1380.0.55.003 - Perspectives on Regional Australia: Household Expenditure throughout Australia, 2003-04  
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1 This publication presents selected findings from the 2003-04 Household Expenditure Survey (HES) using the Section of State (SOS) structure (see paragraphs 4-7), and is the third publication in a series with a focus on rural and regional Australia.

2 These Explanatory Notes outline general information on the scope and coverage of the HES and the SOS structure. For more details on the HES refer to Household Expenditure Survey, Australia: Summary of Results (cat. no. 6530.0). For more details on the SOS structure, refer to the Australian Standard Geographical Classification, Volume 1, 2001 (cat. no. 1261.0).


3 The 2003-04 HES commenced field enumeration throughout Australia in July 2003. Field enumeration was completed in June 2004. Previous Household Expenditure Surveys were conducted in 1974-75, 1975-76, 1984, 1988-89, 1993-94 and 1998-99.


4 The Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC) is used by the ABS for the collection and dissemination of geographically classified statistics and its use enables comparability across datasets. The ASGC is an essential reference to understanding and interpreting the geographical context of statistics published by, not only the ABS, but also state and other commonwealth agencies.

5 This publication presents data based on the SOS structure. This structure uses population counts from the latest Census of Population and Housing to class Census Collection Districts as urban or rural. As the SOS structure is defined only in Census years, 2003-04 HES data was concorded to the 2001 Section of State areas.

6 The SOS structure contains the following categories:

Major UrbanIncludes urban areas with populations of 100,000 or more persons.
Other UrbanIncludes urban areas with populations of 1,000 to 99,999 persons.
Bounded LocalityIncludes rural areas with a population of 200 to 999 persons.
Rural BalanceThe remainder of the state/territory.
MigratoryAreas comprised of off-shore, shipping and migratory Collection Districts.

7 Examples are given below of Urban Centres/Localities within each SOS.


Section of State AreasExamples of Urban Centres/Localities
Major UrbanSydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Newcastle, Wollongong, Sunshine Coast, Hobart, Geelong, Townsville-Thuringowa.
Other UrbanBallarat, Cairns, Toowoomba, Bunbury, Mount Gambier, Geraldton, Devonport, Coffs Harbour, Melton, Hervey Bay.
Bounded LocalityDarlington Point, Merriwa, Foster, Beaufort, Aurukun, Apple Tree Creek, Maitland, Robe, Baldivis, Boddington, Sheffield, Margate, Milingimbi, Alyangula, Hall.
Rural BalanceIncludes small townships with less than 200 persons, as well as all other sparsely settled rural areas.
Migratory -



8 The household is the basic unit of analysis in the HES. A household consists of one or more persons, at least one of whom is at least 15 years of age, usually resident in the same private dwelling. The persons in a household may or may not be related. They must live wholly within one dwelling. A group of people who make common provisions for food and other essentials of living but live in two separate dwellings are considered to be two separate households.

9 Households therefore have the following characteristics:
- they may consist of one or more person(s) or groups of persons such as families
- they must live wholly within one physical dwelling. A group of people who make common provision for living essentials but are living in two separate dwellings are considered to be two separate households.

10 The household is adopted as the basic unit of analysis because it is assumed that sharing of the use of goods and services occurs at this level. If smaller units, say persons, are adopted, then it is difficult to know how to attribute to individual household members the use of shared items such as food, accommodation and household goods.


11 The HES aggregate estimates of expenditure on goods and services refer to:
  • the cost of acquiring goods and services – the cost of those goods and services acquired during the reference period regardless of whether the household paid for or consumed them during the period
  • the cost of goods and services used for private purposes – costs associated with investments and business were excluded from estimates of expenditure
  • net or out-of-pocket expenditure – refunds and reimbursements (such as Medicare refunds, factory rebates, trade-ins and reimbursements from employers) were deducted from expenditure
  • expenditure during and prior to the 2003-04 financial year – most types of expenditure relate to purchases recorded in a fortnightly diary at some point within the 2003-04 financial year but less frequent and often large expenditures were collected on a 'recall' basis: for those items, households were asked to recall expenditures over a period which may have extended back before 2003-04, ranging from the last payment made (e.g. for utilities bills) to any purchase made in the last three years (e.g. for house purchases)
  • some expenditure in-kind – items provided free or at a reduced cost by employers to employees for their own private use or withdrawn from own business for household consumption are regarded as expenditure in-kind; only incidental items of expenditure in-kind such as food and motor vehicle fuel reported in the diaries have been included in aggregate expenditure, averaging $1.30 per week per household; however other expenditure in-kind items such as provision of vehicles, housing and assistance with telephone calls were collected and are available separately if required.

12 Estimates of average weekly expenditure do not refer to a given week. Average weekly expenditure was calculated by dividing expenditure by the number of weeks in the recall period or reporting period over which it was collected.

13 Expenditure was classified according to the Household Expenditure Classification. A copy of the classification is included in Household Expenditure Survey and Survey of Income and Housing, Australia: User Guide, 2003-04 (cat. no. 6503.0).


Scope and coverage

14 The survey collects information by personal interview from usual residents of private dwellings in urban and rural areas of Australia, covering about 98% of the people living in Australia. Private dwellings are houses, flats, home units, caravans, garages, tents and other structures that were used as places of residence at the time of interview. Long-stay caravan parks are also included. These are distinct from non-private dwellings which include hotels, boarding schools, boarding houses and institutions. Residents of non-private dwellings are excluded.

15 The survey also excludes:
- households which contain members of non-Australian defence forces stationed in Australia
- households which contain diplomatic personnel of overseas governments
- households in collection districts in the Northern Territory defined as very remote or Indigenous Communities which account for about 23% of the territory's population.

Data collection

16 Information for each household was collected using:
- a household level computer assisted interview questionnaire which collected information on household characteristics, expenditure common to all household members (e.g. health service payments), and irregular or infrequent expenditure (e.g. household appliances and holidays overseas)
- an individual level computer assisted interview questionnaire which collected information on income and other personal characteristics from each usual resident aged 15 years and over
- a personal diary in which usual residents aged 15 years and over recorded their expenditure over two weeks.


17 ABS publications draw extensively on information provided freely by individuals, businesses, governments and other organisations. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated: without it, the wide range of statistics published by the ABS would not be available. Information received by the ABS is treated in strict confidence as required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905.