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Economics student wins Statistics NZ Jacoby Prize for research

11 August 2017

Waikato economics PhD student Omoniyi Alimi

Waikato economics doctoral student Omoniyi Alimi has been awarded the Statistics New Zealand Jacoby Prize 2017 for his research paper on ageing and income inequality in New Zealand.

The $500 Jacoby Prize is awarded by the Population Association of New Zealand (PANZ) for the best report on a New Zealand-related population topic written during a course of university study.

The competition is open to tertiary students throughout New Zealand who present a paper based on their student research at the biennial PANZ Conference. Omoniyi's winning paper will also be published in the New Zealand Population Review journal.

Read the full paper online at

Omoniyi is an international PhD student from Nigeria, who arrived at Waikato University in 2011 to complete a Graduate Diploma in Economics (2013). This was followed by a Master of Management Studies in Economics (2014) and now his PhD.

Omoniyi's research paper, co-authored with Dr David Mare (Motu Research) and Professor Jacques Poot (University of Waikato) examines the impact of New Zealand's ageing population on the distribution of personal income between urban and rural areas, and across different age groups, by looking at census data from 1986 to 2013.

The research found that New Zealand stands out among developed countries as having seen relatively fast income inequality growth in recent decades.

However, our ageing population - particularly in rural areas - has slowed down overall inequality growth, largely due to a declining share of younger workers, who have lower average incomes and high income inequality.

Metropolitan areas such as Auckland and Wellington have experienced rapid growth in inequality but slower rates of ageing, while rural areas have had slow growth in inequality and faster ageing.

The slower ageing of the population in these large cities has made only a small contribution to the faster growing inequality in metropolitan areas as compared with smaller towns and minor cities.

Overall, income inequality in New Zealand grew by 18% between 1986 and 2013. Against this, urban areas saw a 25% increase in inequality, compared with only 2% growth in non-urban areas.

The research paper will also appear as a chapter in a new book called 'Modelling Aging and Migration Effects on Spatial Labor Markets' (Springer), edited by U. Blien, K. Kourtit, P. Nijkamp & R. Stough.

Key facts:

  • For all urban areas of New Zealand, the 65+ age group grew from 15 to 18% of the population between 1986 and 2013, while young people aged 15-24 fell from 22 to just 14% of the population over that same time period.
  • Income inequality grew by 18% between 1986 and 2013 - particularly between 1991-2001 and 2006-2013.
  • The proportion of the 65+ age group participating full-time in the labour force in urban areas rose from 3 to 11% between 1986 and 2013. This change led to an increased dispersion of income between those mostly relying on superannuation and those still in paid work.
  • The opposite effect happened at the other end of the scale, where those in the 15-24 age group experienced a reduction in labour force participation, due to spending more time in education and formal training.
  • Across all urban areas, the relative income of those aged 15 to 24 dropped from 71% of average income in 1986 to just 42% of average income in 2013. By contrast, the 45-64 and 65+ groups increased their relative incomes by 10 and 2 percentage points respectively.


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