Household Economic Statistics (Expenditure)



Household Economic Statistics (Expenditure)

Alternate Title

HES; HES (Expenditure)


Data on household income, housing costs, child poverty and detailed expenditure for 2018/19 is based on information collected between 1 July 2018 and 30 June 2019 as part of the HES (Expenditure).

Household economic statistics (Expenditure) is collected through the Household Economic Survey (HES). HES is an annual survey that collects a comprehensive range of statistics relating to household income and expenditure, and demographic information on households and individuals in New Zealand. The survey provides indicators on how personal and household income, housing costs, and living standards have changed over time.

The survey runs every year, from 1 July to 30 June of the following year. It covers people aged 15 years and over (15+) who usually live in New Zealand permanent private dwellings.

There are three versions of the survey.

• HES (Income)

• HES (Expenditure)

• HES (Savings)

HES (Income) is the primary content and is conducted every year, but combined with HES (Expenditure) and HES (Savings) alternately in the two years in between the standalone HES (Income) year. HES (Income) provides statistics on household income and housing costs, household and person demographics, and material well-being. Information on housing costs includes expenditure on mortgages, rents, rates, and building-related insurance. In HES (Expenditure), the survey also collects data on detailed expenditure by New Zealand households which includes a one week diary to collect smaller expenditure amounts. In HES (Savings), in addition to what is collected in HES (income), the survey also collects data on the assets and liabilities of households in order to determine their net worth.


HES data is used to:

• indicate the overall living standards and well-being of New Zealanders

• advise on income inequality and poverty

• help with decisions such as how changes to tax thresholds affect different types of households.

Data from HES (Expenditure) also feeds into vital economic measures for the country, such as the consumers price index, household living-costs price indexes, and gross domestic product. Data from HES (Expenditure) is also used to measure child poverty. See Measuring child poverty

From the year ended June 2019, the sample size for the survey has been increased to 28,500 private households for collecting information on household income, housing costs and child poverty. The increase in sample size from 5,500 households in the previous years was done to reduce margins of error in the data, as well as provide data at sub-populations levels. A subsample of 5,500 households has been used to collect detailed expenditure information asked every three years. The sample size is boosted to 8,000 households during the HES (Saving) years.

Households selected for the survey are sampled from rural and urban areas throughout New Zealand on a statistically representative basis. We obtain information for each household member who is 15+.

Significant events impacting this study series

For HES 2018/19 , we have made some substantial changes in the way we collect data as well as in our sample design. Details of these changes are outlined in Changes to the Household Economic Survey Year ended June 2019.

The survey began in July 1973 and operated on a July to June year until 30 June 1975. It then changed to an April to March survey year for the year ended March 1976, and ran annually on a March year until 1998. It then became a three-yearly survey, and moved back to a July–June year.

The survey was renamed the Household Economic Survey during 1993/94, from the Household Expenditure and Income Survey (HEIS) between 1983/84 and 1992/93, and the Household Survey before that.

In the three survey years ending March 1995, March 1996, and March 1997, we asked a series of questions on health status and the use of various health-related services in a health supplement.

For 2000/01, we included an internet questionnaire as a supplement. It asked people to record any purchases they had made over the internet in the past year.

2000/01 was the first year of a new three-yearly cycle. We also introduced integrated weighting that year. This new method was successfully adopted and applied to back years.

Between the 2003/04 and 2006/07 periods, HES underwent significant redevelopment, with major changes to the collection methodology and classifications used.

  • Until the 2006/07 survey, HES was interviewer-administered using paper questionnaires. HES now uses computer-assisted interviewing (CAI) to collect and store the data, with interviewers using laptop computers to administer most of the survey. The expenditure diary continues to be completed on paper by respondents, and this data is manually entered at Stats NZ.
  • We developed a new expenditure classification to meet the need for a common household consumption classification – to better align with the consumers price index, national accounts, and international standards. Consequently, there is a break in the expenditure time series, and 2006/07 expenditure data is not directly comparable with previous years. The income time series is relatively unaffected.
  • We included the Economic Living Standard Index (ELSI) (short-form version) questionnaire in HES for the first time in the 2006/07 survey.

In the 2018/19 Expenditure year, the expenditure diary was changed from a two week period to a single week. This change was made due to a consistent trend of decreasing response in the second week of collection, most likely due to survey fatigue.

Other changes we’ve made:

  • developed a new storetype classification
  • moved towards using standard classifications in other areas of the survey
  • updates for real-world changes (benefit titles, names of banks, other name changes).

With the full HES being run only every three years we acknowledged that an information gap existed in the frequency of measuring household income and housing costs over time. As a result, we decided (as part of the Programme of Official Social Statistics) to run a shortened version, called HES (Income), in the years between the full HES, focusing on only three areas of the full HES: household and personal income, expenditure on housing costs, and living standards.

The components collected in HES (Income) are used in calculating household disposable (after tax) income, a measure that monitors standard of living over time. HES (Income) was first conducted in the year ended June 2007.

HES is subject to revision on a regular basis due to changes to income-related information requirements, or when supplementary questions are added to or deleted from HES. This results in possible changes to the definitions of items of information collected in the survey; changes to item codes and coding instructions; the addition or deletion of items from the survey; changes to descriptions of items in the survey, as well as changes to specific questions.


11 Other

Main users of the data

Treasury, Reserve Bank, MSD


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