recommendations relating to total personal income

  • We recommend total personal income continue to be included in the 2018 Census, as it provides useful information that cannot be obtained through current alternative sources.

  • We propose to carry out a review of the income bands used for 2018.

  • We welcome your comments on the content quality improvements we’re suggesting for exploration and band changes for total personal income.

See our preliminary view of 2018 Census content (pages 40-41) for a more detailed discussion on total personal income information

See 2013 Census information by variable for information on the total personal income variable


Victoria (facilitator) Wed 29 Apr 2015 9:18PM

Kia ora, hello, and welcome to the 2018 Census discussion on total personal income. I am Victoria from Statistics New Zealand and I’m here to facilitate open, respectful and inclusive discussion. Click here to introduce yourself on the welcome and introductions page.

We look forward to hearing your comments and suggestions.


Greg Stephens Wed 13 May 2015 11:40PM

This question needs to consider:
1) Pre-tax or after-tax income
2) The impact of Working for Families as a tax credit rather than as a benefit

These two points start to really undermine the use of census income data. The data is subject to too many individual interpretations. You should clarify these points on the census form in order to get better data. You could also consider providing online tools to help people through this question.

LEED is much more useable, and is regular (although has a significant lag). It also reports significantly higher median incomes across New Zealand. This suggests there are some real issues with the census data.


Victoria (facilitator) Thu 14 May 2015 9:21PM

Welcome and thanks for starting off the conversation @gregstephens!. The total personal income income question on the 2013 Census form included a bullet point asking for "before tax or anything was taken out" previous Censes forms, do you think this needs to be clearer?.

Your second point about the impact of Working for Families is an interesting discussion topic but better in the sources of personal income discussion thread. We are interested in what all the group members think about this so it would be great if you could share your thoughts on that page too.


Greg Stephens Thu 14 May 2015 10:55PM

"before tax or anything was taken out" is interesting, but probably not sufficient given a high number of families receive tax credits. A pre-tax income of, e.g., $50,000 does not lead to the same post-tax income depending on personal circumstances. I suppose it comes down to what is the purpose of the information - how much people earn, or how much disposal income people have. The first is important for labour market, while the latter is important for social issues (affordability of living costs, food, housing etc.).

Working for Families technically isn't a source of income, as it is a tax credit. I'll add to that discussion.


Ann (topic expert) Tue 26 May 2015 8:33PM

Are the bands sufficient for your needs? Do you need more aggregation towards the top? Are there too many at the bottom?


Greg Stephens Wed 27 May 2015 12:37AM

The more bands the better! The band 'width' varies significantly, so having more consistency around that would be good. If it has to be done in bands, then $10,000 width bands up to $150,000 would be useful.

Also, some clarity as to how the bands are then converted into such detailed medians would be useful (although not technically about what data is collected, it is one of the more used statistics from the census and would impact potentially on what you collect).