Affluence grows, poverty shrinks

The Age‘s take on yesterday’s ABS Household Income and Income Distribution 2005-06 was predictable: ‘Rich are richer, while the have-less struggle’ read its headline. Yet what was more interesting was how little impact on overall inequality the growing number of high-income households is having.

Since 1994-95 the number of households in Australia has increased by 21%. But the number of those households with gross household incomes exceeding $3,000 a week, after adjusting for inflation, is up by 172%. The proportion of households in this group has gone from 2.6% to 5.9% (though the earlier figure will be understated somewhat, as salary sacrifices are now included).

Yet the Gini coefficient is not changing much. It is a measure of inequality, where 0 would indicate every household has the same income and 1 would indicate a single household has all the income. Over the 1994-95 to 2005-06 time period the Gini coefficient has only gone from 0.302 to 0.307.

One reason is that the number of poor households, with weekly incomes below $400, is dropping. Continue reading “Affluence grows, poverty shrinks”