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The health of a nation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 11/08/2022 - 10:24am in



The 2021 Census included a new question regarding long-term health conditions. Nenad looks at the national and state stories this new dataset tells us, and digs into how the data can inform local government decisions to improve their communities outcomes.

For the first time, the Census collected data about selected long-term health conditions in the community. The Census question asked respondents if they had been diagnosed with a specific condition from a list of ten conditions plus “other”. Combined, these ten conditions comprise approximately 60% of Australia’s deaths, and even those that are not deadly contribute substantially to the disease burden. Over 8 million people reported having a long-term health condition, with 4.8 million having one of the selected long-term health conditions. In addition, almost 800,000 people had three or more of the selected long-term health conditions. This information is very valuable to researchers, all levels of government, community health networks, minority groups and other health advocacy groups.

Jump ahead:


What does the data tell us about our health?

Almost a third of Australians had one or more long-term health conditions; that percentage is higher in States such as Tasmania (37.5% of the population), South Australia (35.1%), the ACT (33%) and Queensland (32.9%). Our two most populous States, NSW and Victoria, and younger States/Territories such as Western Australia and Northern Territory, had lower rates of long-term health conditions than the national average. Age is a confounding factor with many health conditions (described later in this blog) and would be part of why Tasmania and South Australia – with older populations – have higher proportions of residents with long-term health conditions.


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Mental health is Australia's number 1 health condition

The most prevalent long-term health condition Australians have been diagnosed with is mental health; 8.8% of respondents have this condition. In absolute terms, this translates to 2,231,552 Australians with a long-term mental health condition. Arthritis is the second most prevalent health condition affecting 8.5% of Australians (2,150,385 people). Arthritis is highly correlated with age. Beyond the age of 85, more than 1 in 3 Australians are diagnosed with arthritis. Asthma affects 8.1% of Australians (2,068,022), whereas "other conditions", which could include anything not listed, affect 8% of the population. Conditions that affect smaller proportions of the population are dementia (0.7% of the population), kidney disease (0.9%) and stroke (also 0.9%). Stroke, however, does have a higher mortality rate than many other listed conditions and is one of the five leading causes of death in Australia, accounting for 5% of all deaths (as an underlying condition) (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2019).


First Nations Australians' health statistics are different

Long-term health conditions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders differ from those of Australia. A valuable use of this new dataset is being able to separate and understand how First Nations Australians fare regarding long-term health conditions. For them, mental health was also the most common but at much higher rates (13.3%) than the overall population. Higher asthma rates are also recorded (13.2% compared to 8.1%) along with "other conditions" and diabetes. On the other hand, rates of arthritis are lower for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders than the overall population. Arthritis is related to age and the proportion of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders over 65 years is 5.9%, compared with 17.2% for Australia.


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Confounding factors such as age influence health statistics greatly

This information, especially at a local level, can help drive focus and prioritisation of health resources and infrastructure provision, but it pays to know how to "read" the information. One important reminder is that these statistics refer to prevalence of long-term health conditions which have been diagnosed, meaning that undiagnosed conditions (for example in areas without medical centres, in areas where people cannot afford doctor visits or where cultural barriers may mean diagnosis of some conditions such as mental health is taboo) are not included. Any in-depth analysis and resource allocation should use this Census dataset as a starting point, complemented with more local insight.

As previously mentioned, some long-term health conditions are highly correlated with age. The chart below illustrates Australia's top 5 most prevalent long-term health conditions by age. For arthritis, heart disease and diabetes, age is an apparent factor. Conditions such as mental health are more prevalent in younger age groups before increasing again for 85+-year-olds, whereas asthma is similar across all age groups.


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Expert analysis can add more depth and meaning to this information

With age as a confounding factor in rates of long-term health conditions, it is recommended that age adjustment be applied to crude rates to allow communities with different age structures to be compared. Crude rates of a condition such as dementia will always show older areas as those with higher rates of the condition. If you look at a thematic map of dementia rates, you are pretty much looking at a thematic map of 85+-year-olds.

The process of age-adjustment changes the amount that each age group contributes to the overall rate in each community, so that the overall rates are based on the same age structure. Rates that are based on the same age distribution can be compared to each other without the conflating factor of age. This means that within your LGA, you can compare a community with a community, a suburb with a suburb.

Another way to better understand health data in your area is to assess actual rates of a health condition against expected rates. If actual local rates for a condition are higher than expected, this might cause concern and focus for authorities wanting to influence and address health conditions.


Informing Federal, State government and health advocacy groups

Because this information is derived from the Census, the extent of the dataset covers all of Australia at all sorts of geographic levels. Results can be queried, analysed and compared at neighbourhood, suburb, municipality, regional, greater capital city or State and national levels. Agencies that have already begun to use this information include federal and state governments, departments of health, health advocacy groups and community health networks, among others. The long-term health conditions dataset improves planning and resource allocation of hospitals or medical centres, for example, and better understanding of coverage for existing health infrastructure.

This information will undoubtedly be valuable to health research, likely combined with other data. Organisations such as Arthritis Australia, Dementia Australia, Cancer Council or Mental Health Australia can now refer to the information from the 2021 Census (and future releases of long-term health data) to create or strengthen arguments for funding or targeting of service provision. Statistical analysis of long-term health conditions and comparison of those with demographic and socioeconomic characteristics is possible via crosstabulation. However,  in these instances, awareness of correct techniques, whether hotspot analysis or spatial autocorrelation is essential as many incorrect conclusions can be made where correlation is mistaken for causation.


The power of this dataset for local government

Long-term health condition data can be used in municipal public health and wellbeing plans, age-based planning, seasonal health or emergency management planning (e.g. knowing where your asthma sufferers are if you're in a bushfire-prone area) and community infrastructure planning (such as assessing the outdoor environment and public spaces and making improvements so they are accessible and conducive to physical activity by adults with certain conditions).

  • Safer, functional, more impactful infrastructure

Using this information can inform the creation of safe, functional pathways and resting areas in and around parks, recreation centres and other community venues for physical activity among adults with arthritis (Arthritis Foundation 2012). Just a couple of days ago I came across the City of Moreland's "Community Infrastructure Plan" and thought knowledge of health conditions could inform how their aquatic, leisure and recreation assets are used and resourced but also which services (e.g. hydrotherapy exercise classes) are provided. It is similar to how some councils use "need for assistance due to disability by age" information to plan the provision of playground equipment for children with disabilities.

  • Data-driven community outreach

Local government planning could focus on the need for clean air and provision of air quality monitoring in some indoor and outdoor community spaces for neighbourhoods with conditions such as asthma. Local government can also assist with the provision of mental health services or community outreach programs that aim to help those in most need. If the statistics suggest that certain parts of your LGA or certain segments of your population have above-average rates of reported long-term mental health conditions, focus can be placed here, backed by evidence.

  • Different health conditions require different approaches

Alzheimer’s Australia suggests that local government has a role in helping develop dementia-friendly communities in Australia to build awareness, acceptance and understanding of dementia in the community. For example, Indigo Shire rolled out dementia education and awareness initiatives to its teams, focusing on front line customer services staff. In addition, staff at the Beechworth Library teamed up with the Changing Minds Beechworth alliance to incorporate dementia-friendly design principles into the refurbishment of the library. This focus on the physical environment extended to the upgrading public toilet facilities, and there are plans to review the accessibility of other public amenities as part of longer-term planning. (Creating Dementia-friendly Communities: A Toolkit for Local Government, 2016).


Ultimately, Councils that look at long-term health conditions strategically and positively are not only able to mitigate pressure on their services but facilitate other innovative ways for people living with long-term health conditions to contribute to their community and in turn feel more valued and included.


We can help you get the most out of this information for your community

As demographic experts who have worked with various health data sources and have experience in creating municipal public health and wellbeing plans for councils, we can help you get the most out of this exciting and valuable new Census dataset.

Long-term health conditions have been added to our Community Profile tool as part of the current 2021 Census rollout. We can delve deeper and provide age-standardised conditions for your communities, illustrate spatial distribution of all or selected conditions within your municipality, conduct catchment and service analysis to assess if current health infrastructure is adequate for all residents, or identify remote areas communities with noteworthy rates of health conditions.

We plan on incorporating long-term health conditions into our vulnerable communities analyses and can forecast some health conditions with a strong statistical relationship with age. If you work in local government and want to discuss how we can help or would like to learn more about the long-term health conditions Census dataset, use this link to easily book a 30-minute discussion or contact us at demographics@id.com.au.

Rebased population estimates – big changes to your LGA population

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 27/07/2022 - 10:00am in



ERP revisions

Revised yearly population estimates for LGAs from 2017 onwards have just been released by the ABS, based on the 2021 Census. Glenn explains how this revision process (rebasing) works and what it means for LGAs across Australia.

Stay up to date with the Census roll out.

It probably sounds like a bit of stats’ nerd speak, but the ABS has just released the “rebased” population estimates for LGAs and other smaller geographic areas. What this means – and why it’s important – is it updates actual population counts in light of the Census results.

Census, population estimates and rebasing explained

Every year, the ABS gives us a population estimate for every place in Australia, usually released in March, and taking into account births, deaths and an estimate of migration in and out from the previous year. We usually comment on these measures of population change, and it’s included in our community profile tool, under “Population estimates”.

What’s maybe a bit less well known is that these estimates are revised after the Census. In a Census release year we get two versions of the population estimates. One we got back in March, and that was based on continuing annual updates from the 2016 Census results. This week we have seen the second set, which is estimates based on the 2021 Census. This enables us to see how close the earlier estimates were to the best estimates using the latest Census data. For 2021 there are some major revisions. This is not saying the ABS “got it wrong”; it shows the importance of running a Census to adjust the population estimates, which are less reliable the further you get away from having done a Census.

It’s also worth re-emphasising that the Census counts themselves are not population estimates. These new figures become the official population estimates for each place, and have been revised for each year back to 2017 based on what the 2021 Census showed, but the actual Census counts are always adjusted to provide population estimates.

Where did the largest population estimate revisions occur?

We already know from the figures released on June 28th that Australia’s overall population was revised down by 50,063 people between the pre-Census and post-Census estimates. And both Victoria and New South Wales were revised downwards by about 100,000 each, while WA, SA, Tas and the ACT were all revised up.

This is how these revisions played out at a local level.

Largest upward revisions

 LGA and State

2021 rebased population
Revision from previous 2021 estimate

Blacktown NSW

Stirling  WA

Wyndham Vic

Canning WA

Camden NSW

Gosnells WA

Port Adelaide Enfield SA

Joondalup  WA

Mackay Qld

Darwin NT

Toowoomba Qld

Mandurah WA

The Hills Shire NSW

Glenorchy Tas

Lake Macquarie NSW

These are the largest changes in Australia where the population was revised upwards by the ABS. These are not growth figures, just the amount of revision to the previous estimate for the same year’s population. The largest is Blacktown City in Western Sydney, revised upwards by over 12,000, or 3% of their very large population. Many of the upwards revisions are in states like WA where the whole state’s population was revised upwards. But others, including Blacktown, are not. Even for Victoria, which had the largest downward revision as a state, has Wyndham in this list, revised up by over 6,000 people (2%).

Some of these represent a massive percentage revision. The City of Glenorchy, part of suburban Hobart, was revised upwards by almost 4,000 in a population of 47,000 – a revision of 8.3% of their total population, or equivalent to the last 15 years population growth in Glenorchy. Also just off the top list here are significant revisions upwards to Hobart and Launceston LGAs in Tas as well. The biggest percentage revision in that state is actually the Central Highlands LGA (centred on the tiny town of Bothwell), which was revised up 420 people – almost 20% of their population!

Largest downward revisions

 LGA and State
2021 Population
Revision from previous 2021 estimate

Sydney NSW

Randwick NSW

Melbourne Vic

Inner West NSW

Darebin Vic

Moreland Vic

Gold Coast Qld

Port Phillip Vic

Brisbane Qld

Yarra Vic

Stonnington Vic

Northern Beaches NSW

Maribyrnong Vic

Boroondara Vic

Georges River NSW

Moonee Valley Vic

The most significant downward revisions are entirely in Sydney and Melbourne, barring two in SE Queensland. Inner city Sydney and Melbourne LGAs themselves are the largest adjustments of all, with Sydney’s downward revision of more then 27,000 equating to a “loss” of over 10% of total population. Neighbouring Randwick is even more significant, at about 12% of total LGA population, with Melbourne not far behind. These are undoubtedly pandemic-related trends, and the absence of overseas students during COVID border closures had an immense effect on these inner city areas.

Though Sydney had the largest downward revision, more of the top negative movements are in suburban Melbourne; the declines are spread through the inner-middle suburbs in places like Moreland, Darebin, Yarra, Boroondara and Moonee Valley. These are student-affected but also broadly overseas-migration affected, with lots leaving during the pandemic. Areas of Sydney such as Georges River and Northern Beaches feature in the list, but it seems like the NSW population exodus was more concentrated in the inner city, while Melbourne was across the metro area (but still with strong growth in the outer suburbs).

The only two in this list outside NSW and Vic –  Brisbane and Gold Coast LGAs – did have a downward revision, but these are the largest two LGAs in Australia, so as a percentage of population they were relatively small revisions.

Broader trends and updates

The general trend here is that the ABS underestimated the amount of growth in outer suburban growth areas and regional cities to a significant extent, while overestimating the amount of growth in inner suburban and inner-city areas, particularly in the big east coast cities. This may be because young people, who dominate our inner cities, are hard to catch in things like Medicare change-of-address records (one of the inputs to interim estimates). It may also be to do with using increasing dwelling numbers in the inner cities as a proxy for population growth, in a pandemic when many of the dwellings were left unoccupied (in the City of Melbourne, 1 in 4 dwellings were unoccupied on Census night).

These new estimates sweep away the past and become the new best estimates for local areas, lining up with the new Census data as well as feeding into important processes such as electoral redistributions (one of the main purposes of running the Census in the first place). Here at .id we’ll be updating the populations for the last 5 years in the community profile sites over the next few days, so you can have the correct numbers in there as soon as possible. We’ll send a product update through to subscribers when that’s done; sign up here if you want to get the update.

Getting it right in Bogan

Before I go, on a slightly more light-hearted note, not all areas were significantly revised. Many stayed about the same population after revision. There was only one LGA in Australia, however, which stayed exactly  the same after revision: none other than Bogan Shire, NSW, centred on the town of Nyngan with a population of 2,481 and home to The Big Bogan. (I don’t think they counted him in the population, though.)

Bahnfrend, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Census crystal ball gazing: the results

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/07/2022 - 8:30am in



 crystal ball gazing

Following the first release of data from the 2021 Census, demographer and Census expert Glenn Capuano revisits the predictions he made about what this Census would show.

Every Census, around Census day, I look into my crystal ball to come up with a few key trends that I think the Census results will show when they are finally released. In 2021, I made 12 specific predictions about the Census data. Now the data are (partially) out, it’s time to see how accurate (or inaccurate) these predictions were.

1. Slower population growth: Australia’s population growth for June 30th, 2021 revised to 25,675,000

Result: Hit!

The final 2021 population was revised down by just over 50,000 people, to 25,688,079 people – just 13,000 out from my estimate. That’s less than 0.05% out!

2. Census count much closer to Estimated Resident Population: count of 25,400,000 being a gap of only 275,000 from the population estimate

Result: Hit!

The actual Census count of usual residents in Australia was 25,422,788 – less than 0.1% different from my prediction. The ERP shown the first prediction is only 265,291 people higher than the Census count, almost exactly 1% different, and within 10,000 people of the gap I predicted. This difference is down from almost 800,000 in 2016. The improvement is partly is due to better coverage of the population (the Census website didn’t go down on Census night for starters!) but more so due to far less people being overseas. (Our borders were closed and you had to get a special exemption to leave the country, remember that?) People overseas are counted in the population but not in the Census count, so when there are less people overseas, the gap between Census and ERP is less.

3. 80% of Australians will fill in the Census online

Result: Hit!

Well OK, this was only 78.9%, but definitely closer to my 80% number than the 75% which was the ABS’s target range for online form response. So I’m counting this one as a hit as well, despite being 1.1% out. Higher online response has also led to lower “Not Stated” rates for many characteristics, as the online form doesn’t allow respondents to skip questions and guides you through the form to only those questions which are relevant to you (based on age, employment etc.)

4. More people counted at home: 97.2% of the population at home on Census night due to lockdowns

Result: Partial hit

This was a very specific prediction with a decimal point, so I’m a little off with that. While the proportion of people counted at home did increase as predicted, it didn’t increase as much as I thought; it went from 95.1% to 96.1%, missing my 97.2% by more than 1%. Maybe I was a bit over-enthusiastic about how many people would be following lockdown orders!

It’s been widely reported (from the ABS’s own media releases) that 2 million more people were counted at home on Census night this time. That is true – but the Census population count overall went up by more than 2 million! A good example of how statistics can be used to show things that, while technically true, aren’t as amazing as they may first seem.

5. Less overseas visitors: no more than 25,000 people from overseas in Australia on Census night

Result: Partial hit

Again, I got the direction but not quite the magnitude right . There were certainly far fewer overseas visitors in 2021, due to closed borders and strict quarantine requirements, but somehow more than I expected were still visiting Australia. The count of overseas visitors declined from 315,000 in 2016 to 62,000 in 2021 – still more than twice as many as I predicted.

6. Changes to country of birth: UK remains the largest but China and India become 2nd and 3rd, jumping ahead of New Zealand

Result: Hit!

There are still well over 1 million UK-born in Australia (though the ABS persists in reporting this by the individual UK countries, England, Scotland etc.). Both China and India have leapt ahead of New Zealand. The only thing I got wrong (and didn’t fully specify) was the order of those two. Indian migration has far outpaced China in the last 5 years, now standing at more than 673,000 India-born population, in 2nd place behind the UK only. China is more than 100k behind with 549,000.

7. Changing migration patterns: only 60% of the 5-year population growth will be within Greater Capital City areas, down from 78% in 2016

Result: Miss

Again, I was a little over-exuberant here. Capital City growth did decline as a percentage of total. Of Australia’s 2.415 million growth between the Censuses, 76.2% was in Greater Capital City areas and 23.8% was in regional Australia. This is only slightly less than last Census. Perhaps my perspective was coloured by living in Melbourne – the two largest cities, Melbourne and Sydney, have a lot of net movement out to regional areas but this is less evident in other parts of Australia, which were less affected by lockdowns. (And remember that Census covers 5 years and lockdowns only affected the last 18 months.) I will revisit when the ERP data comes out, as this may change things a little.

8. Further rise in ‘No Religion’: those having no religious affiliation to rise to 35% of the total population

Result: Partial hit

Again, the direction was correct but not the magnitude. I wasn’t prepared for the very large shift from 30% to almost 39% of the population having no religion in 2021. This rise is larger in percentage terms than the one from 2011–2016,  and in that period the question wording changed and “No Religion” was moved to the top of the response list on the Census form. This is a very big shift in Australian society away from religious affiliation and will be the subject of another blog. In just a decade the proportion of Australia’s population professing no religion has almost doubled.

9. Increase in work from home: 25% of the population of Australia will work from home on Census day

Result: Unknown until 2nd release

Census was conducted in the middle of lockdowns in Melbourne and Sydney, so this is likely, but unfortunately we don’t have that data yet. The second release of Census data is due in October this year, and will include everything to do with employment, industry, occupation, journey to work and method of travel to work. So we’ll have to wait a few months for this!

10. Further increase in renting: renters to rise to 30.9% of all dwellings

Result: Miss

Well, I bought the hype here. Tenure types have barely moved in the 2021 Census, with renting as a percentage going up only from 29.4% to 29.5% of households in 5 years. The other two categories – full ownership and mortgage – also increased in percentage terms to 29.9% and 33.2% respectively, both within 1% of their 2016 percentages. The only reason it’s possible for all the categories to increase in percentage is a big decline in the “Not Stated” category, from 7.7% to 5.4%. (This is due to better quality Census results.) In fact, if you exclude this, renting as a percentage has gone down. That’s right – more people have entered the housing market than before. Probably due to low interest rates. The second part of my prediction was a big increase in the percentage of 25–34 year olds who are renters. This will have to wait until ABS TableBuilder is available, as we don’t have this data in any of the standard datasets at present.

11. Unoccupied dwellings: increase to 11.2% but a lot of variability with holiday areas down and inner city areas up

Result: Miss

Again, despite a lot of misleading media talk about record vacant dwellings, unoccupied dwellings as a percentage actually went down to 9.6% of total dwellings. (The absolute number was remarkably consistent at just over 1 million, despite another million dwellings being added to Australia’s dwelling stock.) I did say this one would be hard to predict, and it is highly variable from area to area. Typical beachside holiday areas in southern Australia like Eurobodalla Shire in NSW (29.6% down to 25.3%) and Bass Coast Vic (44.3% down to 37.3%) still had the bulk of unoccupied dwellings but generally fell as more people occupied those dwellings in a lockdown winter, while inner-city areas like the City of Melbourne had a huge increase in unoccupied (12.8% to 25.2%).

What this does not show is large number of investors deliberately keeping dwellings vacant for negative gearing benefits (this is not allowed under the current tax system). Remember also that unoccupied doesn’t necessarily mean vacant long-term. The occupants could just be away on Census night.

12. Long-term health conditions: 43% with a LTHC and arthritis the most common

Result: Miss

I was quite a bit too high on the percentage here, with only 32% nationwide reporting a long-term health condition in the 2021 Census. This was a bit of an unknown and I based this number off the national health survey. It’s quite likely that there is more of a tendency to under-report this in a self-responded Census questionnaire compared to an interviewer based survey. But it’s still going to be a very useful dataset for comparisons at a local level.  I wasn’t far off with arthritis as the most common LTHC: it was reported by 8.5% of people, and more common among the elderly, but the most commonly reported condition was actually mental health, at 8.8% of the population.

So overall, a mixed bag for the predictions this year! Of the 12 predictions, I had:

  • 4 hits
  • 3 partial hits
  • 4 misses
  • 1 unknown until 2nd release.

I hope you’ve enjoyed following these predictions, which are based on our understanding of the underlying trends in the population. These are national trends, of course, and the great thing about Census is it brings out all the local trends – where the real stories are. Every place is different, and we’re rolling out the 2021 Census data as quickly as possible to allow all our users Local Government  and beyond to tell that story for the places within their local areas. We’ll also be out and about in the coming months presenting these results and running training and development in using the .id toolkit at your council. If you’d like to organise this for your area, or have any queries about the Census data, please don’t hesitate to get in touch: demographics@id.com.au.

Keep on top of all things Census related.

Australia’s net overseas migration increasing again

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 30/06/2022 - 10:05am in




While most of us were glued to our screens and TVs in anticipation of the first release of the 2021 Census, another valuable statistical dataset was released by the ABS – “National, state and territory population”, this time rebased for the population estimates to the 2021 Census. This release also revised all quarterly population estimates from June 2016 and included the December 2021 quarter, covering the period to the end of the 2021 calendar year.

Australia’s first quarter of net overseas gain since June 2020

The headlines from the latest “National, state and territory population” publication were:

  • Australia’s population at December 2021 was 25,766,605, an increase of 63,400 (+0.2%) from the previous quarter.
  • Australia’s annual growth was 128,000 people, which was made up of 138,500 new residents through natural increase and a net overseas migration loss of 3,600 residents.

Other than being rebased to the 2021 Census, the other exciting thing about this quarterly publication is that it included the period when Australia’s overseas migration movements came to life again. Australia’s staged international border opening commenced on the 1st of November 2021.


The net overseas migration losing streak is broken

So how has net overseas migration (NOM) changed in the last quarter of available data, and how do the new flows compare to those seen before Covid-19? If you look at the bar chart below, Australia gained around 61,000 residents from overseas every three months from December 2018 until March 2020, when the world stopped. However, in the 18 months since the March 2020 quarter, Australia lost residents to overseas migration for six consecutive quarters. It is worth noting that even in the quarters when net overseas migration loss decreased, this was primarily driven by fewer people leaving Australia (overseas residents returning home) rather than more people coming back to Australia).

The December 2021 quarter ended that streak of NOM losses, and even though the quarter included one month when our borders were still closed (October 2021), the net gain was 29,145. It will be interesting to see subsequent quarterly information and whether or not these first few quarters post-reopening are anomalies. Nevertheless, anecdotal information and overseas arrivals and departures statistics suggest that Australia’s overseas migration patterns will soon be trending towards pre-Covid-19 levels.


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Victoria and New South Wales bounce back while Tasmania returns to pre-Covid levels of growth

Within Australia, the net losses and recent gains of overseas migrants were not felt evenly. As discussed, Victoria experienced some of the harshest losses of residents to overseas migration in the September - December 2020 period when the average quarterly loss of residents to overseas migration was approximately 19,000 per quarter. Since then, Victoria's net losses reduced partially as fewer Victorian residents left. Ongoing lockdowns and overall restrictions on overseas migration to Australia maintained Victoria's quarterly net overseas losses, with 6,400 residents lost in the September 2021 quarter. However, once borders opened, Victoria's most significant component of population change surged, with 12,065 more residents coming to Victoria from overseas than leaving.

New South Wales did not lose as many residents to overseas migration as Victoria during the isolated period of March 2020 - November 2021 but, like Victoria, has seen fortunes change with a net gain of 15,068 residents in the December 2021 quarter. As seen in the chart below, other states did not experience the dramatic highs and lows in net overseas migration as our two most populous States.

Queensland has been losing residents to net overseas migration for seven consecutive quarters, with South Australia and Western Australia continuing to lose residents. Interestingly, Tasmania and the ACT saw significant levels of net overseas migration gain in the December 2021 quarter. Tasmania's net gain of 1,484 residents from overseas is on par with their pre-pandemic net gains, possibly driven by an influx of international students and specialised workers.


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Interstate migration patterns are still vastly different within Australia

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, one of the most interesting demographic storylines has been internal migration, between States and Territories. It seems that for all States, the pre-Covid trends amplified, especially in the period since June 2021. New South Wales, for example, had been losing 5,000-6,000 residents to other States well before Covid-19 hit Australia, but this was offset by high net overseas migration gain. On the other hand, Victoria was hit with a "double whammy". Before Covid-19, Victoria gained residents from other States AND from overseas, but since March 2020 (and until the latest quarter), Victoria experienced the mentioned overseas losses as well as a loss of Victorians to other States within the country.

The December 2021 quarter for both Victoria and New South Wales saw very high levels of interstate migration loss. Without including natural increase (which was just above 10,000 for both States in the December 2021 quarter), Victoria gained 3,286 residents in the latest quarter of data through migration (+12,070 overseas, -8,780 interstate), whereas New South Wales only gained 560 residents through migration (+15,070 overseas, -14,510 interstate).

The big interstate migration winner continues to be Queensland. Even before Covid-19, Queensland was the most popular destination for internal movement within Australia. Since Covid-19, particularly as the second, third, fourth...(sixth?!) lockdown impacted Victoria and restrictions also affected New South Wales, residents from our two most populous States moved to Queensland. This trend continued in the last few quarters of data, with December 2021 being a record quarter where Queensland gained 19,247 residents via interstate migration. Even with a net overseas migration loss of 640 in the quarter, Queensland's total population gain of 25,256 residents between September and December 2021 was on par with pre-Covid population growth.

Although interstate migration in Tasmania is measured on a smaller scale than New South Wales, Victoria or Queensland, it has made a difference to the population of the Apple Isle. It continues a trend we wrote about even before Covid-19. Tasmania recorded only two-quarters of net interstate migration loss (June and September 2021). This is related to the State not experiencing prolonged Covid-19 restrictions or lockdowns, which in other States resulted in losses to other parts of Australia. Before March 2020, Tasmania averaged a quarterly net interstate gain of 295 residents. The latest December 2021 figures are above that, at +309. Coupled with the mentioned high levels of net overseas migration, Tasmania continues to be one of Australia's fastest-growing States.

Western Australia's interstate migration was positive for most of the period affected by Covid-19 and sometimes offset the net overseas losses. Interestingly, before Covid-19, Western Australia experienced interstate losses of around 1,300 residents per quarter, likely to eastern States and Queensland. However, from the September 2020 quarter, the trend reversed. Western Australia gained residents via interstate migration, partly because many ex-residents returned from other parts of (locked down) Australia and somewhat because fewer sandgropers left the wildflower state to venture eastward.

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Will the trend continue?

With this summary of our Census-revised estimated resident population and first quarter of overseas migration data since Australia began to open up to the world again, we do wonder how the next few quarters of data will look and which stories and trends will emerge. This information guides our understanding of Australia's population growth and informs the top-down components of our population forecasts.

We look forward to the next "National, State and Territory population" release in September 2022 when the March 2022 quarter trends will be revealed.

Census release: Australia’s population revised downward, major changes to state and territory growth rates

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 29/06/2022 - 1:49pm in



ERP revisions

Along with the first release from the 2021 Census, the ABS have released updated estimates for Australia’s states and territories and revised previous estimates for the last five years. These revisions shed new light on the stories we’ve been telling for state and territory populations.

With the release of the Census results on June 28th, 2022, the ABS have also released updated population estimates for Australia’s states and territories. These quarterly estimates are up to December 2021, and show a return to some growth in Australia. The population at 31 December 2021 was 25,766,605 people, an increase of 127,953 people (or 0.5%) from a year before. This is still a low rate of growth historically, but it has come back up from the historic lows of 6 months before, with borders starting to reopen around the end of the year and net overseas migration back to almost zero. (We’re not losing more people overseas than are coming in any more.) The natural increase rate was also a bit higher, with more than 310,000 births and 171,000 deaths for the year.

Here’s how it plays out at a state level.

Population December 2021
Annual change
Annual change %

New South Wales



South Australia

Western Australia


Northern Territory



So for the calendar year 2021, Victoria is the only state with a population decline. This decline is much smaller than previous, actually increasing in the final quarter of the year as lockdown restrictions eased. The lion’s share of Australia’s population growth remains in WA and Queensland, the only states seeing higher than 1% growth.

Previous population estimates have been revised against the new Census data

This isn’t the whole story, though. This release of quarterly population is the first one to feature rebased Census 2021 estimates. The Census has many uses, one of the key ones being ensuring the accuracy of annual and quarterly population estimates. While these estimates are not Census data in themselves, they do use the Census figures as a basis. And every Census, the past 5 years of population estimate data are revised by re-adjusted numbers using the Census as a baseline and post-enumeration survey to work out how many people were missed. The process for this is shown on the ABS website.

So everything from September Quarter 2021 back to September Quarter 2017 has been adjusted and will now differ from the figures we’ve reported on most quarters for the past few years!

The adjustments are benchmarked for the June quarter 2021 at the state level and here is what it looks like for the states and territories.

Population June 2021 (preliminary unrebased)
Population June 2021 (Census rebased)

New South Wales



South Australia

Western Australia


Northern Territory



Vic and NSW revised down

Overall, Australia’s population had been overestimated by around 50,000 people prior to the Census. But this difference was much greater at a state level. Both NSW and Victoria had been overestimated by about 100,000 people each. Victoria’s population had been declining, and has now also been revised downwards for many previous quarters.

Looking back through the previous data, this is not largely an overestimate due to extra losses from the lockdowns. The overestimating of Victoria’s population was already a sizeable 75,000 by December 2019, so ABS clearly thinks that they had overestimated the previous strong growth of Victoria’s population in the 3 years prior to COVID.

QLD unchanged

Queensland’s population they got almost exactly right, with very little adjustment. The state has been the fastest growing for several years.

WA, ACT, SA and Tas revised up

Western Australia has had a big revision upwards in population. It looks like the ABS didn’t previously factor in the effect of a highly mobile population who move towards the latest mining boom. This is the biggest upward numerical revision, over 67,000 more people in WA than was previously thought, or about 2.5% higher.

The largest adjustments in percentage terms are for Tasmania and the ACT, both underestimated by over 20,000 in populations of around half a million.

Reading through the notes on these adjustments, it appears that the trend of young people leaving Tasmania for the mainland was halted during the pandemic and many more stayed in the island state, bumping up the population (which wasn’t registered in the previous population modelling). This may also go some way to explaining the housing crisis faced by Tasmania. The revision is frankly enormous in a state that size. Tasmania’s population has just added a the equivalent of a city the size of Devonport (its 3rd largest city) more than we thought over the past 5 years. Population growth over 5 years was previously thought to be 4.3%, and is now 9.2%, more than double!

South Australia is another state with a big upward revision. The Census “found” an extra 30,000 people there, lifting their 5-year growth from 3.3% to 5.0%, largely due to stronger than expected interstate migration during COVID.

As with previous Censuses, these population revisions are quite significant, and underscore the importance of running a Census whose number one aim is to get a better understanding of the distribution of population for electorates.

Revising population estimates for local geographies

These revisions will flow through to smaller areas, including Local Government Areas, SA2s and suburbs as well. The June 2021 data for population estimates currently on our community (profile.id) sites is still un-rebased, and will be superseded by new data which is due for release on July 26th 2022. We’ll get that into the sites soon after it’s released. The state and territory figures above can give you an idea of the likely revision for your area; generally LGAs in states with a revision upwards are likely to be revised upwards, and those with a downwards revision are also likely to fall. Remember that when it’s revised, the past years 2017–2020 will also be adjusted, as will the corresponding growth rates for those years as well. Watch this space!

To keep up to date with what new Census data and other datasets are being updated in the .id toolkit, subscribe to our product and data updates channel here.

2021 Census data reveals the changing nature of Australia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 28/06/2022 - 3:09pm in



Highlights from the first release of data from the 2021 Census. What are the major shifts at the national level? What trends will you be reading about in the coming weeks and months?

After a long wait, the first release of the results of the 2021 Census of Population and Housing are finally here! The ABS has released about 75% of the datasets today, with more to come in October, and next March. We’ll be writing about this Census for some time, and updating all the .id sites for our clients over the coming weeks and months. But in the meantime, as widely reported today, here is our take on a few of the key national results from the Census.

2021 was a Census like no other. It was run in the middle of a pandemic, with Australia’s borders closed, and nearly half the population in COVID lockdown. It already shows in the data.

  • The 2021 Census recorded a total of 25,422,788 usual residents of Australia on Census night. This is an increase of 2,020,896 people since the 2016 Census. Despite the fact that the last two years of the 5 year period had lower population growth, this is the largest increase ever recorded in a Census count. Why? With closed borders, less people were temporarily overseas, and there was also a higher response rate (96.1% of all dwellings).
  • For the same reason, the number of overseas visitors in Australia declined by over 80%, from 315,000 in 2016 to about 62,000 in 2021. New Australian residents who were born overseas numbered just over 1 million (1,020,007), but this is less than the 1,324,435 who arrived in the period between the 2011 and 2016 Censuses. More of the population were counted at home on Census night, but still nearly 4% were away from their usual address on the night. Lockdowns in some states were offset by more people traveling within Australia where they were able to, rather than traveling overseas.
  • The net undercount in the Census declined to 0.7% of population. This is a combination of missing people and double counting others. The net undercount was lowest in NSW, Vic and the ACT – states primarily in lockdown over the Census. Despite having to use COVID-safe non-contact procedures for collection, the count was better simply because people were more likely to be at home. The ACT again had a net overcount: more people were counted twice than were missed! But the Northern Territory undercount was up to 6.0%, reflecting a worse undercount for the Indigenous population of the territory in particular.
  • 27.6% of Australians were born overseas, up from 26.3% in 2016 and 24.6% in 2011. The United Kingdom remains the largest country of birth outside Australia, but the largest increase was from India, which takes 3rd spot in total numbers behind Australia and the UK. China is next.
  • A widely reported increase in “millennials” aged 25–39 compared to “baby boomers” aged 55–74 is really just due to the ageing of the population and an influx of migrants in their 20s over the last 15 years. Baby boomers have reached their retirement years, and mortality has an impact at this stage as well.
  • The population reporting “no religion” or secular beliefs such as atheism and agnosticism has increased from 30% to almost 39% in 2021. This is another large increase – in 2016 this was partly due to a rewording of the religion question, but the question remained the same between 2016 and 2021, so it’s a clear population shift into this category.
  • Mandarin remains the largest language spoken at home after English. (The Indian population, though larger, speak a number of different languages.)
  • For the first time there is data on long-term health conditions in the Census. Nationally, approximately 8,063,000 people reported a long-term health condition or just under 1/3rd of the population. We will be rolling out a page for this on our community profile.
  • The population identifying as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander increased by 25% since 2016, and now comprises 3.2% of the total population. This is a similar increase in percentage terms to that seen in other Censuses, and is partly due to a high fertility rate and partly due to a greater propensity to identify as Aboriginal over time.
  • It’s been widely reported today that more than 1 million dwellings are “vacant” across Australia, with the usual commentary that speculators are buying up property and keeping people homeless, etc. Not to say that there aren’t issues with housing affordability and access in Australia, but the unoccupied dwelling data from Census doesn’t show that. The 1,043,776 unoccupied dwellings could be unoccupied for a variety of reasons, including people away on holiday just for the night. It overwhelmingly includes holiday homes in coastal areas as it always has, and the number is almost identical to 2016 (1,039,872) and therefore lower as a percentage given that there were almost a million extra dwellings in Australia in 2021.
  • Despite media reports about everyone escaping lockdowns by caravanning around Australia, there was a decline in the number of occupied caravans, cabins and houseboats counted in this Census, from about 96,000 in 2016 to about 88,000 in 2021.

For more information on the key outcomes at a national level, see the ABS media release centre.

Of course, the real Census story is in the small area data for Local Government Areas, suburbs, towns and districts across the nation, each with its own story of change to tell. We will be writing about these over the next few weeks, months, even years. Most importantly we have received data from the ABS and will be vetting it and loading it into all the .id sites, starting with the community profile and atlas sites as quickly as possible. The community sites have a banner on the home page, notifying our users of the pending update to the site. Each page will have an orange 2021 logo on it when it’s been updated, and that will become the default year, with the option of selecting from up to 4 or 6 comparison years, depending on the topic.

You can see our approximate order of rollout of the pages in my previous blog here.

Stay tuned, and sign up for our product updates where we’ll let you know what’s been updated and when. You can also read up on all things about .id and the Census on this page.

We have also been informed that Tablebuilder service, which allows us to build custom cross-tabulations will not have 2021 data available for some time, hopefully before second release. While this won’t affect the update of the community profiles and atlas sites, this will affect some consultancy work planned over the next few months. If you have requested any sort of analysis that could be impacted, our consultants will be in touch.

In the meantime, feel free to ask questions and comment on anything you’ve found from the ABS release in the comments section.

Heart Troubles: The Link between Cardiovascular Disease and GDP Growth

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/06/2022 - 4:02am in
by Taylor Lange

Heart disease is the leading cause of death and disability across the world. The Global Burden of Disease Study covers ten specific cardiovascular diseases and designates rarer ailments in an “other” category. The most prevalent and deadly diseases are ischemic heart disease, stroke, and hypertensive heart disease. In 2019, cardiovascular disease lead to the deaths of 18.6 million people globally.[i]


A cardiovascular Kuznet’s curve?


Is there a relationship between the prevalence of heart disease and economic growth? Economists from the University of Malta found that increases in per capita consumption—as opposed to GDP at large—in the EU initially caused increases in per capita mortality from cardiovascular disease before reaching a maximum. Thereafter, evidently, growing per capita consumption led to decreased cardiovascular disease mortality. The economists implied, in other words, that a “Kuznets curve” describes the relationship between GDP per capita and cardiovascular mortality.

More to the Story

While mortality is an important dimension of public health, so are incidence and prevalence of disease. In the Global Burden of Disease Study, incidence is defined as the number of new cases of a disease emerging each year, while prevalence refers to new cases plus cases continuing from previous years. Analyzing incidence and prevalence helps us develop a more holistic view of GDP’s relationship to public health and suggests that economic growth may be driving the pervasiveness of cardiovascular disease because of risks that accompany growth.

Risk factors for cardiovascular disease can be environmental or behavioral. One of the most prominent environmental risk factors for cardiovascular disease is ambient air pollution, which can cause a number of inflammatory responses and oxidative stress. Though many developed countries (such as the USA and EU) have decreased air pollution through regulation, political pressure for loosening such regulations is ever-present when GDP growth is a primary goal. Meanwhile, in countries with the most aggressive GDP growth policies, air pollution is hardly in check. In China, for example, air pollution increases the prevalence of multiple health conditions, including cardiovascular disease.

GDP growth can also bring cultural shifts in lifestyle that result in some increased behavioral risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The “big three” risk factors are dietary change, decreased physical activity, and smoking. With GDP growth often comes a reduction in physical activity and lower-fiber diets, increasing the probability of heart disease. On the other hand, smoking appears to be falling across the globe, though this is attributable to concerted global efforts to curb smoking, rather than increasing GDP.

Conflicting evidence, then, seems to muddle the relationship between GDP and cardiovascular disease. Mortality from cardiovascular disease appears to decrease after a certain level of GDP/capita, presumably due to investment in health services. On the other hand, environmental and behavioral risk factors increase. What do we make of this?

Incidence Rising

Cardiovascular disease data are available from the Global Burden of Disease Collaborative Network. The network compiles data from numerous national and subnational sources to estimate the impact of 369 diseases. My focus herein is on the global incidence of cardiovascular disease for all ages from 1990 to 2019 (the full extent of their data).

Global incidence of cardiovascular disease rose steadily throughout the study period, from 585 cases per 100,000 people in 1990 to 717 in 2019 (Figure 1). Global GDP rose substantially, too. The concurrent increase results in a tight correlation with a coefficient of 0.96. Such a high correlation coefficient (perfect positive correlation = 1) suggests a strong association between GDP and the incidence of cardiovascular disease.

The relationship is best visualized with a scatterplot. Using regression analysis, we determined the slope of the trend line. The slope indicates how many new cardiovascular disease cases arise per additional trillion dollars of GDP. The slope of this line, estimated at 1.65, means that an average of 1.65 new cases of cardiovascular disease arise per 100,000 people with every additional trillion dollars of global GDP. In other words, per capita heart health decreases with a growing GDP.

This trend is reflected at the national level, too, especially in China. Chinese rates of cardiovascular disease increased throughout the period and have a strong, positive correlation with GDP (coefficient of 0.95). This translates to 27 new cases of cardiovascular disease per additional trillion dollars of GDP. If this trend continues, the Chinese population will have over 16.6 million new cases of cardiovascular disease in 2025.[ii] That’s more patients with heart disease than the population of Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia combined.

Case rates in the EU and USA are different. Cardiovascular disease fluctuates around a decreasing trend until 2006 in the USA and 2009 in the EU, when the trend inverts and rates increase. This pattern is also present in the relationship between heart disease and GDP, and is a characteristic of a positive quadratic relationship, which is the opposite of a Kuznets curve. In other words, continued economic growth is likely to facilitate further increases in cardiovascular disease.



[i] All statistics referenced in this article come from the Global Burden of Disease Study unless otherwise noted:
Vos, Theo, Stephen S. Lim, Cristiana Abbafati, Kaja M. Abbas, Mohammad Abbasi, Mitra Abbasifard, Mohsen
Abbasi-Kangevari, et al. 2020. “Global Burden of 369 Diseases and Injuries in 204 Countries and Territories,
1990–2019: A Systematic Analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019.” The Lancet 396 (10258):
1204–22. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30925-9.

[ii] GDP and population projections for China in 2025 came from statistica.

Taylor Lange, CASSE's ecological economistTaylor Lange is CASSE’s ecological economist.

The post Heart Troubles: The Link between Cardiovascular Disease and GDP Growth appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

2021 Census update plans

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 30/05/2022 - 10:00am in



 the Census is coming

The ABS has confirmed the date for the first release of data from the 2021 Census. Read on for details on the release and how data will flow through to your .id information tools.

It’s not too late. If you work at a council without a community profile, reach out to us before the Census data lands: demographics@id.com.au

The 2021 Census of Population and Housing was conducted on August 10th, 2021. Since then we’ve been waiting patiently for the Australian Bureau of Statistics to process the data for release. This normally takes about 10 months, so we’ve been expecting a release date around June 2022.

Finally, we have a release date! The ABS has announced that the first release of Census data will be on June 28th, 2022. This will include a lot of datasets in standard ABS products such as Quickstats and also – more importantly for .id and all our clients – the underlying raw dataset. This forms the basis for the update of our demographic information tools, particularly our Local Government community profiles and social atlases, but also our population forecastshousing monitors and economic profiles. The Census data also support our living in place tool.

What is being released?

June 28th sees the release of raw data covering a majority of what’s collected in the Census. It’s about 75% of the data, at all geographic levels. This covers topics such as age structure, household types, education levels, incomes, cultural diversity, disability and health, housing tenure and unpaid work.

What’s not being released in June is everything to do with employment (industry, occupation, method of travel to work etc.), educational qualifications and internal migration (population mobility over 1 and 5 years). These topics need a bit more processing and are slated for the second release in October 2022 (no firm date yet).

There is a third release as well, which will include the SEIFA indexes and homelessness estimates – that’s expected early in 2023.

What is .id doing with the data?

Although .id represents local government users who cover nearly 80% of Australia’s population, we don’t get any early access to the data. We have an order in with ABS on behalf of all our clients but won’t receive the raw data until the day of release, June 28th, at 11:30am AEST.

We will start processing the data on that day. Because many of our geographic areas are non-standard (matching the needs of Local Government for local area data), it takes a while to build this new dataset in. We also need to do a lot of quality assurance to ensure that it works with the areas on our sites over past Census years. (We will have data from at least 5 Censuses on the community profile and some datasets going right back to 1991, which is 7 Censuses!). We also check that the categories haven’t changed and match what we have in the past. Lots of this work can be done ahead of the release, and that’s where much of our internal efforts have been going the past few months – but there’s always a lot of checking when the data actually arrives. We need to see whether the numbers make sense and our systems are processing it correctly. We also need to update all the text and write data notes including any caveats about using the data which arise from our analysis. The goal of all of this is to ensure you can have confidence using the data.

At this stage we are planning to release the Census data starting with the community profile sites topic-by-topic, with the first release planned within two weeks after June 28th, and additional topics added every few days after that.

The first release of Census data comprises 32 of the 38 topics in the main part of community profile (area profiles section), plus the new topic we’re all waiting for: Long Term Health Conditions. This will be a new topic, added to the “Who are we?” section. The remaining 6 topics are in the second and third releases, along with most of the specialist profiles (Migration, Journey to Work and SEIFA).

What order will topics be updated?

Generally, the most in-demand topics are arranged into groups that tell a particular story or theme, so it makes sense to roll out related topics as close together as possible. We also prioritise simpler topics so we can get more data online more quickly. From June 28 we’ll be looking update topics in this approximate order. (This order may change slightly depending on any discoveries made when the data arrives.)

Links below go to the Australia profile but it will apply to all community profile sites.

Topics which have been updated will show with a bright orange dot next to the menu item, like this:

Screenshot showing Census 2021 update highlights on a community profile site.

They will have 2021 as the time period of interest, with a choice of earlier years defaulting to 2016. When you switch back to a topic that doesn’t yet have 2021 data updated, it will show 2016 and 2011 by default.

Maps on the social atlas are planned to be updated roughly in parallel. Because atlas has a different geographic basis (SA1s) which can only be adjusted for the latest Census year, it will be necessary to turn off topics in the atlas which haven’t been updated yet, then turn them on progressively. We’ll try to do this as quickly as possible so our clients aren’t without key datasets for long.

Housing monitor clients can expect to see new housing stress and housing consumption data in the site by around September, along with our 6-monthly updates of real-estate prices and rents, with associated affordable sales and rental levels.

Our forecasting team will start work processing the data on June 28 as well. This blog outlines how Census data will flow into your population forecasts.

What about the second release?

The remaining 6 topics in profile, around Employment, Industry, Occupation and Method of Travel to work will be updated soon after the October 2022 second release. This will also include the migration profile by age and location, looking at where people moved over a 5-year period. Note that we already have the annually updated internal migration dataset which is current to June 2021 on all sites.

Some of our Local Government clients also have the Communities of Interest module with cross-tabulated data for smaller communities. This is a mix of first and second release, and is expected to be updated community-by-community from second release in October.

The second release also contains the Census data portions of our economic profiles, kicking off the work to update this tool as well.

The final dataset – SEIFA – is due out in early 2023. This dataset is very important for grant funding applications but requires a lot more analysis so it takes a bit longer to release. We’ll try to get it into the site very soon after release.

Keeping up to date as Census data comes out

We’ll be communicating regularly as Census data is rolled out across our various tools. To hear about these updates as they happen, join our updates mailing list.

We’ll also be in contact with all our clients to offer a briefing session on Census trends, and optional staff training in the use of the toolkit. After a Census update is often a good time to run this, virtually or in-person.

If you have any queries about the order of topics, the Census release, briefings and training, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us: demographics@id.com.au or your client manager.

Morality in the Womb: More than Meets the Mass’s Eye

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 13/05/2022 - 1:12am in
by Max Kummerow

With the recent leaking of the draft decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the heated controversy over a woman’s right to abort—or voluntarily terminate—a pregnancy is again at the forefront of democratic discourse. At the heart of this debate are issues of morality and theology. Self-identified Christians make up 63 percent of the U.S. population, with Evangelical Protestants and Catholics representing an overwhelming portion of the “pro-life” camp.

The question of when moral and legal obligations to protect a new life should begin has been pivotal to abortion politics and policy. Throughout history, four primary theories have been proposed to mark the commencement of a new human life:

  1. Moment of Conception

The moment of conception refers to when the egg and sperm unite to create a zygote with a unique genetic code. Those who hold that this is when life begins may argue for the prohibition of voluntary terminations or contraceptives used after conception, such as IUDs and hormonal methods that prevent pregnancy; that is, the implantation of a fertilized egg to the uterine wall.

  1. Quickening

The mother’s first sensation of the fetus moving—known as quickeningtypically occurs between 16 and 20 weeks after the last menstrual period, or roughly the middle of the pregnancy. “Animus, soul, or life enters the body of the unborn infant when it first moves or stirs in the womb,” said the great 11th century theologian Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas and the Roman Catholic Church viewed the animation of the fetus in the womb as evidence of ensoulment, or the moment when a physical body has been joined with a human soul.

  1. Viability

The age of viability refers to the time during pregnancy when a fetus could be born with a reasonable chance of survival. The time at which a pregnancy becomes viable is typically around 24 weeks; however, babies born around this time have an increased risk of disability and other complications. Most delivered before the age of viability do not survive because the lungs and other vital organs aren’t sufficiently developed.

In Roe v. Wade, the Court divided pregnancies into trimesters. During the first trimester, the woman has sole discretion to terminate the pregnancy. During the second trimester, states can regulate—but not outlaw—voluntary terminations for the sake of the mother’s health. The fetus becomes viable at the start of the third trimester, at which time states can regulate or outlaw terminations in the interest of the potential life, except when termination is necessary to preserve the life of the mother.

  1. Breath of Life

The breath-of-life theory is that a new life begins at the baby’s first breath. This theory reflects the Christian creation story in Genesis 2:7, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” This theory makes the most sense to me. When, as a child, I helped my uncle pull calves, some died and some lived. To live, they had to breathe. My uncle himself died eventually, precisely when his breathing stopped.

Even birth and breathing haven’t always granted an individual protection under the law. Infanticide was common throughout the Roman Empire and many other parts of the ancient world, and has been documented in 27 countries. For instance, China’s one-child policy, implemented between 1980 and 2016, resulted in a wave of female infanticide. Scholars who have extensively studied infanticide have found a positive relationship between income inequality and female infanticide. These researchers concluded that societies with extreme poverty may use infanticide to conserve resources, reduce financial strain, or improve the family’s quality of life.

A purple bus with a large banner covering the back with a smiley face reading "We're pro-life."

What does it really mean to be “pro-life?” (CC BY-SA 2.0, infomatique)

While there are some denominational differences amongst Christians regarding ensoulment and the beginning of life, we can safely assume that those against a woman’s right to choose believe this divine moment occurs sometime in the womb. Scripture, however, provides no guidance on voluntary terminations.

The closest The Bible comes to the topic is in Exodus 21:22-23, where Moses writes, “If two men are fighting, and in the process hurt a pregnant woman so that she has a miscarriage, but she lives, then the man who injured her shall be fined whatever amount the woman’s husband shall demand, and as the judges approve. But if any harm comes to the woman and she dies, he shall be executed.” If the embryo or fetus was ensouled, wouldn’t the men have received a more severe punishment according to the “eye for an eye” doctrine? Such is the case if the men kill the living, breathing woman. In other words, Scripture clearly implies that the fetus does not have a right to life equal to that of a breathing person.

The Science of Reproduction

Galileo begged the Inquisition to “look through the telescope” to see the truth about the solar system. Those against abortion services should look through a microscope to observe the lengthy, complex processes of conception and gestation. The authors of The Bible did not have the benefit of microscopy, and accordingly wrote nothing on the science of reproduction. To reconcile theology with science though, we must understand the biological facts of conception, fetal development, and birth.

First, the terms “moment of conception” and “beginning of life” are misleading, as these processes don’t occur in an instant. The actual beginning of life took place circa 4 billion years ago when DNA (or possibly even simple RNA, ribonucleic acid) first replicated. Some of the earliest “experiments” may have blinked out, but for several billion years—while innumerable organisms have died and species have gone extinct—life has continued with no interruption.

Nor is conception a “moment,” but rather a multi-step process—prefaced by episodes of meiosis and the production of male and female gametes—taking several hours for a sperm cell (male gamete) to penetrate an egg’s (female gamete) cell wall, stimulate the zona pellucida to deploy (preventing other sperm from entering), shed its axial filament (the “tail”), burrow into the egg, and redeploy genetic material until the collective 46 chromosomes have been linked into 23 pairs. By then, a fertilized egg (zygote) exists, ready for mitosis and another very gradual process of fetal development, but precisely when did the fertilization transpire? And is that unclear moment equivalent to “conception?” Or would conception be more appropriately consigned to the first mitotic division of the zygote?

One thing we do know is that only a relative handful of the quadrillions of potential combinations of DNA win the lottery, manifesting in zygotes and ultimately children. People across the political spectrum can agree that life is sacred, but even in the absence of abortion, most potential humans—even after conception—never experience the breath of life. While often tragic for aspiring mothers, stillbirths and infant mortality are nonetheless common features of human biology. In 2019, the U.S. infant mortality rate was 5.6 deaths per 1,000 live births. In poorer parts of the world, infant mortality is in the hundreds per 1,000 born.

Even with the advancements in medical technology, maternal mortality is still a risk everywhere. In the USA, the risk of death associated with childbirth is roughly fourteen times higher than that with legal abortion, making responsibly provided abortion significantly safer than childbirth. This is a point worth pondering for those who oppose abortion because they value human life, especially considering the Exodus distinction between the value of an adult woman relative to a fetus.

The Odds of Life

Charles Darwin discovered not only how species evolve via natural selection, but explained why organisms produce so many more than can survive. All species have an innate propensity to multiply. More specimens are born than can survive to adulthood; far more in the case of most species.

Meanwhile, the way organisms interact with and adapt to their environment determines their survival and reproduction. In this way, the most “fit” organisms (given the environmental conditions) begin to overtake less fit organisms, passing along more of their genetic code for traits ranging from eye color to blood type and even cognitive ability (which is influenced by genetic and non-genetic variables). The species evolves, in other words, and—assuming moderate rates of environmental change—becomes ever more fit or “successful.” One of the prerequisites of this progressive process is a surplus of specimens, from which the most fit are naturally selected.

Ensouled or otherwise, Homo sapiens is no exception. In the process of ovulation, an egg is released from the human’s ovary each month for roughly 30 to 35 years of fertility. This amounts to 350 to 400 chances of pregnancy. Of the roughly 300,000,000 sperm ejaculated during coitus, only around 200 reach the fertilization site in the oviduct. Even when one lucky sperm fertilizes an egg in the fallopian tube, half of fertilized eggs fail to implant in the uterus, becoming lost after conception and before pregnancy.

Table 1 reflects the reality of surplus reproduction from conception onward. Even given the substantial “drawdown” of zygotes and fetuses in 2020, there were 140 million births and only 59 million deaths, resulting in 81 million more people on Earth.

Table 1. Global Conception, Pregnancy, and Fetal Drawdown, 2020

Total in Millions
% of Conceptions



(Unintended Pregnancies)

Involuntary Termination

Voluntary Termination


To the best of my knowledge, no woman has ever experienced 350 or 400 pregnancies. Cases such as the Octomom (fourteen children) and the Radford family (16 children) are famous because of how extreme they are (although a Russian woman supposedly produced 69 babies in the 18th century). What if all women could have fourteen to 16 pregnancies during their 30 to 35 years of fertility? Should that be the goal of a pro-life movement?

No society, even those with early marriages and lack of contraception, has averaged more than a dozen births per woman. Contraceptives and other family planning services have allowed most societies to reduce births per woman to more manageable levels. It would seem eminently logical that maximizing the number of human lives is neither desirable nor moral compared with moderating reproduction for purposes of healthy, happy, and sustainable lives.

Choosing Life

One of the cornerstones of steady-state economics is democratically stabilizing population; another is achieving fairness and quality of life. For these purposes, access to contraceptives, comprehensive sexual education, and family planning services are needed.

Abortion rights protest with signs reading "Pro-choice is Pro-life"

Considering the wellbeing of all life forms—or all God’s creatures—pro-choice is  congruent with pro-life. (CC BY 2.0, Debra Sweet)

Better contraceptives and family planning services have already proven to reduce unintended pregnancies and abortions. In countries that restrict abortion, the percentage of unintended pregnancies ending in abortion has ironically increased from 36 percent to 50 percent over the past 30 years. In the end, if preventing the frequency of abortions is truly the goal, then widening access to sex education, contraceptives, and other forms of reproductive healthcare—even abortion itself—is the most effective course of action.

Ending abortions altogether, were it possible, would increase the number of children born each year by at least 50 million globally. These children would be born to families that, in many and probably the vast majority of cases, couldn’t afford them or are otherwise not prepared to assume the responsibilities of parenthood. Banning abortion would also increase maternal mortality and the presence of negative health effects in mothers and children.

In my opinion, an abortion should be considered a responsible parenting decision to the degree the pregnancy is unwanted. Unintended teen pregnancies are one of the leading circumstances for abortions in the USA. Among teens 15 to 19, 75 percent of pregnancies are unintended. Teenagers have many other chances (about 350 to 400) to be a mother when they are more prepared for the responsibility. An abortion allows the teenager to choose a better time to have a child who will grow up better cared for.

For a woman already with children, a decision to terminate an unwanted pregnancy lessens her family’s financial and psychological strain, and leaves more resources to be shared by her pre-existing children. In other words, terminating an unwanted pregnancy can reduce the burden on the mother, on society, and on the planet, or the fullness of God’s Creation for the faithful among us. In that sense, abortion too has a pro-life element.

Max Kummerow portraitMax Kummerow is a population activist and researcher, and author of the forthcoming book, Too Many People.

The post Morality in the Womb: More than Meets the Mass’s Eye appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

The Colorado River: Devoured by Growth

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 06/05/2022 - 12:49am in
by Gary Wockner

“The nature of consumption is the consumption of Nature” – Jordan Perry

Map of the Colorado River Basin

The Colorado River Basin, a life source for the Southwest, is being drained for growth. (CC BY-SA 4.0, Shannon)

The natural environment of the American Southwest is sending out a loud call of distress, but few people in positions of power are listening. Economic and population growth are straining nature, especially across the Colorado River Basin, which encompasses parts of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, Nevada, and California.

From 2010 to 2020, Colorado gained about 725,000 people, Arizona gained 760,000, and California gained a whopping 2.3 million. At the same time, Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico grew considerably, and the population even inched upwards in slow-growing Wyoming, the least populous U.S. state.

Similarly, the GDP of each Colorado River Basin state increased by two to four percent annually in 2017, 2018, and 2019. Despite the pressures of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, the collective GDP raced upward even faster.

Growth in the Southwest is largely due to state and local policies that incentivize, subsidize, or otherwise lure people into the area. A researcher could craft an entire career out of cataloguing pro-growth policies in just one state.

In Colorado (where I live), a succession of governors—including incumbent Governor Jared Polis—have promoted and celebrated every uptick in statewide GDP, consumption, and population. Thanks to these pro-growth attitudes and initiatives, the Colorado River Basin’s water, landscape, and biodiversity are continuously under assault.

GDP Goes Up, Water Goes Down

The Colorado River, which sustains over 40 million people across the Southwest, has been hit hard by climate change, drought, and resource exploitation. Nearly every month, news reports paint a worsening picture for river flow and the water levels of reservoirs. The two largest reservoirs in the USA—Lake Mead and Lake Powell, both on the Colorado River—are at their lowest levels in history with further decreases predicted.

Lake Mead levels are at historic lows.

Lake Mead water levels have dropped to historic lows. (CC BY-SA 2.0, Bureau of Reclamation)

The Bureau of Reclamation has announced “emergency” measures to increase Lake Powell’s water level so electricity turbines may continue spinning at Glen Canyon Dam’s hydropower plant. Meanwhile, California, Arizona, and Nevada have decreased their water diversions out of Lake Mead. Yet, as drought and climate change intensify, upper basin states—Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming—continue building more dams to support the growing population.

There’s not enough water to support the population and economy that already exists in the Southwest, but continued growth means stretching water supplies further by transferring water from farmers—who control about 75 percent of water in the basin—to cities. The city of St. George, Utah, for example, is struggling to find alternative water sources to accommodate growth. Officials recently warned that the “stalled water supply could put the brakes on the growth economy.”

The ecological health of river systems across the basin has been deteriorating for as long as I remember. Now, flows are at historically low levels, fish and aquatic life are suffering from low flows and warmer water, and pollution levels continue increasing. Furthermore, the parched landscape is burning more frequently and intensively, increasing the runoff of river-clogging soot and debris into the rivers and reservoirs.

Landscapes, Open Space, and Farms Disappear

Growth in the Southwest is devouring open space, farms, and wildlife habitats. A March 2022 comprehensive report, published by Numbers USA (which advocates for U.S. population stabilization) is titled, “From Sea to Shining Sprawling Sea.” The report offers state-by-state insights into the way growth is devouring the landscape in basin states. According to the report, from 1982 to 2017:

  • Colorado lost 1,126 square miles of open space, farms, and wildlife habitats due to growth and sprawl
  • California lost 3,420 square miles
  • Nevada lost 498 square miles
  • Utah lost 713 square miles
  • Arizona lost 1,744 square miles
  • New Mexico lost 1,018 square miles
  • Wyoming lost 251 square miles

Some policymakers and activists concerned about this loss of open land for growth argue that the solution is to pack people in more densely to reduce sprawl. However, as I have described in other columns and posts, dense housing increases the ecological footprint of growing economies and human populations as surely as sprawl does. The Global Footprint Network describes how Americans’ environmental impacts extend far beyond our housing choices and spatial arrangements.

Our ecological footprint includes the roads we drive on, the malls we shop at, and the pipelines that bring natural gas to our homes. It also grows with plane trips to Europe, electronic devices imported from China, produce shipped from South America, granite countertops sourced from Brazil, and even the various materials extracted to construct our houses. Any additional activity producing the goods and services we consume entails a larger ecological footprint.

Biodiversity and Habitat Fragmented and Diminished

In March, the New York Times published a series of maps illustrating the threat to biodiversity across the USA. The report included a disturbing image of nature being destroyed in the Southwest. Healy Hamilton, chief scientist at NatureServe, said, “There are hundreds of species known to be globally critically imperiled or imperiled in this country that have no protection under federal law and often no protection under state law.”

Panoramic view of a Southwest desert city overtaken by urban sprawl.

Natural landscapes across the Southwest are being overtaken by urban sprawl. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, scaredpoet)

The map shows the basin states as having some of the most imperiled biodiversity in the USA, most notably the Colorado River’s aquatic diversity. California—including Southern California, which receives Colorado River water—appears particularly stressed. The New York Times report quotes Wade Crowfoot, California’s natural resources secretary as saying, “We have this tremendous biodiversity, but we also have these major stressors, including that we built ourselves into the fifth-largest economy in the world with 40 million people.”

Several NGOs work throughout the Southwest to protect biodiversity. One NGO, Defenders of Wildlife, catalogues the biodiversity threats as “urbanization, agriculture, water diversion, fossil fuel extraction/conveyance/processing, and open-pit mining.” And, the so-called “green economy” is creating new threats.

Proposed lithium mines in Nevada and Arizona are some of the latest flashpoints of enviro-political controversy. These mines further destroy the landscape, pollute streams and rivers, and imperil biodiversity that relies on intact and healthy ecosystems.

America the Beautiful?

Given the extreme threats to water, land, and biodiversity throughout the Southwest, the U.S. government appears to be making an effort to manage the degradation caused by growth.

In May 2021, President Biden launched the “America the Beautiful” initiative with the goal of “conserving 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030.” Sometimes called the “30 by 30” (or “30×30”) campaign, this initiative has been broadly embraced by conservation leaders, nonprofit groups, tribal governments, and eleven U.S. states. Further, in April 2022, Biden doubled down on the campaign, pledging a $1 billion investment to bring the 30×30 campaign to fruition.

Beyond the 30×30 campaign, however, other U.S. policies are absurdly designed to pursue more growth. It will be increasingly difficult, if not completely impossible, to accomplish the goals of the 30×30 campaign if the U.S. population and economy continue to grow.

At local and state levels in the Southwest, we routinely see tax incentives for new businesses, subsidies to cut development fees, and aggressive marketing campaigns aimed at luring new residents. Eliminating these growth subsidies and pro-growth campaigns is critical for any semblance of sustainability, but that elimination is almost unheard of in any local or state-level discussion throughout the region.

Steady-state policies, including an ethical approach to stabilize population, are the only options that can protect water, land, and biodiversity across the Southwest. We’ve been warned, “The nature of consumption is the consumption of Nature.”

Gary Wockner, CASSE's Colorado River Chapter DirectorGary Wockner is CASSE’s Colorado River Chapter director, and an environmental activist and writer.

The post The Colorado River: Devoured by Growth appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.