One of the frustrations of public policy is when a single issue is examined and presented as a holistic assessment.  For example, there is a common belief that there is an inverse relationship between household income and distance from the CBD leading to social disadvantage and “Mad Max Suburbs.”  Whilst there is correlation in some states, the data for Perth suggests that there are many other factors at play in relation to social disadvantage and indeed where people choose to live.

The ABS Index of Relative Socio-economic Advantage and Disadvantage (IRSAD) summarises information about the economic and social conditions of people and households within an area, based on nearly thirty criteria.

The higher the IRSAD score the more the advantage and, as you would expect, the eight areas sitting on the maximum 100 points included Peppermint Grove and Dalkeith plus surprisingly, if you believe distance leads to disadvantage, Burns Beach which is 33km north of the CBD.

Other “surprises” in the list include at 99 points Piara Waters (28km), Aubin Grove (26km) and Jindalee (41km). Subiaco comes in at 91 points.

The list shows new affordable suburbs, which are a significant distance from the CBD, rating well with Secret Harbour at 92 points (62km), Baldivis at 84 points (45km), Butler at 69 points (41km) and Ellenbrook at 67 points (28km).  The scale goes down to 1 point, with the most disadvantaged in WA living in small regional towns.

It is clear from the ABS data that distance from the CBD is not the sole link to social advantage/disadvantage, or indeed the choice about where we live.  The Grattan Institute’s latest report “Productive Cities: Opportunity in a Changing Economy” indicates that amenity may be a significant factor, with the coast and river popular locations.

The Grattan report also indicates that choice of workplace remains a reality in Perth with the vast majority of residents being able to reach more than half the jobs in the metropolitan area within a 45 minute peak hour car trip (2011 data).  Further it showed that the employment to job ratio is not strongly linked to distance from the CBD rather it relates more strongly to the level social disadvantage.

By national and international standards Perth is performing well in terms of trip times to work, but that is little comfort when you are stuck in traffic on your way to work in the morning.