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BHPS frequently asked questions

What is the main objective of the BHPS?

How often are people interviewed for the survey and who is interviewed?

Which years does the BHPS cover?

What formats are the data available in?

Where can I obtain statistics and tables from the BHPS?

What is the most detailed regional level I can analyse the data at?

Are the same questions asked in each wave?

Can I order just the most recent wave?

Does the BHPS use standard coding schemes?

What is the European Community Household Panel Survey (ECHP) and is the BHPS part of it?

How do I get hold of the ECHP?

Before I order, how do I find out what questions/variables are included?

What is the file and variable naming convention?

When are future waves/sweeps likely to be made available?

What is the main objective of the BHPS?

The main objective of the survey is to further our understanding of social and economic change at the individual and household level in Britain, to identify, model and forecast such changes, their causes and consequences in relation to a range of socio-economic variables. The BHPS is designed as a research resource for a wide range of social science disciplines and to support interdisciplinary research in many areas.

How often are people interviewed for the survey and who is interviewed?

The BHPS was designed as an annual survey of each adult (16+) member of a nationally representative sample of more than 5,000 households, making a total of approximately 10,000 individual interviews. The same individuals will be re-interviewed in successive waves and, if they split-off from original households, all adult members of their new households will also be interviewed. Children are interviewed once they reach the age of 16; there is also a special survey of 11-15 year old household members from Wave 4 (1994) onwards. Thus the sample should remain broadly representative of the population of Britain as it changes through the 1990s. Wave 9 includes extra samples from Wales and Scotland with an emphasis on the Welsh language and feelings of nationality. Wave 11 includes an additional sample from Northern Ireland, which formed the Northern Ireland Household Panel Survey (NIHPS), and was added to increase the representivity of the whole of the United Kingdom.

Note: The BHPS sample is part of Understanding Society from Wave 2 of that study. BHPS sample members will have an identifier within the Understanding Society datasets, allowing BHPS users to match BHPS Wave 1-18 data to Understanding Society Wave 2 (and onwards) data.

Which years does the BHPS cover?

The first 18 waves of the BHPS cover 1991-2009. From 2010, the BHPS became part of the Understanding Society study. The BHPS sample is still questioned annually.

What formats are the data available in?

The main BHPS is available to download in SPSS, Stata, and ASCII formats. Other formats, such as SAS, may be available upon request. There are also a number of datasets associated with the main data - see British Household Panel Survey datasets. These are all available in SPSS, Stata, and ASCII formats.

Where can I obtain statistics and tables from the BHPS?

Frequencies are given in Volume B of the documentation. This is freely downloadable in PDF format via British Household Panel Survey and also online at the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) BHPS User Documentation web pages where you can list the variables (together with their frequencies) that come under certain 'Index Terms' (subject categories) or record types. Details of publications are given in the BHPS resources section of the Guide to the British Household Panel Survey and in the ISER Publications web pages (ISER conducts the BHPS).

What is the most detailed regional level I can analyse the data at?

For information on the availability of geographical variables for each of the major ESDS Longitudinal studies, see Geography variables.

Are the same questions asked in each wave?

Many of the questions asked in Wave 1 have been repeated in subsequent waves. Some are repeated in all waves; these are the 'Core' questions (including current employment, current finances, neighbourhood and health). Some variables appear in alternating waves or on a cyclical basis; these are known as the 'Rotating Core' questions (including attitudes to morality and religion, life satisfaction, government roles and responsibilities, the environment). Some groups of questions will be asked only once in the life of the panel study; these are known as the non-core or 'Variable Components' (such as 'What age did you leave school?', 'Where were you born?'). More details are provided in Volume A, Introduction to the BHPS, Longitudinal Aspects of the Survey. Documentation is freely downloadable in PDF format via British Household Panel Survey and also online at the BHPS User Documentation web pages.

Can I order just the most recent wave?

The BHPS should always be ordered in its entirety since it is an integrated dataset. With each new wave that is produced, changes are made to the data and documentation from at least the previous wave. Data changes relate in particular to the adjustment of previous imputations.

Does the BHPS use standard coding schemes?

Yes, for all waves all occupations are coded to the 1990 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC90) and also to the 1980 Standard Industrial Classification (SIC80). SIC92 (compatible with NACE) has been included in waves 4 and 7 and waves 11 onwards. SOC2000 has been included since wave 11. Various other standardised social class scales are also used. The BHPS uses the General Health Questionnaire to measure mental health (all waves), the Activities and Daily Living questionnaire (waves 7-8 and 10-13) to ascertain the activities of elderly people, the Short Form 36 (waves 9 and 14) to measure mental and physical health and CASP19 Quality of Life questions (at waves 11 and 16). For more information on standard coding schemes, please consult the BHPS documentation which is freely downloadable in PDF format via British Household Panel Survey and also online at the BHPS User Documentation web pages.

What is the European Community Household Panel Survey (ECHP) and is the BHPS part of it?

The ECHP survey presents comparable micro-level (persons/households) data on income, living conditions, housing, health and work in the EU. The survey covers all but one of the EU member states and follows the same private households and persons over consecutive years from 1994-2001. The BHPS provided the UK component and when the ECHP was introduced, it was necessary for the BHPS to modify some questions and to add others (including non-monetary poverty indicators and questions on EU citizenship).

How do I get hold of the ECHP?

The ECHP may be accessed via Eurostat.

Before I order, how do I find out what questions/variables are included?

1. Variable lists and PDF user guides (including questionnaires) are freely available via British Household Panel Survey.

2. The documentation, including the questionnaires, is available from the BHPS User Documentation web pages where you can list the variables (together with their frequencies) that come under certain 'Index Terms' (subject categories) or record types.

What is the file and variable naming convention?

All Record Type names begin with a single character wave identifier; A = Wave 1, B = Wave 2, and so on. In the BHPS documentation, this wave-specific character has been replaced by a generic 'w'. The rest of the name attempts to provide a meaningful mnemonic given the data content (e.g. HH = household, IND = individual, RESP = respondent). Three records (XWAVEDAT, XWAVEID and XWLSTEN) contain cross-wave matching information.

All variable names begin with a single character wave identifier, replaced by a generic 'w' in the documentation (as above). The rest of the name is a mnemonic which attempts to give some information as to the content of the variable. In general, the second and third characters give some indication of the general subject area of the variable. The conventions used are described in Volume A, The BHPS Data, Naming Conventions, Table 5. This is freely downloadable in PDF format via British Household Panel Survey datasets and also at BHPS User Documentation.

When are future waves/sweeps likely to be made available?

After wave 18, BHPS data will be made available as part of the Understanding Society study.



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