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Research Report: Legal Australia-Wide Survey: Legal need in Australia
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Legal Australia-Wide Survey: Legal need in Australia  ( 2012 )  Cite this report

7. Finalisation of legal problems



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Predicting finalisation status of legal problems


This section describes the problem and respondent characteristics associated with whether problems were finalised or ongoing at the time of interview. A binary multilevel logistic regression model was fitted to examine the independent predictors of the finalisation status of legal problems. The regression compared problems that had been finalised to problems that were ongoing on the following variables: gender, age, Indigenous status, disability status, education, employment status, family status, housing type, main income, main language, remoteness of residential area, problem recency, legal problem group and strategy used in response to legal problems.(5)

Thus, the regression reveals the types of problems, strategies and demographic groups with lower levels of finalisation. Although regression analysis can be used to show where relationships exist, it cannot explain any relationships. Nonetheless, the regression on finalisation status helps to pinpoint the types of problems and demographic groups that may particularly benefit from initiatives that facilitate legal resolution, and it also helps to identify the strategies to be encouraged. For example, problems with lower levels of finalisation may be more serious, complex or intractable, or the pathways for resolving these legal problems may be less clear, more time-consuming or more difficult to navigate. Demographic groups with lower levels of finalisation may have a reduced capacity for resolving problems and may require additional encouragement, support or assistance to finalise their problems.

Table 7.7 provides a summary of the regression results on finalisation status for Australia. The regression identified problem group, strategy and age as the strongest significant predictors of finalisation status. In descending order of strength, main language, problem recency, disability status, Indigenous status, family status, housing type, main income and education were also significant. Gender, employment status and remoteness were not significant predictors of finalisation status. The regression results are further described in the sections below, with reference to the corresponding unprocessed or descriptive statistics.(6)

Table 7.7: Regression summary — finalisation status of legal problems, Australia

SIGNIFICANT VARIABLES
Variable Categories compared
Odds ratioa
Problem recency 7+ months | ≤6 months
1.2
Problem group Accidents | mean
4.3
Consumer | mean
1.2
Credit/debt | mean
0.6
Crime | mean
1.6
Employment | mean
-
Family | mean
0.4
Government | mean
0.6
Health | mean
-
Housing | mean
0.8
Money | mean
0.6
Personal injury | mean
1.4
Rights | mean
1.2
Strategy Sought advice | took no action
0.3
Handled without advice | took no action
0.6
Age 15–17 | 65+
2.2
18–24 | 65+
1.7
25–34 | 65+
1.3
35–44 | 65+
-
45–54 | 65+
-
55–64 | 65+
-
Indigenous status Indigenous | other
0.8
Disability status Disability | no disability
0.8
Education <Year 12 | post-school
0.9
Year 12 | post-school
-
Family status Single parent | other
0.9
Housing type Disadvantaged | other
0.9
Main income Government payment | other
0.9
Main language Non-English | English
0.7
NON-SIGNIFICANT VARIABLES gender, employment status, remoteness
a An odds ratio (OR)>1.0 indicates that the first category had significantly higher odds of finalisation than the second category. OR<1.0 indicates that the first category had significantly lower odds. The size of the OR indicates the strength of the relationship. E.g. OR=2.0 means that the odds for the first category were twice those for the second category. OR=0.5 means that the odds for the first category were half those for the second category, or, in other words, that the odds for the second category were twice those (i.e. 1/0.5=2.0) for the first category. See Appendix A2, ‘Data analysis: Significance and strength of predictors’ section for further details. ‘-’ indicates that the comparison was not significant.
Note: N=19 047 problems. Data were missing for 341 problems.

Legal problem characteristics

The recency of legal problems was related to their finalisation status. Problems that had started at least seven months prior to interview had significantly higher odds of finalisation than more recent problems. However, this significant association was relatively weak (1.2; see Table 7.7). In addition, unlike the regression results, the descriptive statistics in Table 7.8 show similar finalisation rates for earlier and more recent problems. This finding suggests that the somewhat higher finalisation levels for earlier problems become evident once the influences of the other problem and demographic characteristics are also taken into account.

Table 7.8: Finalisation status of legal problems by problem recency, Australia

Problem recency
Finalisation status
Total
Finalised
Ongoing
%
%
%
N
7+ months
63.5
36.5
100.0
10 346*
≤6 monthsR
64.9
35.1
100.0
8 865
All problems
64.2
35.8
100.0
19 211
R Reference category for problem recency in the regression.
* Significant difference (p<0.05) for problem recency in the regression.
Note: N=19 211 problems. Data were missing for 177 problems.

In addition, the regression results indicated that problem group was the strongest significant predictor of the finalisation status of legal problems at the time of interview (see Table 7.7). Significantly higher odds of finalisation than average were found for accidents (4.3), consumer (1.2), crime (1.6), personal injury (1.4) and rights (1.2) problems. The finalisation rates for these problem groups ranged between 68.0 and 86.5 per cent, whereas the finalisation rate for all problems on average was 63.9 per cent (see Figure 7.3).

Figure 7.3: Finalisation status of legal problems by problem group, Australia

R Reference category for problem group in the regression was the mean of all problems.
* Significant difference (p<0.05) between this problem group and the mean of all problems in the regression.
Note: N=19 305 problems. Data were missing for 82 problems.

Significantly lower odds of finalisation than average were found for credit/debt (0.6), family (0.4), government (0.6), housing (0.8) and money (0.6) problems, with the finalisation rates for these problem groups ranging from 36.1 to 57.6 per cent. Family problems had the lowest finalisation rate, at 36.1 per cent.

Strategy

Strategy was a significant, strong predictor of finalisation status. Compared to taking no action, both seeking advice (0.3) and handling the problem without advice (0.6) resulted in lower odds of finalisation (see Table 7.7). The finalisation rates were 80.1 per cent when no action was taken, 67.6 per cent when the problem was handled without advice and 56.8 per cent when advice was sought (see Figure 7.4).

Figure 7.4: Finalisation status of legal problems by strategy in response to legal problems, Australia

R Reference category for strategy in the regression.
* Significant difference (p<0.05) between this strategy and took no action in the regression.
Note: N=19 133 problems. Data were missing for 254 problems.

Demographic variables

Although problem group and strategy were the strongest predictors of finalisation status, most demographic characteristics were also significantly related to finalisation status. Age was the strongest significant demographic predictor, with the remaining significant demographic predictors having relatively weak effects (see Table 7.7). With the exception of people who had been unemployed and people living in remote areas, all of the disadvantaged demographic groups examined in the regression were less likely to have finalised their problems. In descending order of strength, compared to their counterparts, the following demographic groups had significantly lower odds of finalisation:
    • people aged 65 years or over (versus 15–34 year olds)
    • people whose main language was not English
    • people with a disability
    • Indigenous people
    • single parents
    • people who had lived in disadvantaged housing
    • people whose main source of income was government payments
    • people who had not finished school (versus those with post-school qualifications).

Hence, these demographic groups were significantly less likely to have finalised their problems, even after the characteristics of the problems (i.e. recency and problem group) and the strategies used in response to the problems were taken into account.

The descriptive statistics in Table 7.9 generally reveal a similar picture to the significant odds ratios from the regression in Table 7.7. Respondents aged 15–34 years had significantly higher odds of finalisation (1.3–2.2), when compared to respondents aged 65 years or over. The finalisation rate was 59.3 per cent for those aged 65 years or over compared to 65.8–81.7 per cent for those aged under 35 years.

Table 7.9: Finalisation status of legal problems by each demographic variable, Australia

Demographic variable Category Finalisation status
All problems
Finalised Ongoing
%
%
%
N
Gender Female
62.0
38.0
100.0
9 379
MaleR
65.6
34.4
100.0
9 927
Total
63.9
36.1
100.0
19 305
Age 15–17
81.7
18.3
100.0
812*
18–24
75.9
24.1
100.0
2 687*
25–34
65.8
34.2
100.0
3 860*
35–44
60.7
39.3
100.0
4 236
45–54
58.4
41.6
100.0
3 543
55–64
58.2
41.8
100.0
2 482
65+R
59.3
40.7
100.0
1 685
Total
63.9
36.1
100.0
19 305
Indigenous status Indigenous
60.9
39.1
100.0
386*
OtherR
63.9
36.1
100.0
18 919
Total
63.9
36.1
100.0
19 305
Disability statusDisability
57.7
42.3
100.0
5 077*
No disabilityR
66.0
34.0
100.0
14 229
Total
63.9
36.1
100.0
19 305
Education<Year 12
61.7
38.3
100.0
5 118*
Year 12
68.7
31.3
100.0
3 714
Post-schoolR
63.2
36.8
100.0
10 391
Total
63.9
36.1
100.0
19 223
Employment status Unemployed
65.8
34.2
100.0
2 891
OtherR
63.5
36.5
100.0
16 415
Total
63.9
36.1
100.0
19 305
Family status Single parent
52.3
47.7
100.0
2 205*
OtherR
65.3
34.7
100.0
17 101
Total
63.9
36.1
100.0
19 305
Housing type Disadvantaged
57.5
42.5
100.0
1 603*
OtherR
64.4
35.6
100.0
17 702
Total
63.9
36.1
100.0
19 305
Main income Government payments
57.7
42.3
100.0
4 859*
OtherR
65.9
34.1
100.0
14 446
Total
63.9
36.1
100.0
19 305
Main language Non-English
62.4
37.6
100.0
1 067*
EnglishR
63.9
36.1
100.0
18 238
Total
63.9
36.1
100.0
19 305
RemotenessRemote
69.0
31.0
100.0
462
Regional
61.6
38.4
100.0
5 720
Major cityR
64.7
35.3
100.0
13 123
Total
63.9
36.1
100.0
19 305

R Reference category for this demographic variable in the regression.
* Significant difference (p<0.05) between this category and the reference category for this demographic variable in the regression.
Note: N=19 223 problems for education and N=19 305 problems for other demographic variables. Data were missing where totals are less than 19 388.

Indigenous respondents had significantly lower odds of finalisation (0.8) than other respondents. The finalisation rate was 60.9 per cent for Indigenous respondents compared to 63.9 per cent for other respondents.

Respondents with a disability had significantly lower odds of finalisation (0.8) than other respondents. Respondents with a disability had a finalisation rate of 57.7 per cent, while those without a disability had a finalisation rate of 66.0 per cent.

Respondents who had not finished school had significantly lower odds of finalisation (0.9) than those with post-school qualifications. Similarly, the percentages were lower for respondents who had not finished school (61.7%) than for respondents with post-school qualifications (63.2%). However, the difference between these percentages was relatively small.(7) Thus, the lower finalisation levels for respondents who had not finished school become more obvious once the influences of the other problem and demographic characteristics are also taken into account.

Single parents had significantly lower odds of finalisation (0.9) than other respondents. The finalisation rate was 52.3 per cent for single parents compared to 65.3 per cent for other respondents.

Respondents who had lived in disadvantaged housing had significantly lower odds of finalisation (0.9) than other respondents. The finalisation rate was 57.5 per cent for respondents who had lived in disadvantaged housing compared to 64.4 per cent for other respondents.

Respondents whose main income was government payments had significantly lower odds of finalisation (0.9) than other respondents. Respondents whose main income was government payments had a finalisation rate of 57.7 per cent, whereas other respondents had a finalisation rate of 65.9 per cent.

Although respondents with a non-English main language had only a slightly lower percentage of finalised problems than other respondents (62.4% versus 63.9%), their odds of finalisation were significantly lower (0.7). Thus, the lower level of finalisation for the non-English group becomes more evident once the influences of the other problem and demographic characteristics are also taken into account.


5. See Chapter 2, ‘Method: Multivariate analyses’ section, and Appendix Tables A2.8 and A2.9 (model 7a) for further details.

6. See Appendix Table A7.1 for the full results of this regression.

7. There was no significant difference in the finalisation rates for respondents who had finished only Year 12 (68.7%) and respondents with post-school qualifications (63.2%), despite a somewhat larger percentage difference.

  


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Coumarelos, C, Macourt, D, People, J, MacDonald, HM, Wei, Z, Iriana, R & Ramsey, S 2012, Legal Australia-Wide Survey: legal need in Australia, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney