Friday, 14 April 2017

Was there really a typical Australian in 2016? The Australian Bureau of Statistics thinks so

This month the Australian Bureau of Statistics released its first taste of data from the 2016 national census and rather bravely decided it should be a profile of The ‘Typical’ Australian.

I’m just wondering how reliable this profile is, given the number of people who either stated an intention to or admitted on social media platforms that they falsified some or all of the information they entered on the compulsory census form as a privacy safeguard against personal information data retention and the creation of longitudinal data every Australian.

As the exact number of deliberately falsified forms cannot be known this casts some doubt on census data available to statisticians.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Census 2016, 11 April 2017:
The 'Typical' Australian

Median Age
Sex (Mode)
Country of Birth of Person (Mode)
Country of Birth of Parents (Mode)
Both parents born in Australia
Language Spoken at Home (Mode)
Ancestry 1st Response (Mode)
Social Marital Status (Mode)
Married in a registered marriage
Family Composition (Mode)
Couple family with children
Count of All Children in Family (Mode)
Two children in family
Highest Year of School Completed (Mode)
Year 12 or equivalent
Unpaid Domestic Work: Number of Hours (Mode)
5 to 14 hours
Number of Motor Vehicles (Mode)
Two vehicles
Number of Bedrooms in Private Dwelling (Mode)
Three bedrooms
Tenure Type (Dwelling Count) (Mode)
Owned with a mortgage

Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people

Median Age
Sex (Mode)

Persons born overseas

Median Age
Sex (Mode)
Country of Birth of Person (Mode)
Language Spoken at Home (Mode)

* The mode is the most commonly occurring value in a distribution.
* Statements of typical age in this release are median values. The median is the middle value 
in distribution when the values are arranged in ascending or descending order.
* The most common response for each data item is calculated independently. For example, i
the 'typical' person is male and the 'typical' person does 5-14 hours of unpaid domestic work per 
week, this does not imply that the 'typical' male does 5-14 hours of unpaid domestic work per week.
* No detailed Census data will be issued with this information. Datasets for the above characteristics 
will be released as part of the main release of 2016 Census data on Tuesday, 27 June 2017.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 April 2017:

The census preview showed that NSW has become more culturally diverse over the past decade.

The typical person in the state now has at least one parent born overseas. In 2006 and 2011, the typical person in NSW had both parents born in Australia. This change also suggests NSW is more culturally diverse than the rest of the nation – the "typical Australian" still has both parents born in Australia.

It's a diversity well masked by averages.

"In my social circles, yes, I guess I'd say I feel very typical but my work is a completely different place," Mrs Purvis says.

"Most of the people I work with speak another language. Their parents weren't born in Australia. A lot of them are younger people who don't have children … and are either still living at home with their parents or renting."

The preview also highlighted the shifting ancestry of the state's migrants. In 2016, the state's typical migrant was a Chinese-born female, aged 44. A decade ago, the typical migrant in NSW was a 45-year-old female born in England.

The state's typical Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person was a female aged 22.

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