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The composition and distribution of household wealth in Australia

23 Apr 2009

This article describes how household wealth changed since 2002 and how developments in house prices, equity prices and superannuation returns may have affected the composition and distribution of household net worth.

The article updates previous work done by the Bank using data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey to describe the composition of household wealth and its distribution across households. The analysis is largely based on data from the latest wealth module of the HILDA Survey, conducted in 2006, and the earlier HILDA Survey, in 2002.

The article draws four main conclusions. First, the increase in net worth between 2002 and 2006 was broad-based across households, although it was generally more rapid for those residing in the resource-rich states and for older households. Second, growth in real-estate assets was the primary driver of growth in net worth between 2002 and 2006, and this factor drove most of the variation in trends in household net worth across the states. Third, growth in financial assets over the period was mainly due to superannuation assets and was broad-based across households of different ages and wealth levels. Fourth, the declines in net worth over 2008 are likely to have been mostly incurred by households at the top end of the wealth distribution, as the assets with the most significant price declines are predominantly held by those households.

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