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Research Report: Justice made to measure: NSW legal needs survey in disadvantaged areas
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Justice made to measure: NSW legal needs survey in disadvantaged areas  ( 2006 )  Cite this report

Ch 3. The incidence of legal events



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Demographic factors related to reporting legal events of any type


A standard binary logistic regression was conducted to examine the relationship between sociodemographic factors and experiencing legal events. The regression compared participants who reported one or more legal events of any type with participants who did not report any legal event on the following sociodemographic characteristics: gender, age, Indigenous Australian status, country of birth, disability status, personal income and education level.9 The regression was used to determine which of the sociodemographic factors were statistically independent predictors of reporting legal events of any type, after taking into account the interrelationships between these factors and their combined effect on reporting legal events.

Table 3.4 provides a summary of the regression results while Table C3 in Appendix C provides the full results. Table 3.5 presents the corresponding descriptive statistics.

The regression revealed that age, country of birth, disability status, personal income and education level were statistically independent predictors of reporting legal events (of any type). Gender and Indigenous status were not significant predictors of reporting legal events (see Table 3.4).

Table 3.4 shows the categories of each predictor that were compared in the regression (see column headed 'Comparison'). For age, people aged 65 or over were compared with each other age group. Table 3.4 presents the odds ratios for significant comparisons. It can be seen that all the age comparisons tested were significant. As noted in the Method section in Chapter 2, an odds ratio that is significantly greater than 1.0 indicates the first category in the comparison had higher odds than the second, whereas an odds ratio that is significantly less than 1.0 indicates the reverse. Thus, Table 3.4 shows that, compared with participants aged 65 years or over, all other age groups had higher odds of reporting legal events. Interestingly, the likelihood of reporting legal events tended to decrease with increasing age. More specifically, the odds of reporting legal events were approximately:

  • twice as high for 55 to 64 year olds (2.1) compared with the oldest age group
  • three times as high for 45 to 54 year olds (3.1) and 35 to 44 year olds (3.6) compared with the oldest age group
  • four times as high for 25 to 34 year olds (4.5) and 15 to 24 year olds (4.3) compared with the oldest age group (see Table 3.4).

Table 3.4: Summary of standard binary logistic regression for reporting legal events of any type
SIGNIFICANT VARIABLES
VariableComparison
Odds ratio a
Age (years)15–24 versus 65+
25–34 versus 65+
35–44 versus 65+
45–54 versus 65+
55–64 versus 65+
4.3
4.5
3.6
3.1
2.1
Country of birthEnglish speaking versus non-English speaking
1.5
Disability statusDisability versus no disability
1.7
Personal income
($/week)
0–199 versus 1000+
200–499 versus 1000+
500–999 versus 1000+
0.5
0.6
0.7
Education levelDidn't finish/at school versus university degree
Year 10/equivalent versus university degree
Year 12/equivalent versus university degree
Certificate/diploma versus university degree
ns
0.7
ns
ns
NON-SIGNIFICANT VARIABLES:   Gender, Indigenous status
a An odds ratio greater than 1.0 indicates the first category in the comparison had higher odds than the second.
An odds ratio less than 1.0 indicates the first category in the comparison had lower odds than the second.
Notes: N=1988 participants. Data on one or more potential predictor variables were missing for 443 participants.
'ns' indicates the odds ratio was not statistically significant, that is, the odds for the first category in the comparison were not statistically different from the odds for the second category (even though the overall variable was significant).

Table 3.5 shows that, whereas only 44.6 per cent of the oldest age group reported experiencing one or more legal events, over three-fifths of the other age groups reported experiencing one or more legal events.

Table 3.5: Reporting legal events of any type by each sociodemographic factor, all six LGAs, 2003

Sociodemographic factor
Participants reporting 1+ events
All participants
No.
%
No.
GenderFemale
840
69.7
1205
Male
839
68.4
1226
Total
1679
69.1
2431
Age (years)15–24
295
73.2
403
25–34
364
78.6
463
35–44
362
75.3
481
45–54
322
71.6
450
55–64
187
62.5
299
65+
148
44.6
332
Total
1678
69.1
2428
Indigenous statusIndigenous
59
73.8
80
Non-Indigenous
1444
68.6
2106
Total
1503
68.8
2186
Country of birthEnglish speaking
1448
70.2
2062
Non-English speaking
228
62.3
366
Total
1676
69
2428
Disability statusDisability
370
72.8
508
No disability
1305
68.1
1917
Total
1675
69.1
2425
Personal income0–199
307
62.7
490
($/week)200–499
549
67
820
500–999
511
74.3
688
1000+
190
79.2
240
Total
1557
69.6
2238
Education levelDidn't finish/at school
164
60.7
270
Year 10/equivalent
421
63.3
665
Year 12/equivalent
340
67.3
505
Certificate/diploma
316
77.3
409
University degree
431
76.1
566
Total
1672
69.2
2415
Note: Where the total for a given sociodemographic factor is less than 2431, data were missing on that factor.

The odds of reporting legal events were 1.5 times higher for participants born in an English speaking country than for participants born in a non-English speaking country (see Table 3.4). Whereas 70.2 per cent of participants born in an English speaking country reported experiencing legal events, only 62.3 per cent of those born in a non-English speaking country reported experiencing legal events (see Table 3.5).

The odds of reporting legal events were 1.7 times higher for people with a chronic illness or disability than for other people (see Table 3.4).

When compared with the highest personal income group ($1000 or more per week), each of the other income groups had lower odds of reporting legal events (see Table 3.4). The likelihood of reporting legal events tended to increase with increasing income, with the lowest income earners (under $200 per week) having the lowest incidence rate (62.7%) and the highest income earners ($1000 or more per week) having the highest incidence rate (79.2%, see Table 3.5).

The odds of reporting legal events were lower for people who had completed schooling only as far as Year 10 than for university graduates (see Table 3.4). Whereas 63.3 per cent of those who had completed schooling only as far as Year 10 reported a legal event, 76.1 per cent of university graduates reported a legal event (see Table 3.5).



A standard logistic regression was appropriate here because there was only one observation for each participant: each individual either reported experiencing at least one legal event or reported not experiencing any legal events.

 A standard logistic regression was appropriate here because there was only one observation for each participant: each individual either reported experiencing at least one legal event or reported not experiencing any legal events.


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Coumarelos, C, Wei , Z & Zhou, AH 2006, Justice made to measure: NSW legal needs survey in disadvantaged areas, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney