New survey asks how Māori identity shapes financial choices

04 October 2017
Chris Sibley (left), Carla Houkauma and Manuka Henare are behind the biggest ever survey of Maori identity and financial attitudes
Chris Sibley (left), Carla Houkauma and Manuka Henare are behind the biggest ever survey of Maori identity and financial attitudes

The largest ever survey of Māori financial attitudes is underway, with 100,000 questionnaires posted to people who indicated Māori descent on the electoral roll.

The Māori Identity and Financial Attitudes Study (MIFAS), Te Rangahau o Te Tuakiri Maori me Ngā Waiaro a-Putea, will shed light on how Māori identity shapes financial choices and explore what success looks like from a Māori perspective. It is also available online and in te reo Māori. 

“Cultural identity provides a set of rules and guidelines for living and is a very powerful driver of behaviour," says Dr Carla Houkamau, who is running the study with Associate Professor Manuka Henare and Professor Chris Sibley at the University of Auckland.   

“Our earlier work on Māori identity has made it clear that for Māori to advance economically, and for policy to support that, we need to first understand cultural differences in what Māori value, their notions of wealth and security, and the possibilities they see are available to them as Māori.”

As Associate Dean Māori and Pacific Development at the Business School, Dr Houkamau is concerned that more Māori are not enrolling in commerce degrees.

“The Māori economy is an important and growing part of New Zealand’s economy and by 2040 Māori will be a significant proportion of our working-age population. I see so many opportunities in business and education positions with not enough graduates to fill them.”

Historically, the Māori population has experienced worse social and economic outcomes than other New Zealanders, however Māori businesses and tribal enterprises are re-emerging as a significant force, in particular in the primary sector and by receiving Treaty settlements. Māori have significant opportunities for growth and contribution to the New Zealand economy. 

Dr Houkamau: “This study is about planning for the future. If we do not have reliable data on the attitudes and opinions of a large group of Māori it makes it harder to develop Māori economic policy that is more responsive to the cultural and social realities of Māori communities.

“Māori are less likely to own their own home, tend to have less personal savings and are less likely to enrol in KiwiSaver. We want to know what kind of financial products and services may change this imbalance.”

In a previous study, Professor Sibley and Dr Houkamau showed that Māori hugely value relational wellbeing. It found that those who felt strong in their cultural identity were less likely to be enrolled in KiwiSaver and more likely to expect financial security in retirement. This, along with other research, shows that although Māori society has changed dramatically, some deeply held cultural beliefs around relational wellbeing remain.  

The survey is part of a Marsden-funded project called “How Great Can We Be: Identity Leaders of the Māori Economic Renaissance” and grew out of another landmark survey by Dr Houkamau and Professor Sibley that measures Māori identity and cultural engagement.

Says Dr Houkamau, “We’ve treated this study differently from much of our other work by making sure there is a huge amount of information available for anyone who receives a survey or wants to complete the study online.”

Dr Houkamau is of Ngāti Kahungunu (Ngāti Kere) and Ngāti Porou (Te Whānau o Tuwhakairiora) descent.  She and Dr Henare (Te Rarawa, Te Aupōuri, Ngāti Kuri) teach management and international business at the Business School, and Professor Sibley (Pākehā) is in the School of Psychology.

Find out more about the survey here.



Nicola Shepheard Media Adviser

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Associated links:

University of Auckland: Maori Identity and Financial Attitudes Survey