Perceptions of Poverty, Income Adequacy and Living Standards in Australia

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At its outset, the research reported here was conceived of as a relatively narrow exercise. Its main objective was to apply a well-established methodology utilising survey data to establish a poverty line based on public perceptions of the income levels required in order to make ends meet. This approach - generally referred to in the literature as the consensual poverty line method - has been applied in a number of overseas countries in the last fifteen years, and its application to Australia was urged in an official report on poverty measurement some ten years ago. In responding to this, and as part of its broader research into poverty, inequality and standards of living, the Social Policy Research Centre funded Dr Elim Papadakis of the University of New England to undertake a survey of attitudes to public and private welfare provision. A condition of that funding was that the survey questionnaire include a series of questions designed to produce data which would allow application of the consensual poverty line methodology to Australia. Analysis of these survey data revealed that the issue of a consensual poverty line could not be dissociated from broader questions of income adequacy and living standards, nor from the factors influencing public perceptions and aspirations relating to them. The narrower objectives of the research have been fulfilled and the Report presents a set of consensual poverty lines derived from Australian data. The estimated poverty lines suggest that the relationship between family need and family circumstances is quite different to what other poverty lines have implied, although a larger survey would be required before one could have sufficient confidence in this to reject the other approaches. The Report also, investigates several aspects of the life circumstances of survey respondents, including the incidence and frequency of periods of financial stress, and identifies factors influencing people's perceptions of minimum income levels.
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Saunders, Peter
Matheson, George
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download Reports and Proceedings No 99.pdf 3.15 MB Adobe Portable Document Format
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