Trends in wellbeing for Māori families 1981–2006

Project commenced:

This project is contributing to the key policy area of whānau ora/ family wellbeing via new analysis of the wealth of data contained in the six national household censuses of 1981 to 2006. Indicators of family wellbeing have been developed to identify trends across 25 years with the team having produced several reports and publications on measuring changes and key factors affecting family and whānau wellbeing.


  1. To describe key changes in Māori household composition over a 25-year period using census data for a range of different household structures and characteristics;
  2. To assess changes in the levels of wellbeing of Māori households over the period 1981 to 2006;
  3. To assess current state of knowledge through comprehensive literature review of Māori families and households and their whānau ora;
  4. To provide an evidence base that is of relevance to policy makers to inform future policies for strengthening Māori families;
  5. To provide a foundation for a baseline against which future policies for strengthening Māori families may be assessed.

Written by Associate Professor Cindy Kiro, Martin von Randow and Andrew Sporle the report “Trends in Wellbeing for Māori households/families, 1981–2006” uses data from the Family Whanau and Wellbeing project based at COMPASS and was commissioned by Ngā Pae o Māramatanga. This report is the first to specifically concentrate on Māori whānau and households providing a framework for monitoring whānau wellbeing through the use and analyses of Census data. Given the wide and current interest in whānau ora, the report is a timely contribution allowing more informed public policy development around Māori whanau/households wellbeing.

Significant changes occurred in New Zealand during the period 1981 to 2006 and unsurprisingly, these had a profound effect on Māori whānau/families and households. Changes during this period have been documented by the Family Whānau and Wellbeing Project (FWWP). Many of the trends observed for the general population also apply to Māori whānau and households. However there are signifi cant differences and any generic application would hide the impact of changes during this period on Māori whānau/ households. This report focuses on Māori whānau/households and examines in greater depth the relationship between factors associated with wellbeing and the experience of these whānau/households during this period. The implications for policymaking practice and further research makes the availability of this information invaluable.

This report publishes findings derived from New Zealand Census data 1981–2006, and contextualises the information to illuminate relevant areas for current policy consideration. It is a timely contribution to a key policy area, namely whānau ora/family wellbeing. The report does not attempt to identify all of the policy implications from the fi ndings but instead is a basis for informing policy. Indicators of family wellbeing have been developed from data relating to six censuses to identify trends across 25 years. Reports and publications to date include: Family wellbeing indicators from the 1981–2001 New Zealand Censuses (Milligan et al., 2006); Measuring changes in family and whānau wellbeing using census data, 1981–2006: A preliminary analysis (Cotterell et al., 2008a); An examination of linkages between parental educational qualifi - cations, family structure and family wellbeing (Cotterell et al., 2008b), and a guide to using data from the New Zealand census: 1981–2006 (Errington et al., 2008). Information on housing, income, occupation and ethnicity, as well as specific areas such as smoking, are also included.

Unfortunately, census data are very limited and sporadic with regards to health, although there are other important sources of health information that will be briefly considered in this report to contextualise other findings relevant to hauora (health and wellbeing). These include the New Zealand Health Survey, the Child and Youth Epidemiology Service, the Youth Health Survey, and the Ministry of Social Development's Social Reports for the period 1981–2006. Other sources of information will be briefly examined from the following datasets: Survey of Family, Income and Employment (SoFIE); the Household Economic Survey (HES); the New Zealand Health Survey (NZHS); and the Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS). A thorough examination of the implications of these information sources for health and/or other wellbeing indicators for Māori remains to be done. Trends for Māori whānau/households include both positive and negative cycles, some of which are driven by external impacts such as international economic cycles, and some of which are internal cycles such as long-term demographic shifts and changes in social behaviours (Pool & Johnstone, 1999).The data considered here finishes in 2006, but where possible the latest data available from national surveys have been used to augment these trends.

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