Six waves of Understanding Society data now available for researchers

Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study, led by a team of experts at ISER, has released its latest wave of rich longitudinal data (Wave 6).

Established in 2009 with 40,000 households, Understanding Society annually collects multi-topic information about everyone in the household aged 10 years and older. The Study’s large sample size covers the whole of the UK.
The longitudinal data sets include 41,000 interviews with adults and 3,600 interviews with children aged 10 to 15. These data sets are now available to researchers via the UK Data Service.

The latest release also includes a new and additional representative sample of immigrants to the UK.

Karon Gush, Survey Content Officer said,

“Longitudinal data releases are very special. Any new data release creates additional research opportunities but the possibilities grow almost exponentially with each release of longitudinal data. This is because longitudinal studies track things over time.

The new data links to all the previous waves of data meaning that each new wave can be analysed in conjunction with everything that has gone before it. This has obvious advantages. Rather than getting a one-off sense of what is going on at a particular point in time, longitudinal data can draw a moving picture of how things evolve over time.”

Features in the Wave 6 data release
  • Returning mainstage modules: Understanding Society collects data every wave in key research areas, e.g. education family and health, but there are also rotating modules which collect information on a wider range of topics. Some of these modules last appeared in Wave 3 so this new Wave 6 release means that longitudinal analysis can now be carried out on things like neighbourhood conditions, social networks and groups /organisations. All modules can be seen in the Long Term Content Plan.
  • Young adult questionnaire content: Every year, participants aged 16-21 years old answer additional questions in the Main Survey that are tailored for young adults. The rotating modules which haven’t featured since Wave 4 include; happiness & self-esteem, future intentions / marriage and future intentions / children.
  • Youth questionnaire modules: Over 10,000 participants aged 10-15 years old complete a paper questionnaire every year which takes 30 minutes to complete. Modules that have returned for Wave 6 include binge drinking and self-esteem. For the full list please see the youth questionnaire topics.
  • Immigrant and Ethnic Minority Boost (IEMB): The main survey has introduced a sample of an additional 3,000 households containing 8,500 adults and children. These participants were recruited for the study’s new IEMB.
The Immigrant and Ethnic Minority Boost (IEMB)

The IEMB refreshes and expands the original Ethnic Minority Boost (EMB) recruited at Wave 1 of Understanding Society in 2009. Like the EMB, the IEMB oversampled five key ethnic minority groups in the UK; Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Black Caribbean, Black African; but it additionally oversampled immigrants.

When the IEMB is combined with the rest of the Understanding Society data it is representative of all immigrants in the UK and will allow researchers to conduct research into growing areas of interest related to immigration and immigrants.
As well as covering additional members of groups in the original Ethnic Minority Boost, the new Wave 6 data covers larger numbers of the following groups:

  • 948 Western European (EEA) migrants
  • 728 Eastern European (EEA) migrants

Dr Alita Nandi, Research Fellow and co-lead on the IEMB commented,

“This is a very exciting addition to Understanding Society. At a time when interest in immigration and in more recent immigrant groups is increasing, the IEMB enables researchers to analyse the experience of recent and longer term migrants, and those migrating to the UK from a much wider range of countries.”


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