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2018 Census data allows users to dive deep into New Zealand’s diversity  Media release

21 April 2020

The changing face of New Zealand can be seen in the 2018 Census data released recently, Stats NZ said today.

Twenty-three tables, which cover the themes of ethnicity, culture, and identity, were released on 9 April 2020 (see 2018 Census – NZ.Stat tables).

“The data in the tables reflects New Zealand’s very diverse population,” senior manager census data delivery Susan Hollows said.

“The tables draw from across the three most recent censuses (2006, 2013, 2018) and across the geographic space of New Zealand, showing the richness in histories, origins, ethnicities, languages, and religions in New Zealand.”

Number of people born overseas increasing

“In an era of increasing globalism, people born in almost every country in the world are making New Zealand their home,” Mrs Hollows said.

In 2018, among the census usually resident population, more than a quarter (27.4 percent) were born overseas, following the upward trend from 22.9 percent in 2006 and 25.2 percent in 2013.

Source countries of migrants have changed, however, with people born in the Pacific prominent among migrant labour flows from the 1950s to 1970s, and people born in Asian countries being more prominent since the 1980s.

The Auckland region is home to one third (33.4 percent) of the total New Zealand population and just over half (50.7 percent) of New Zealanders who were born overseas.

According to the 2018 Census, 3,370,122 of the people living in New Zealand on 6 March were born here.

Ethnic diversity of Kiwis also increasing

“The data shows people not only arriving for work and education opportunities, but also staying and raising families here,” said Mrs Hollows.

By 2018, two thirds (66.4 percent) of New Zealand’s Pacific population was born here, contrasting with under one quarter (23.0 percent) of people of Asian ethnicities. Notably, people in younger age groups are much more likely to have been born in New Zealand; 86.2 percent of Pacific children aged 10 to 14 years were New Zealand-born, with 58.0 percent of children of Asian ethnicities in the same age group born in New Zealand.

Middle Eastern, Latin American and African ethnicities (MELAA) are a small but fast-growing, diverse group, totalling 70,332 people in 2018. Members of this group are putting down roots in New Zealand, with 23.0 percent of people who identified in this group in 2018 born in New Zealand, compared with 18.9 percent in 2006.

There were 775,836 people who identified as Māori in 2018, with 98.0 percent born in New Zealand. Among the growing number born overseas, more than two thirds (68.1 percent) were Australian-born, with a further 11.8 percent born in the United Kingdom.

A melting pot of people of multiple ethnicities

It is not uncommon for people to change their ethnic identification, adopt additional ethnicities as their lives and families broaden or they learn more about their heritage, or locate themselves within multi-ethnic environments. New Zealand is no exception to this.

The 2018 Census showed that 13.0 percent of the population identified with more than one ethnicity, for example: Niuean and Samoan. A person who answered this way would have had their ethnicity counted once for Niuean and once for Samoan, but would only have been counted once in the Pacific grouping. Groupings of ethnicities are used to place people into broad categories such as Pacific, Asian, or European.

In the 2018 Census, 11.4 percent of people reported ethnicities in more than one of the major groupings, for example, both European and Māori.

The simplicity of these figures understates the underlying diversity among the New Zealanders represented by them. More than half (54.5 percent) of people of Māori ethnicity identified with at least one other ethnicity, and over two thirds (69.8 percent) of Māori children aged 0 to 4 years were identified as having at least one other ethnicity.

This contrasts with our Pasifika communities, which have two major components: the longer established Polynesian communities with high proportions of people with multiple ethnicities, and the newer labour migration flows from other parts of the Pacific such as Vanuatu, Tuvalu, and Kiribati.

The Asian population illustrates a pattern typical of new migration flows, with most of the people indicated as having multiple ethnicities being children and young adults.

Ethnic make-up of New Zealand

New Zealand has a very diverse population with many intersecting cultures. Groupings of ethnicities, such as Pacific or Asian, are often described as though they are separate populations, when the reality presented by the data is that they clearly are not. Each of the groupings of ethnicities are made up of many diverse communities with diverse histories.

As we have seen from these tables, these communities overlap in important ways, reflecting inter-ethnic partnering and child-bearing, and ethnic mobility as social environments change. People may have more than one ethnicity and these connections extend both within and across different groupings of ethnicities.

“The information we can draw from this rich data set is fundamental to our understanding of the ethnicity and culture of New Zealand’s current population, and will become an important tool for the future,” Mrs Hollows said.

Mapping our diversity

We have also used information from the 2018 Census to create an interactive map of ethnic density in New Zealand. The new tool uses dot density mapping to visualise how many census respondents have identified with any of the five major groupings of ethnicity in New Zealand: Asian, European, Māori, Middle Eastern/Latin American/African (MELAA), and Pacific.

The maps use publicly available 2018 Census data that has been confidentialised. The dot density technique places dots randomly within a geographic area (in this instance, our smallest unit of geography, Statistical Area 1). The dots reflect the counts of responses people have given in each of the five represented ethnic groups. One dot represents no fewer than three individual responses and does not imply an actual location.

See Population density & diversity in New Zealand to view and interact with the map.

About the 2018 Census dataset

We combined data from the census forms with administrative data to create the 2018 Census dataset, which meets Stats NZ’s quality criteria for population structure information.

We added real data about real people to the dataset where we were confident the people should be counted but hadn’t completed a census form. We also used data from the 2013 Census and administrative sources and statistical imputation methods to fill in some missing characteristics of people and dwellings.

Data quality for 2018 Census provides more information on the quality of the 2018 Census data. An independent panel of experts has assessed the quality of the 2018 Census dataset. The panel has endorsed Stats NZ’s overall methods and concluded that the use of government administrative records has improved the coverage of key variables such as age, sex, ethnicity, and place. The panel’s Initial Report of the 2018 Census External Data Quality Panel (September 2019), assessed the methodologies used by Stats NZ to produce the final dataset, as well as the quality of some of the key variables. Its second report 2018 Census External Data Quality Panel: Assessment of variables (December 2019) assessed an additional 31 variables.

In its third report, Final report of the 2018 Census External Data Quality Panel (February 2020), the panel made 24 recommendations, several relating to preparations for the 2023 Census. Along with this report, the panel, supported by Stats NZ, produced a series of graphs summarising the sources of data for key 2018 Census individual variables, 2018 Census External Data Quality Panel: Data sources for key 2018 Census individual variables.

The Quick guide to the 2018 Census outlines the key changes we introduced as we prepared for the 2018 Census, and the changes we made once collection was complete.

The geographic boundaries are as at 1 January 2018. See Statistical standard for geographic areas 2018.

Definitions and metadata

The birthplace variable is rated as high quality. Information by variable has more information eg definitions, and data quality.

The ethnicity variable is rated as high quality. Information by variable has more information eg definitions, and data quality. Where a person reported more than one ethnic group, they were counted in each applicable group.

2018 Census – DataInfo+ provides information about methods, and related metadata.

2018 Census information by variable and quality – DataInfo+ provides information about the variables and their quality.

Data quality ratings for 2018 Census variables provides information on data quality ratings.

MIL OSI