Government assessment of the appropriateness and impact of policies and related programs aimed at improving the economic well-being of Aboriginal people could be considerably enhanced by the analysis of Aboriginal expenditure data. The Household Expenditure Survey (HES) conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is the major source of national expenditure data, but the absence of an Aboriginal identifier means that data collected on Aboriginal households cannot be extracted. This paper examines the methodological and conceptual frameworks used in the HES and evaluates their applicability for obtaining Aboriginal expenditure data. The paper considers the nature of Aboriginal households and finds they are characterised by considerable fluctuations in membership, by dynamic life cycles and by significant variability in type and size. It is argued that the household, as defined by the ABS, is not the appropriate economic unit to be considered in a study of Aboriginal expenditure. The discrete economic units in many Aboriginal households do not necessarily share cash or resources. Rather, extra-household economic networks, usually between linked clusters of households, can be more significant determinants of expenditure capacity than intra-household economic organisation. Other factors such as the redistribution of cash and access to subsistence influence expenditure levels and patterns for many Aboriginal households. In conclusion, it is recommended that an Aboriginal expenditure survey would provide important data to assist policy makers understand the causes of Aboriginal poverty.
ISBN: 0 7315 1259 6