Understanding Changes in Māori Incomes and Income Inequality 1997-2003

This paper reports findings from a study of changes in Maori income levels and income dispersion between 1997 and 2003.

Data from Statistics New Zealand's Income Survey are used to describe and evaluate the main changes in the Maori income distribution in this period, which was marked by substantial increases in employment rates and improvements in the skill levels of working-aged Maori. A parallel analysis of the main changes in the European/Pakeha income distribution is provided for comparative purposes.

The results show significant reductions in the proportion of Maori with no weekly income in the reference week, or incomes of $150-200 a week, and significant increases in the proportion with incomes above the peak income level of approximately $550 per week. Income inequality within the total working-aged Maori population declined, while income inequality among employed Maori was stable.

An analysis of some of the key factors contributing to change in the income distribution suggests that the transition of many Maori into employment during this period was the single most important driver of change.