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Having sufficient income contributes substantially to wellbeing. With an adequate income, an individual or household can access essential goods and services more easily, such as quality housing, transport, food, health services, and education. An adequate income also enables participation in social and recreational activities in the community.

Household income affects both day-to-day decisions and activities and future prospects for all age groups. The inter-generational effects of family income levels are far reaching. The ‘chicken-and-egg’ relationships between enabling young people’s educational attainment, and their future work prospects, income, housing, neighbourhood characteristics, and their health-promoting activities in adulthood are well known [1-3]. Through these various mechanisms, children who experience well-resourced family life in the early years are more likely to experience good health and wellbeing across the life course [4,5]. Not only do people with higher levels of income live longer, but they live longer in better health [2]. However, some groups are more at risk of low income than others, including people experiencing mental illness, people with disabilities, young people, lone parents, and some ethnic groups [4].

Income inequities can increase the likelihood of social isolation and marginalisation and can influence mental health, physical health, and health behaviours, for example through feelings of stress and lack of control.

Key trends within income

The median equivalised disposable weekly household income in greater Christchurch increased steadily from 2019 to 2021. The difference in disposable weekly household income between greater Christchurch and New Zealand overall was +$38 per week in 2021. Median equivalised disposable weekly household income after housing costs for homeowners and renters (combined) has increased steadily for those in greater Christchurch over the period 2019 to 2021, consistent with the pattern for New Zealand overall. For the period 2019 to 2021, equivalised disposable weekly household income after housing costs for homeowners, was substantially higher than for renters ($712 for owners; $530 for renters, in 2021).

The 20th percentile equivalised disposable weekly household income (the dollar amount below which a household is considered to have a ‘low’ income) increased in greater Christchurch from 2019 to 2021, from $452 to $499, and appears to be continuing at a slightly higher level compared with the whole of New Zealand. However, the difference between greater Christchurch and New Zealand has reduced substantially since the high points of 2013 and 2014 (data not shown).

Approximately two-thirds of greater Christchurch respondents indicated that they were satisfied or very satisfied that their household income meets everyday needs in 2022, and this proportion is lower than the previous three years.

There has been no significant change in child poverty indicators between 2018/2019 and 2020/2021 for the Canterbury region, and there is no significant difference between the Canterbury region and New Zealand as a whole.

Key equity issues within income

Median equivalised disposable weekly household income data for greater Christchurch show a substantial income disparity between Māori and non-Māori ethnic groups. In addition, while the overall trend for 20th percentile equivalised disposable weekly household incomes in greater Christchurch appears to indicate a steady increase, this trend is less pronounced for Māori compared with non-Māori. Finally, European respondents’ satisfaction with their household income is higher than Pacific/Asian/Indian respondents’ and Māori respondents’ levels of satisfaction. Taken together, these results suggest that Māori households and Pacific/Asian/Indian households, may experience substantial income disparity compared with European households.

What this means for wellbeing

The overall picture for income in greater Christchurch shows increases in equivalised disposable weekly income, household disposable income after housing costs (less so for renters), and 20th percentile household incomes, over the last three or four years. However, the favourable trends appear less pronounced in the most recent data. Further, these data also suggest that the improvements seen in the income indicators are not uniform across the whole population of greater Christchurch and ethnicity and age-based differences in residents’ income levels are evident.


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