Monday, September 17, 2018

How Many Households in Australia are Rich?

Every couple of years the Australian Bureau of Statistics surveys the distribution of household wealth in Australia. The most recent data is from the 2015-16 survey. It doesn't provide a lot of detail though. The downloadable data provides the averages for quintiles and the level at the top of each decile. They report that net worth at the 90th percentile is $1.979 million.

We can get more information by using the reported mean and the Gini coefficients and assuming that the data follow a log-normal distribution. You can get details of the necessary calculation here - use Wolfram Alpha to get the inverse of the erf function.

The distribution fits well for the 30th (ABS: $232k, lognormal: $240k) to 90th percentiles (ABS: $1.979 mil, lognormal: $2.1 mil). Below the 30th percentile the lognormal predicts too much wealth, while right at the top it would predict at most one billionaire in Australia. But I think we could use it up to the 99th percentile without too much error. The top 5% starts at $3.26 million, 4% at $3.7 mil, 3% at $4.3 mil, 2% at $5.3 mil, and 1% at $7.4 mil. All these numbers will be a bit higher now, of course. The most recent figure for mean household net worth is over $1 million rather than $929k here.

The ATO regards anyone controlling more than $5 million as wealthy, so that is the top 2 to 2.5% (with current mean net worth). To be a wholesale investor you need individually $2.5 million of net assets. So assuming a couple have $5 million, that also is the top 2.5%. So, the top 2.5% in Australia are considered "rich". That is roughly 250,000 households.

In 2015-16 we were at the 16th percentile.

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