The relative mobility status of Indigenous Australians: Setting the research agenda




Taylor, John
Bell, Martin

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Canberra, ACT : Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR), The Australian National University


A project under way at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research aims to establish, for the first time, comparative national parameters of Indigenous population mobility with particular reference to four distinct mobility perspectives, namely: the overall propensities to migrate, the net effect of migration on spatial redistribution, patterns of migration flow and resulting spatial networks, and the spatio-temporal sequence of individual movements over the life course. The first step in this process, presented here, involves a comprehensive review of the scope and content of existing research on Indigenous and non-Indigenous population mobility. This summary examination is necessary to identify gaps in understanding and thereby outline likely priorities for future research. The results show that quite different concerns and methodologies are evident in the literature on Indigenous population mobility compared with that pertaining to the movement of the Australian population generally. This, in part, reflects the often distinct cultural, demographic and economic contexts in which mobility occurs, but it is also indicative of a variable disciplinary bias in the analysis of migration. Major deficiencies are revealed in understanding some of the basic facets of Indigenous movement propensities and spatial redistribution relative to what is known for the rest of the population. As far as information regarding migration flows and the sequence of population movements is concerned, this deficit is commonly shared. In order to overcome these gaps in understanding standard techniques of migration analysis using census data are proposed. This paper considers the determinants of employment income for Indigenous Australians compared with non-Indigenous Australians. Ordinary Least Square (OLS) regression techniques are applied to 1991 Census data to consider the question: does the lower income of these Indigenous people reflect differences in their factor endowments (like education) rewarded in the labour market, or are they rewarded differently for the same set of endowments than are non-Indigenous Australians. The results show that the main source of lower incomes for Indigenous Australians was their smaller endowment of human capital characteristics. The paper concludes with a discussion of the policy implications of these results.






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Open Access

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