New funding for Understanding Society confirmed

Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study, led by a team of survey experts at the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex, has been awarded an additional round of funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

This new grant will support Wave 12 of Understanding Society and provide further longitudinal data for researchers and policymakers.

Understanding Society started collecting data from every member of around 40,000 UK households in 2009, as a successor to the ESRC’s previous long-running study, the British Household Panel Survey, which ran from 1991-2008. The Study has now released 24 ‘waves’ of data for research with annual information on a range of social, economic, behavioural and health factors. A further four waves of data are currently being collected and processed. This new award from the ESRC will further extend that work. By the time Wave 12 of Understanding Society is completed, researchers will have 29 waves of household data available to use.

The funding also includes support for two new waves of the Innovation Panel – a sample of 1,500 households that have been interviewed every year since 2008. The Innovation Panel is used as a testing ground for researchers to conduct methodological experiments, improving survey design and longitudinal research. Research using the Innovation Panel has looked at a diverse range of topics including using new technology for data collection, how survey participants conceptualise their household finances, and how studies can collect information when partners separate.

Each wave of the Study takes two years to collect, but each household is interviewed annually. Survey responses are gathered through a combination of interviewers visiting the households that take part or households completing their survey online. The collected data are then cleaned and processed by the Understanding Society team at the Institute for Social and Economic Research. The data are deposited and made available via the UK Data Service.

Professor Michaela Benzeval, Director of Understanding Society, said: “By collecting information from our participants every year, the study provides crucial information for researchers and policymakers on the changes and stability of the lives of people and their households in the UK. Every year the study collects data the stronger it becomes. We have many exciting plans for the future and this grant ensures the longevity of this work.”

Types of data collected

• The survey covers everyone in a household, from children to adults, allowing researchers to understand the experiences of the whole population.

• The ethnic minority sample allows the experiences of specific ethnic minority groups to be investigated.

• The biomarkers and genetic data is collected by nurses to measure people’s health enable researchers to understand the relationship between social and economic circumstances and health.

• Study data can be linked (with consent) to administrative records from other sources, building a richer picture of households.


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