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Research Report: Data digest
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Methodology


This section outlines the analysis of data from legal assistance services.

For each service, data were collected on all inquiries for the following calendar years:
  • Legal Aid NSW Information/Advice Service 2000-2002
  • Legal Aid NSW Duty Solicitor Service 2000-2002
  • LawAccess NSW 2002
  • NSW Community Legal Centres 1999-2002
  • Chamber Magistrate Service 1999-2001.

The inquiry was the unit of measure for all data analyses. For each inquiry, available information was collected on the type of legal matter, the source of referral to the service, the destination of any referral resulting from the inquiry and the demographic characteristics of the person making the inquiry.

The demographic data collected comprised gender, age, country of birth, Indigenous Australian status, source of income and region of residence. The data available for each service are detailed in Appendix 1.

To allow comparison across services, data for each variable were mapped to common categories wherever possible. The type of legal matter was categorised according to the broad areas of Family, Criminal and Civil Law, and according to more specific areas of law within these broad categories.

Given that the focus of the Digest is on the type of legal matter and service user, there was no analysis of the type of assistance provided by each service (e.g. provision of information, advice, minor assistance or representation).4

The data analyses involved both descriptive and inferential statistics.

Percentages

Percentages are used to describe the inquiries to each service in terms of broad and specific areas of law, trends over time, and the demographic characteristics of the service users. The use of percentages rather than frequencies allows easy comparison across services of the type of legal matter and the profile of service users. The total number of inquiries to each service over the period of interest is provided in Appendix 1.

Indices of concentration

To examine whether the demographic profile of service users was similar to the demographic profile of the NSW population, indices of concentration (ICs) were calculated for each demographic variable for each service.5 The IC indicates the concentration of inquiry activity for a particular demographic group (e.g. females) relative to their proportion of the NSW population.6 An IC of 100 indicates that the proportion of inquiries by a particular group is identical to the proportion of this group in the population. An IC over 100 indicates that the proportion of inquiries from this group is higher than would be expected given their proportion in the population, and an IC under 100 indicates a lower proportion of inquiries than would be expected. The method for calculating the IC is provided in Appendix 4.

Rate of inquiries per 1000 population

To provide an indication of the relative number of inquiries from different regions of residence, the rate of inquiries per 1000 population was also calculated for each region. The regions of residence were categorised according to the Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC)7 where Statistical Divisions were used to define regions outside Sydney and Statistical Subdivisions were used to define regions within Sydney.

Chi-square tests

Chi-square tests were performed to highlight changes over time and differences in the nature of inquiries between demographic groups. The chi-square test is a non-parametric test that examines whether there is a significant relationship between two or more categorical variables with data in terms of frequencies. A brief description of the chi-square test is provided in Appendix 4. Results based on the chi-square test are indicated in the text.

For each service, wherever data were available, two-way chi-square tests were performed between the following variables:
  • broad area of law and year
  • specific area of law and year
  • each demographic variable (i.e. gender, age, country of birth, Indigenous Australian status, source of income, and region of residence) and year8
  • each demographic variable and broad area of law
  • each demographic variable and specific area of law
  • source of inquiry and year
  • source of inquiry and broad area of law
  • referral destination9 and year
  • referral destination9 and broad area of law
  • referral destination9 and specific area of law.

It is important to note that given that the broad area of Family Law could not be meaningfully broken down into more specific areas of law, in the chi-square tests ‘Family Law’ was included as both a category of broad area of law and as a category of specific area of law.

All of the significant chi-square tests reported in the text are statistically significant at the 0.01 level.10 Where a chi-square test found no statistically significant relationship between two variables, this is noted in the text.

Missing values

As already noted, the total number of inquiries to each service is presented in Appendix 1. Some of the inquiries to each service had missing information on one or more of the variables of interest. For example, information about demographic characteristics of inquirers is not available for information inquiries to the NSW Legal Aid Information/Advice Service and NSW Community Legal Centres. Each table/figure of results presents the number of inquiries that had valid data for the variables. The number and percentage of inquiries with missing values are presented in the note to each table/figure.

Where a variable had missing values in under 10 per cent of inquiries, the chi-square test was based on all inquiries with valid data for that variable. The treatment of variables that had a higher proportion of missing values is described in Appendix 4.

Organisation of the results

The results are presented separately for each service. It is not possible to aggregate the data from different services meaningfully due to the effect of an unknown incidence of ‘double counting’. That is, one person may approach a service a number of times or contact a range of services to seek help.

There is also considerable variation in how agencies define the type of assistance provided. For a discussion of variations in service definitions, see Scott, S. and C. Sage, Gateways to the Law: an Exploratory Study of how Non-profit Agencies Assist Clients with Legal Problems, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney, 2000, pp. 2427.
Indices of concentration were calculated for all demographic variables except for source of income.
Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2001 Census Basic Community Profile and Snapshot: New South Wales, 2001, <http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/>.
Australian Bureau of Statistics, National Localities Index, Australia: Localities & Streets Indexes and Explanatory Notes for ASGC 2002, Catalogue No. 1252.0, <http://www.ausstats.abs.gov.au/>.
That is a separate chi-square test was performed between gender and year, age and year, country of birth and year, etc.
Not referred was included as a category of referral destination in the chi-square test.
Given the Digest is written for a lay audience, the chi-square scores, associated degrees of freedom and significance levels are not reported in the text.

 There is also considerable variation in how agencies define the type of assistance provided. For a discussion of variations in service definitions, see Scott, S. and C. Sage, Gateways to the Law: an Exploratory Study of how Non-profit Agencies Assist Clients with Legal Problems, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney, 2000, pp. 2427.
 Indices of concentration were calculated for all demographic variables except for source of income.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2001 Census Basic Community Profile and Snapshot: New South Wales, 2001, <http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/>.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, National Localities Index, Australia: Localities & Streets Indexes and Explanatory Notes for ASGC 2002, Catalogue No. 1252.0, <http://www.ausstats.abs.gov.au/>.
 That is a separate chi-square test was performed between gender and year, age and year, country of birth and year, etc.
 Not referred was included as a category of referral destination in the chi-square test.
10  Given the Digest is written for a lay audience, the chi-square scores, associated degrees of freedom and significance levels are not reported in the text.


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Scott, S, Eyland, A , Gray, A, Zhou, A & Coumarelos, C 2004, Data digest, a compendium of services usage data from NSW legal assistance and dispute resolution services 1999-2002, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney, 2004