Manufacturing the news at the NZ Herald

Rachel Cunliffe has blogged at the Stats Chat blog about  the latest manufactured news story in the NZ Herald.

It really is too funny that they contradict their own story saying something completely different from May.

The most-read story on the NZ Herald right now is “Cost of home dream in Auckland –19 incomes. Only six months ago, the NZ Herald published an infographic which showed that a median house costs 6.9 times the annual median household income in Auckland. It’s enough to make anyone confused.

The new article says:

“It would take 19 median incomes in Auckland to buy a home for the city’s median house price.

In the 1,119,195 Census forms filled out for Auckland, the median annual income was $29,600, a Herald analysis found.”

I checked with the Stats NZ Census figures (Excel spreadsheet) and found the $29,600 figure is for the usually resident population count aged 15 years and over. In other words, this includes everyone who is not in paid employment: all the students, retirees, parents who are staying at home, those on benefits and not working etc.   

Using Statistics New Zealand’s income survey data for the June 2013 quarter (Excel spreadsheet), the median earnings for people in paid employment was $45,864. This figure is only from those earning wages and salaries and/or self-employment income.

Strictly speaking, the median house price we’re comparing to should be for the same period but for now, I’m using the June 2013 median Auckland house price from the Real Estate Institute (PDF): $555,000.

So, differing from an earlier story substantially, using dreadfully wrong statistics? Sounds like a fit up to me.

This means the statement could be revised to:

“It would take 12 median incomes in Auckland to buy a home for the city’s median house price.”

However, this misses the point that the accepted method is to look at median household incomes. Statistics New Zealand recommends a more complex calculation:

The ratio of housing cost to income is often used as a way of measuring affordability. Here, the ratio is calculated as housing cost as a proportion of disposable household income (income after tax). A housing cost to income ratio of 25 percent has been used as a threshold for the purpose of comparing groups. This threshold is widely used both nationally and internationally.

Again, using Statistics New Zealand’s income survey data for the June 2013 quarter, the median household income was $70,616 for the Auckland region (NZ.STAT tool).

This means the statement could be revised to:

“It would take 7.9 median household incomes in Auckland to buy a home for the city’s median house price.”

Comparing simple figures from New Zealand with overseas without taking into consideration tax and the cost of living really isn’t meaningful. Further, the mixing of means and medians means that they are not comparing like with like…

It’s easy to use figures to make things seem much worse than they actually are.

So a complete fabrication to fit the narrative the media wanted. It is outrageous to use averages vs means in order to prove a spurious point in any case.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

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