International research shows that legal needs are not distributed evenly across the population. The largest survey of legal need, conducted in Australia, shows just 9% of the population account for 65% of all legal problems. This is because some people experience:
- More frequent legal problems
- Multiple legal problems at one time
- Legal problems that are more serious (i.e. more have more deleterious effect)
- Legal problems that persist for longer
Socioeconomic disadvantage is pivotal to understanding why some people have more problems. Socioeconomic disadvantage is usually defined as some sort of deprivation, hardship or inequality concerning a person’s standard of living, well-being, capabilities or other life opportunities resulting from the person’s socioeconomic status. It is broader than poverty, reflecting multiple types of social inequality.
Socioeconomic disadvantage is a double whammy: it exposes a person to more legal risk and reduces their ability to resolve legal problems.
While New Zealand does not have the same detailed research, the Australian findings align with the evidence we do have here (as well as other international surveys). Follow the links to learn more about the Australian survey and follow-up research.