Key Areas of Research

“From developing longitudinal research tools to using data to build an evidence base for reform, the Melbourne Institute is renowned for the rigour and quality of our applied economic and social research.”


The Melbourne Institute undertakes research across four key areas – socio-economic disadvantage, public sector performance, productivity and living standards, and fostering health and wellbeing. In each of these areas, we remain focused upon building the evidence base for reform and contributing to public policy.

To support our research, we are involved in the collection and analysis of survey data, and the measurement of economic and social indicators. This work gives us and other organisations the tools and data we need to help shape policy.


Socio-economic Disadvantage

    Social and economic disadvantage weakens the fabric of society. It increases inequality, threatens social justice and creates barriers to education, employment and housing. It is our goal to help counter such disadvantage.

    Through our research, we seek to understand the extent of such disadvantage in Australia, investigate its impact on life outcomes, and develop policies to reduce it.

    Socio-economic reform is something we have long been passionate about. The Melbourne Institute produced the first Henderson Poverty Line estimates in 1973, and quarterly updates continue today. We also publish an annual Social Exclusion Monitor in partnership with the Brotherhood of St Laurence, which acts as a measure of social exclusion and identifies the many barriers that limit an individual’s ability to participate in society.

    Beyond these studies, we pursue a broad range of research projects in collaboration with state and federal government departments and corporate partners.

Public Sector Performance

    The public sector absorbs 25% of Australia’s GDP – yet enjoys little microeconomic reform, in part due to the challenges around measuring productivity and outcomes. Improving the equity and efficiency of the public sector is critical to ensuring that we deliver on major social agendas in education, health and social assistance.

    Across the Melbourne Institute, researchers work to measure public sector productivity and to better understand the role of incentives, competition and the private sector in boosting public sector outcomes. Our work plays a key role in improving the evidence base for public sector policy design, and helps to shape the important spending decisions across the health, education and welfare sectors.

Productivity and Living Standards

    Economic growth and improved productivity are central to future improvements in Australian living standards, as they enable more resources to be directed to consumption and investments in infrastructure such as roads, schools and hospitals.

    The Melbourne Institute undertakes research to deliver evidence-based information that will help the public, business and household sectors make better decisions about growth and employment opportunities.

    We study the drivers of economic growth and business cycles, and how stabilisation policies improve economic welfare. We seek a better understanding of the determinants of economic activity, the causes of unemployment and the drivers of the inflationary process, to build upon our knowledge of the macroeconomy, particularly Australia’s sensitivity to global factors.

    We also study how Australian industries can boost their competitiveness as the economy becomes more globally integrated, and how firms can perform better within the global supply chain. These studies advance our understanding of the innovation process that is so critical to both productivity and growth.

Fostering Health and Wellbeing

    According to the World Health Organisation, “health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” At the Melbourne Institute, we concur – acknowledging that issues around health and wellbeing span far beyond the realm of medicine and require a multidisciplinary research approach.

    As such, the Melbourne Institute has a number of research programs exploring ways to boost the health and wellbeing of Australians – particularly Health Economics, Labour Economics and Social Policy, and the HILDA Survey

    We seek to contribute to a better understanding of the factors that drive good outcomes in health and wellbeing, with a focus on social science and economics. Understanding that the best outcomes will be achieved by taking a multidisciplinary approach, we are building strong relationships with other researchers at the University of Melbourne and elsewhere.