The interviews of the sample survey on the income and wealth of Italian households in 2012 were conducted between January and August 2013.
The sampling scheme was the same as that used in the previous surveys. The sample of 8,151 households was slightly larger than in 2008 and 2010 (7,977 and 7,951 respectively). The households were drawn from the registry office records of 371 municipalities; they comprised 20,022 persons, including 12,986 income recipients.
The core questionnaire was substantially the same as that used in the previous survey. Monographic sections concerned expectations about incomes and real and financial asset prices, as well as household expenses.
The survey found that the number of single-member households continued to rise, accounting for 28.3 per cent of the sample compared with 24.9 per cent in 2010; in 1991, they had made up 16.1 per cent of the total. The number of couples decreased. The share of households headed by persons born abroad rose from 8.6 to 9.4 per cent; in 1991 it had been 1.1 per cent.
The reported economic conditions of the sample households worsened between 2010 and 2012, in part reflecting subjective assessments of property market developments, which were more negative than actual housing market transactions. Respondents’ perceptions of a marked fall in the value of buildings affected important figurative components of income, and in particular the imputed rental income that owners estimated they could earn if they decided to rent their property out. Nominal average annual household income fell by 7.3 per cent compared with 2010, average equivalent income by 6 per cent. Average wealth declined by 6.9 per cent. These figures need to be interpreted cautiously, however. The confidence intervals of the estimates are relatively broad; the negative view of trends in some income and wealth components was presumably accentuated by the low level of confidence and by the state of the labour market when the interviews were conducted, which differed from the period to which the survey referred.
Equivalent income, a measure that takes the size and composition of households into account, was €17,800 per individual (about €1,500 a month). Monthly income was higher for university graduates (€2,350), managers (€2,700) and entrepreneurs (€2,550), lower for production workers (€1,200), people living in the South (€1,100) and those born abroad (€950). In the middle were clerical workers (€1,900), self-employed workers (€1,700) and pensioners (€1,700). By age, individual income first rises from €1,250 a month for persons up to age 18 to €1,800 for those aged 55-64, then slips to €1,700 for those 65 and older.
The relative decline in equivalent income between 2010 and 2012 was pronounced among the self-employed (from 144 to 138 per cent of the average), while payroll employees and persons of non-working status held roughly stable at 109 and 91 per cent respectively. Only pensioners improved their relative position, from 108 to 114 per cent of the average. The decline in relative equivalent income involved all age groups except the elderly, whose income rose from 106 to 114 per cent of the average.
In the last twenty years the equivalent income of the elderly has risen from 95 to 114 per cent of the average. The relative position of persons aged 55-64 has also improved, by 18 percentage points. The equivalent income of younger age groups has fallen significantly below the average, registering a drop of 15 percentage points for 19-34-year-olds and of about 12 points for people aged 35-44. The relative income of employees has fallen, while that of the self-employed and above all of pensioners has risen.
The concentration of income continued. The Gini index of equivalent incomes rose from 32.9 to 33.3; in 2008 it was 32.7. The relative poverty rate – conventionally defined as the percentage of individuals with equivalent income of less than half the median – was 14.1 per cent, slightly lower than in 2010; it was 24.7 per cent in the South and above 30 per cent among persons born abroad.
Households’ net wealth, i.e. the sum of real assets (property, businesses and valuables) and financial assets (deposits, government securities, shares, etc.) net of financial liabilities (mortgage loans and other debts), had a median value of €143,300 in 2012. The richest 10 per cent of households owned 46.6 per cent of households’ net worth (45.7 per cent in 2010). The share of households with negative net wealth rose from 2.8 to 4.1 per cent. The concentration of wealth, measured by the Gini index, was 64 per cent, up from 62.3 per cent in 2010 and 60.7 per cent in 2008.
The proportion of households with debts was just over a quarter, down slightly from the previous survey. As in the past, debts were most common among households with medium-to-high incomes and those with household heads younger than 55, self-employed or with a high educational qualification. Households’ liabilities consisted mainly of mortgage loans for the purchase or renovation of real estate.
Financially vulnerable households, conventionally defined as those with debt service payments equal to more than 30 per cent of their income and with money income below the median, accounted for about 13.2 per cent of the households with debts and 2.6 per cent of all households. These figures were respectively 3.1 and 0.4 percentage points higher than in the 2010 survey.