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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

3. Prevalence of legal problems



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Predicting prevalence of legal problems overall


This section describes the demographic characteristics that are related to the experience of legal problems.

A binary multilevel logistic regression was conducted to examine the influence of a range of demographic characteristics on the likelihood of experiencing legal problems in Australia. The regression compared respondents who experienced one or more legal problems (of any type) to respondents who experienced no problems on the following demographic variables: gender, age, Indigenous status, disability status, education, employment status, family status, housing type, main income, main language and remoteness of residential area. The regression was used to determine the demographic variables that are statistically independent predictors of the prevalence of legal problems overall.(10)

Table 3.5 provides a summary of the regression results for Australia on the prevalence of legal problems overall, presenting the odds ratios for all of the significant comparisons. Table 3.6 presents the corresponding unprocessed or descriptive statistics.(11)

Table 3.5: Regression summary — prevalence of legal problems overall, Australia

SIGNIFICANT VARIABLES
VariableCategories compared
Odds ratioa
GenderFemale | male
0.9
Age15–17 | 65+
2.0
18–24 | 65+
2.8
25–34 | 65+
2.8
35–44 | 65+
3.0
45–54 | 65+
2.4
55–64 | 65+
1.9
Disability statusDisability | no disability
2.2
Education<Year 12 | post-school
0.7
Year 12 | post-school
0.7
Employment statusUnemployed | other
1.6
Family statusSingle parent | other
2.0
Housing typeDisadvantaged | other
1.4
Main languageNon-English | English
0.6
RemotenessRemote | major city
-
Regional | major city
0.9
NON-SIGNIFICANT VARIABLES Indigenous status, main income

a An odds ratio (OR)>1.0 indicates that the first category had significantly higher odds of experiencing legal problems 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=20 585 respondents. Data were missing for 131 respondents.


As shown by the odds ratios(12) in Table 3.5, age, disability status and family status were the strongest significant independent predictors of legal problem prevalence in Australia. In descending order of strength, employment status, main language, education, housing type, remoteness of residential area and gender were also significant predictors. For the significant predictors, the demographic groups with higher odds of experiencing legal problems were:
    • 15–64 year olds (versus those aged 65 years or over)
    • people with a disability
    • single parents
    • people who had been unemployed
    • people whose main language was English
    • people with post-school qualifications (versus those with low education levels)
    • people who had lived in disadvantaged housing
    • people living in regional areas (versus those living in major city areas)
    • males.

Table 3.6: Prevalence of legal problems by each demographic variable, Australia

Demographic
variable
Category
Respondents
with problems
Respondents
without problems
All respondents
%
%
%
N
GenderFemale
48.4
51.6
100.0
10 491
*
MaleR
51.0
49.0
100.0
10 225
Total
49.7
50.3
100.0
20 716
Age15–17
42.6
57.4
100.0
1 044
*
18–24
54.9
45.1
100.0
2 500
*
25–34
56.1
43.9
100.0
3 519
*
35–44
58.3
41.7
100.0
3 707
*
45–54
53.3
46.7
100.0
3 547
*
55–64
47.0
53.0
100.0
2 923
*
65+R
30.7
69.3
100.0
3 477
Total
49.7
50.3
100.0
20 716
Indigenous statusIndigenous
54.4
45.6
100.0
348
OtherR
49.6
50.4
100.0
20 368
Total
49.7
50.3
100.0
20 716
Disability statusDisability
61.0
39.0
100.0
4 095
*
No disabilityR
46.9
53.1
100.0
16 621
Total
49.7
50.3
100.0
20 716
Education<Year 12
43.2
56.8
100.0
6 494
*
Year 12
47.9
52.1
100.0
4 146
*
Post-schoolR
54.8
45.2
100.0
9 945
Total
49.8
50.2
100.0
20 585
Employment statusUnemployed
63.5
36.5
100.0
2 179
*
OtherR
48.0
52.0
100.0
18 537
Total
49.7
50.3
100.0
20 716
Family statusSingle parent
69.3
30.7
100.0
1 486
*
OtherR
48.2
51.8
100.0
19 230
Total
49.7
50.3
100.0
20 716
Housing typeDisadvantaged
60.9
39.1
100.0
1 235
*
OtherR
49.0
51.0
100.0
19 481
Total
49.7
50.3
100.0
20 716
Main incomeGovernment payment
45.7
54.3
100.0
5 495
OtherR
51.1
48.9
100.0
15 221
Total
49.7
50.3
100.0
20 716
Main languageNon-English
42.9
57.1
100.0
1 398
*
EnglishR
50.2
49.8
100.0
19 318
Total
49.7
50.3
100.0
20 716
RemotenessRemote
50.1
49.9
100.0
491
Regional
47.3
52.7
100.0
6 394
*
Major cityR
50.7
49.3
100.0
13 831
Total
49.7
50.3
100.0
20 716
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=20 585 respondents for education and N=20 716 respondents for other demographic variables. Education was missing for 131 respondents.


Indigenous status and main income were not significant in the regression on the prevalence of legal problems overall.

The descriptive statistics in Table 3.6 reveal a similar picture to the odds ratios from the regression in Table 3.5. Females had significantly lower odds of experiencing legal problems (0.9), with 48.4 per cent of females experiencing legal problems compared to 51.0 per cent of males.

People aged 15–64 years had odds of experiencing legal problems that were 1.9–3.0 times as high as those for people aged 65 years or over. Only 30.7 per cent of the oldest age group experienced legal problems compared to 42.6–58.3 per cent of the other age groups.

Respondents with a disability had odds of experiencing legal problems that were 2.2 times as high as those for other respondents. The percentage of respondents experiencing legal problems was 61.0 per cent for respondents with a disability compared to 46.9 per cent for other respondents.

Respondents with low levels of education had significantly lower odds of experiencing legal problems (0.7) than those with post-school qualifications. Between 43.2 and 47.9 per cent of respondents with low levels of education experienced legal problems compared to 54.8 per cent of respondents with post-school qualifications.

Respondents who had been unemployed had odds of experiencing legal problems that were 1.6 times as high as those for other respondents (63.5% versus 48.0%).

The odds of experiencing legal problems were 2.0 times as high for single parents as for other respondents (69.3% versus 48.2%).

Respondents who had lived in disadvantaged housing during the previous 12 months had odds of experiencing legal problems that were 1.4 times as high as those for other respondents (60.9% versus 49.0%).

Respondents whose main language was not English had significantly lower odds of experiencing legal problems (0.6) than other respondents. The percentage of respondents experiencing legal problems was 42.9 per cent for respondents whose main language was a non-English language compared to 50.2 per cent for respondents whose main language was English.

Respondents living in regional areas had significantly lower odds of experiencing legal problems (0.9) than respondents living in major city areas. The percentage of respondents experiencing legal problems was 47.3 per cent for those living in regional areas and 50.7 per cent for those living in major city areas.

10. See Chapter 2, ‘Method: Multivariate analyses’ section, and Appendix Tables A2.8 and A2.9 (model 1a) for further details.

11. See Appendix Table A3.1 for the full results of this regression.

12. An odds ratio that is significantly greater than 1.0 indicates that the first category in the comparison had higher odds than the second category, whereas an odds ratio that is significantly less than 1.0 indicates the reverse. Also, the size of the odds ratio indicates the strength of the relationship. For example, an odds ratio of 2.0 means that the odds for the first category were twice those for the second category, whereas an odds ratio of 5.0 means that the odds for the first category were five times those for the second category. An odds ratio of 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 details.

  


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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