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What income inequality looks like across Australia

Nicholas Biddle and Francis Markham write in The Conversation (6.7.17) that recently released Census data shows there is worrying income inequality between, but also within, regions of Australia.

'With affordable houses increasingly out of reach, wage growth slow and household debt high, Australians are certainly feeling poor. But how do they compare to their neighbours? New Census data confirms there’s a lot of variability in income.

'The Census breaks the country up into 349 geographic regions (named in quote marks below), some of which cover more than one major town and some of which group related suburbs within cities. We examined 331 of these regions, excluding those containing fewer than 1,000 households.

'The data show there are high levels of income inequality within these regions. A simple way to measure this is to look at the ratio of income between those who are well off (the top 20% within a region) and of those who are relatively disadvantaged (the bottom 20%) in the Census data. In Australia the weekly household income for the top 20% (A$1,579 per week) is 3.5 times the income of the bottom 20% (A$457).

'... It’s true that the level of income mobility is higher in Australia than it is in the US. However, Australia also has prominent examples of economic policies that disproportionately benefit the upper-middle class, such as the capital gains tax discount and superannuation tax incentives.

'Australia also has a geographically concentrated income distribution, with the rich living in neighbourhoods with other rich people. The poor are also more likely to live in close proximity to people who share their disadvantage.'

 

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