Category Archives: Statistics

How Representative Of Inflation Are Changes in the CPI?

DRAFT: Comments welcome. (The origins of this paper are evident in the text, but its stimulus was a question arising from the interpretation of a standard textbook on international trade.)
The paper was revised in April 2003.

Keywords: Globalisation & Trade; Macroeconomics & Money;

Over a decade ago I investigated to what extent the CPI could be used to represent the prices of the economy of the whole (GDP), as a part of the study which led eventually to In Stormy Seas. In the process of reducing the vast quantity of material that was produced into the book for publication, the material was left out. (The first draft of the book was about twice as long.)

I must have thought the issue as a methodological curiosum at the time, but since the book’s publication on a number of occasion during public discussions I have wished the material had been publically available. As the next section explains, the section was an illustration of one of the general issues with which In Stormy Seas was concerned, and it is also – as a later section explains – crucial to the understanding how monetary policy works, and how the current management regime may inhibit economic growth.

The Economic and Health Status Of Households Project (Index)

Keywords: Distributional Economics; Health; Statistics; Social Policy

This is a project by Suzie Ballatyne and myself based on the Household Survey, which enabled us to look at some of the relationships between health and economic status.

Executive Summary

A preliminary account of the research program is
Economic Status and Health Status Project

Two papers which report some of the findings are
Validation and the Health and Household Economy Project
Who Goes to the Doctor?

The final report, The Economic and Health Status of Households is available on request. Its Executive Summary is on this website, and so is Chapter 6,
Choosing Household Equivalence Indexes

Index of Distributional Economics
Index of Household Equivalence Scales

Validation and the Health and Household Economy Project

Paper to the Wellington Health Economists Group, Thursday 29 November, 2002.(1)

Keywords: Distributional Economics; Health; History of Ideas, Methodology & Philosophy; Statistics;


This is a brief summary of a 100 plus page report, The Economic and Health Status of Households,(2) prepared by Suzie Ballantyne and myself. The data base was the Household Economic Survey (HES). For the three year period covering 1994/5-1996/7 the HES included questions on the respondents’ recent utilisation of health services together with as a subjective assessment of each’s health status, as well as socioeconomic variables such as income and expenditure and personal characteristics.

The Economic and Health Status Of Households

Report by Brian Easton & Suzie Ballantyne, Wellington School of Medicine

Keywords: Distributional Economics ; Statistics;

This report contains the contents and executive summary only. Copies of the report (with its numerous tables) are available on request from Brian Easton. Some tables are in Validation and the Health and Household Economy Project

For an introduction to method see The Economic and Health Status Project

Executive Summary Below

Chapter 1: Introduction (page 8)
Chapter 2: Measures of Health Status (page 11)
Chapter 3: Adjusting Household Income for Housing Circumstances (page 24)
Chapter 4: The Utilisation of Health Care Services (page 35)
Chapter 5: The Determinants of Private Spending on Health Care (page 44)
Chapter 6:
Choosing Household Equivalence Indexes
(page 52)
Chapter 7: The Household Distribution of Income (page 76)
Chapter 8: The Household Distribution of Income Adjusted for Housing Circumstances (page 84)
Chapter 9: The Location of Health Status in the Income Distribution (page 92)
Chapter 10: Conclusion. (page 97)

Claudio Michelini: 1940-2000

From Chapter 6 of The Economic and Health Status of Households by Brian Easton and Suzie Ballantyne.

Keywords: Statistics;

The authors would like to acknowledge the significant contribution of Claudio Michelini to the development of empirically based equivalence scales in New Zealand, the topic of this chapter. Claudio had worked on the underlying theory (the preference-consistent Extended Linear Expenditure System) as a part of his postgraduate work at the University of Bristol. But in those days the computing power was insufficient to cope with the non-linear estimation that (ironically) the linear theory required.

Household Equivalence Scales

This is Chapter 6, written jointly with Suzie Carson, from The Health and Economic Status of Households. The appendices are not published, and the acknowledgement to Claudio Michelini has been published separately. Even so website presentational requirements have led to some changes – and perhaps infelicities. The full chapter is available from the authors.

Keywords: Distributional Economics; Statistics;


The (disposable) income of a household has to be adjusted for the composition of the household, the numbers and ages of those who belong to it, if we want to make useful comparisons of the standard of living of different households, or to predict commonalities of their behaviour such as expenditure patterns. A simple adjustment might be to convert the income to a per capita basis, but that ignores the impact of household economies of scale and for the different characteristics of the inhabitants. It is not true that ‘two can live as cheaply as one’, but two living together are likely to spend less than if they live separately in order to attain the same standard of living. It also seems reasonable to postulate (and the research evidence supports) that different ages have different needs. Other relevant factors might be gender, employment status(for employed people may have outlays that the not-employed do not have, such as on transport to work), and marital status (since a couple may have expenditure savings relative to two singles living in the same house).

Beware the Median

SPRC Newsletter No 82, November 2002, p.6-7.

Keywords: Distributional Economics; Social Policy

In their article Beware the Mean!, Peter Saunders and Tim Smeeding argue that median household is a superior reference point for establishing a poverty line than mean household income, concluding ‘Put bluntly, the use of a poverty line linked to mean poverty income produces excessively high poverty rates that tend to increase by more when poverty is rising but to fall by less when poverty is falling.’ The purpose of this note is to demonstrate that poverty lines based on a fixed proportion of the median income are subject to a fatal flaw, illustrating the consequences of the flaw with recent New Zealand experiences.

The Public Use Of ‘ethnicity’ Statistics

This squib was published in Letters to the Editor, The Dominion, on the 26 May, 2001.  I discovered it recalled in a report, A Question of Ethnicity – One Word, Different People, Many Perceptions: the Perspectives of Groups Other Than Mäori, Pacific Peoples and New Zealand Europeans, a prepared for the Statistics New Zealand Review…
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Every Vote Counts: a Census for Posterity

Listener 3 March, 2001

Keywords Statistics

Brian Pink, the Government Statistician, says the population census to be taken next Tuesday (March 6) ‘is a celebration of the democratic process’. It is a sort of a vote, with everyone in the country – not just adults – required to be included on a census form. Unlike an election which involves just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote for some political party, a census involves a wide range of questions, each chosen for some practical social purpose. (They have to be, because there are always more questions than can be fitted on the form.) So you will be contributing a list of important social attributes, putting in a vote for your gender group, your age group where you were born, your ethnicity ….

The Economic Status and Health Status Project

By Suzie Carson & Brian Easton

New Zealand Journal of Social Policy December 2000, p.121-128. Based on a paper presented to the 1999 Conference of the New Zealand Statistical Association, Wellington, July 5-7.

Executive Summary

The increasing use of the Household Economic Survey for policy purposes raises issues about the assumptions which are used for transforming the unit records into aggregates which underpin the social policy analysis. This paper reports upon an HRC funded project to investigate the relationship between personal health status and economic status (especially location in the household distribution, but also in relation to other measures). The project uses unit records of the Household Economic Survey for 1994/5-6/7 years when personal health status was recorded, using both objective and subjective measures. The paper explores some of the processing issues which the analysis is addressing.

Reforms, Risks, and Rogernomics

Invited Presentation to the Jubilee Conference of the New Zealand Statistical Society, 5-7 March, 1999, Wellington.

Keywords Political Economy & History; Statistics;

Fabian ‘… unless you do redeem it by some laudable attempt either of valour or policy.’
Sir Andrew Auguecheek ‘An’t be any way, it must be with valour; for policy I hate; …”
Twelfth Night


Thankyou for the honour of being invited to speak to the Jubilee Conference of the New Zealand Statistical Association. My associations go back only two-thirds of its history, but they are experiences and friendships I greatly value. Indeed, had there been an academic career path in social statistics, I may well have ended up pri

Baths, Hogwash and Taxes

In the search for correlations, are economists forsaking rigorous standards for sloppiness?
Listener 12 July 1997

Keywords: History of Ideas, Methodology & Philosophy; Regulation & Taxation;

Nobel prizewinning physicist Steven Weinberg recently wrote “the existence of a common standard of judgement leads physicists, who are no more saintly than economists, to question their own best work.” He was referring to Alan Guth who, having discovered the universe went through an inflationary phase early in its creation, nevertheless tested his own work to see whether the hypothesis was wrong. As Karl Popper says, be your own sternest critic. Is it fair to imply economists are less rigorous?

How Accurate Are the Incomes Reported in the Household Economic Survey?

This paper was preliminary, and circulated for discussion in 1997 (This version revised in 2000). The issues it raises were taken up by Statistics New Zealand and have been largely dealt with. (A major revision has been to the household weightings. It is placed here on the website, because occassionally researchers using the earlier data ask for it. But it illustrates the universal rule of always checking one the quality of one’s data before using it

Keywords: Statistics;


As the result of a generous grant for then Prince Albert College Trust, it has been possible to place in the public domain for research purposes, quasi-unit records (QURs) from the household economic survey (HES),[1] one of the regular surveys administered by Statistics New Zealand.

Poverty in New Zealand – 1981 to 1993

New Zealand Sociology November 1995, Vol 10, No 2, pp.182-214.
Note This version has yet to have the graphs added.

Keywords: Distributional Economics; Statistics;


After around two decades of modern poverty research in New Zealand which has focused on poverty at a point in time, it is now possible to provide estimates of the changing numbers of poor over time.

A Data Base Of Iwi

Report for The Waitangi Tribunal (May 1995)

keywords: Maori; Statistics

The Data Base

Every individual living in New Zealand on the night of 5 March 1991, filled in a census form, which included a question about iwi membership.[1] Some 511,278 respondents (15.2 percent of the national total) gave a positive answer, of some form, to this question.[2] In addition 165,913 households (14.1 percent of the national total) were classified as Maori dwelling households with an iwi identification.

This computer program provides socioeconomic information about those respondents, and their households grouped together by iwi. (It does not hold unit data records.) The following is a description of the contents of the program, and the means of accession to the data. It should be emphasized that the access protocols are not simple, because as explained below, there are some restrictions on access. In addition there are numerous caveats which should be taken into consideration when obtaining and interpreting the data.

The Measurement Of Output: GDP

This was written as Appendix 1.1 for an early draft of In Stormy Seas. In the process of reducing the text for publication it was dropped, but it turns up ghost like on page 11). This version is from the September 1994 version.

Keywords: Statistics;

Economists typically measure the output of an economy by Gross Domestic Product (at market prices), or GDP, that is the market production for some period usually over a year, or sometimes three months (a quarter). The basic notion is that the production of each commodity – good or service – is valued at market prices and totalled up, after deducting inputs.[1] It is a measure fraught with subtle assumptions.

Fishing and the Chatham Islands

AFFIDAVIT in the High Court of New Zealand BETWEEN Te Iwi Moriori Trust Board (First Plaintiff) Moriori Tchakat Henu Association of Rekohu Incorporated (Second Plaintiff) and The Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission (Defendant) (September 1993)

Keywords: Business & Finance; Environment & Resources; Maori; Statistics;

I, Brian Henry Easton, economist and social statistician of Wellington do swear

1. Following the obtaining of degrees in mathematics and economics I have practised for over 25 years in universities in New Zealand and overseas, in research institutions, and latterly as a private researcher and consultant. A copy of my short C. V. is attached. I have taught, researched, and written in many areas related to this case, including the economics of development.

2. I have been asked by the plaintiffs to assess the significance of the fishing industry to the Chatham Islands (Rekohu).

3. My basic conclusion is that the future of the Chatham Islands is vitally dependent upon its fishing industry, more so than any other region. I also indicate how a population based rule is especially against the interests of a region as dependent upon fishing as these islands.