International Statistical Review

Localised Estimates of Dynamics of Multi‐dimensional Disadvantage: An Application of the Small Area Estimation Technique Using Australian Survey and Census Data

Journal Article

Summary Deep and persistent disadvantage is an important, but statistically rare, phenomenon in the population, and sample sizes are usually not large enough to provide reliable estimates for disaggregated analysis. Survey samples are typically designed to produce estimates of population characteristics of planned areas. The sample sizes are calculated so that the survey estimator for each of the planned areas is of a desired level of precision. However, in many instances, estimators are required for areas of the population for which the survey providing the data was unplanned. Then, for areas with small sample sizes, direct estimation of population characteristics based only on the data available from the particular area tends to be unreliable. This has led to the development of a class of indirect estimators that make use of information from related areas through modelling. A model is used to link similar areas to enhance the estimation of unplanned areas; in other words, they borrow strength from the other areas. Doing so improves the precision of estimated characteristics in the small area, especially in areas with smaller sample sizes. Social science researchers have increasingly employed small area estimation to provide localised estimates of population characteristics from surveys. We explore how to extend this approach within the context of deep and persistent disadvantage in Australia. We find that because of the unique circumstances of the Australian population distribution, direct estimates of disadvantage have substantial variation, but by applying small area estimation, there are significant improvements in precision of estimates.

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