Aboriginal expenditure patterns: An analysis of empirical data and its policy implications

Author/editor: Smith, D
Year published: 1991
Issue no.: 9


Assessments of the adequacy of government social security programs, of taxation policy, the equity of income distribution and of the impact on Australian households of changing economic conditions all rely heavily on expenditure data obtained from Household Expenditure Surveys (HES) conducted periodically by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The few Aboriginal households included in the HES are not identified. There are currently no equivalent national data available on Aboriginal expenditure levels and patterns. This paper provides an analysis of recent empirical research on Aboriginal expenditure by examining three common expenditure categories: housing, food and transportation. Results are compared with those from the 1988-89 HES.

The comparison reveals that Aboriginal expenditure differs from that of Australian households. While some of these variations are caused by Aboriginal social relations and culturally-based values, the paper suggests that low levels of income are also important. The paper evaluates the impact on Aboriginal expenditure of financial subsidisation, the price of goods, geographic location, social and cultural factors, and levels of income. The expenditure patterns of low-income Aboriginal households are indicative of poverty. The analysis shows that an important impact of Aboriginal poverty is that with a high proportion of income being spent on basic commodities, many households do not have the cash to pay for service provision. While some remote Aboriginal communities need to pay only small amounts for service provision and housing costs, they pay higher prices for basic commodities. The paper raises a range of policy issues and highlights the urgent need for quantitative, comparative data on Aboriginal expenditure.

ISBN: 0 7315 1248 0

ISSN:1036 1774

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