Analysis Reveals which Australian Chinese Stereotypes are Actually True

With ever increasing amounts of Chinese expats calling Australia home, we look to our extensive suburb and property data for insight. Stereotypes abound, but can you sort the factual from the phoney? 

We’ve looked at Australia’s 55,000 microburbs and done the numbers. Microburbs are smaller areas that make up a suburb, each with about 400 people. By looking at microburbs, we can get a much sharper picture of an area than by looking at overall suburbs.

There are 1,879 microburbs with 20% of their residents reporting Chinese ancestry in the census, which we’ll call Chinese microburbs.

State # Chinese Microburbs
New South Wales 1069
Victoria 571
Queensland 139
Western Australia 79
South Australia 13
Australian Capital Territory 5
Tasmania 3


Let’s have a look at how Chinese microburbs compare to the rest of Australia and explore a few commonly held perceptions.


Stereotype 1: Chinese people love to live in high density, convenient places.

According to our modelling, the Chinese microburbs are certainly more convenient. The average Microburbs Convenience Score is 8% higher than the national average. We can break this down further to look at what makes these areas convenient:

  • An amazing 99.6% of Chinese microburbs are within 30km of a major work centre. For the rest of the country it’s just 61%.
  • 29% of people in Chinese areas use public transport compared to 10% for the rest of the country. Cars per household is only 1.4 vs 1.8 elsewhere.
  • The average distance to shops in these Chinese areas is 297m, compared to 3km for the rest of us.

With convenience often comes high density housing. In Chinese microburbs, 35% of people live in units. That’s 4 times the national average.

High scoring Chinese microburbs for Convenience Score can be found in Ultimo in Sydney, West Melbourne, and Adelaide CBD

Chinese people love to live in high density, convenient places?  TRUE

Stereotype 2: Chinese people don’t integrate

On the one hand, there is only one suburb in Australia which is majority ethnic Chinese, being Hurstville, in Sydney. There are 106 microburbs in Australia which are majority chinese, but nearly a third of those are in Hurstville. If we look at the amenities available in Chinese microburbs, they are 26 times more likely to contain a Chinese restaurant and 130 times more likely to contain a Chinese Medicine business.

It can’t be denied that there are ‘Chinatowns’ around Australia. We covered Sydney’s Hurstville, but similarly, Melbourne has Glen Waverley and Brisbane has Sunnybank Hills.

On the other hand, Chinese people, like their restaurants, are spread all around Australia, living in around 57% of Australia’s microburbs. With a dispersion like that, it wouldn’t be reasonable to say Chinese in Australia were particularly clustered.

Chinese people don’t integrate? FALSE

Dot map of every Chinese person in Australia by Monash City Science

Stereotype 3: Chinese love to become professionals, like doctors

Are the residents of Chinese areas all professionals? Certainly more of them than average. 29% of working adults in these areas are professionals, which is 50% higher than the rest of the country. Chinese Microburbs have twice as many university graduates and nearly 3 times as many residents with postgraduate degrees. On top of that, the amount of university students is more than 3 times the expected level.

Residents of Chinese microburbs are certainly highly educated. At the pinnacle, are the Chinese microburbs in university areas like Crawley in Perth, St Lucia in Brisbane and Acton in the ACT.


Chinese love to become professionals: TRUE


Stereotype 4: The Chinese make lots of money

We can’t say what kind of wealth Chinese immigrants might be bringing to Australia, but we can see the way wages differ in Chinese microburbs.

There are higher numbers of people reporting no income, but that is in line with there being triple the number of students, who often have no income.

Aside from non-earners, incomes are very similar to any other area. The levels of high income earners, particularly, are right in line with national averages.

This is remarkable, however, because of the high number of professionals and postgraduates in these areas. Typically these experts would command higher wages. This may be a the effect that Australia’s race discrimination commissioner, Dr Tim Soutphommasane, has described  as the ‘Bamboo  Ceiling‘ – an analogy to the ‘glass ceiling’ experienced in business by women.

There are suburbs with high earning Chinese microburbs, like Balwyn in Melbourne, Bruce in Canberra and Castle Cove in Sydney, but all up, Chinese microburbs report average wages, despite all of those masters degrees.

Chinese people are high earners: FALSE

Microburbs in Hurstville shaded by Ancestry

Stereotype 5: The Chinese are good students

Oh yes. The average NAPLAN rank for schools in Chinese areas is top 23%. They certainly do their local schools proud.

This is particularly prominent in Sydney’s North Shore suburbs of Chatswood, Lindfield and St Leonards, Brisbane’s St Lucia and Melbourne’s Glen Waverley.

The Chinese are good students? TRUE


The Rise of the Australian Chinese

The Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) has just released their annual report, revealing continued explosive growth in Chinese investment in Australian real estate. The federal government moving against illegal foreign investment on one front and China increasingly choking the flow of money out of the country on the other has done nothing to slow the tide.
FIRB_approvalsImage source: FIRB

In 2013-4, Chinese investors overtook Americans as our biggest source of foreign investment, and in 2015, the numbers only continued to rise. All investors in Australian residential markets need to know what this means for them, so we’ve looked at Australia’s 55,000 microburbs and done the numbers.
We are offering a free analysis of the Chinese in Australia, and what it means for your investment portfolio here. Informed buyers should know where Australia’s Chinese microburbs are and how they compare, in detail, to the rest of Australia.

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Luke Metcalfe
Founder and CEO at Microburbs. Data geek and tech entrepreneur of 15 years. Passionate about driving efficiency in the real estate market by informing buyers with the objective information they need. Best known for NationMaster, an international statistics site, and NetComber, a domain name forensics tool he sold in 2014.

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