Scottish Household Survey

Organisation responsible: Scottish Government.

Background and purpose: The Scottish Household Survey (SHS) is designed to provide the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Government and other interested parties with accurate, up-to-date information on the impact on households and individuals of key services and policies for which the Parliament is now responsible. In many areas of the work of the Scottish Government - particularly Social Justice, Transport and Housing - effective evaluation of policy and development of policy advice requires good quality information on the composition, characteristics, attitudes and behaviour of households and individuals at national and sub-national level. The SHS is intended to meet these needs and the needs for information to support the work of the Scottish Parliament. The specific aims of the SHS are to:

  • provide household and individual information not currently available, particularly to support the work of communities, transport and local government policy areas and the work of the Scottish Government;
  • permit the breakdown of such information both geographically and in terms of population sub-groups (such as families with children or the elderly);
  • allow the relationships between social variables within households to be examined. This supports cross-departmental and inter-departmental policies such as those on social justice and welfare-to-work;
  • allow early detection of national trends;
  • allow detailed follow-up surveys of sub-samples from the main survey sample, if required.

Survey years / frequency: The SHS is a continuous cross-sectional survey. It began in 1999. Each sweep covers two years (1999/2000, 2001/02, etc).

Survey content: The principal purpose of the survey is to collect information in the areas of Social Justice and Transport. A wide range of other topics is also covered. Survey questions include: household composition, accommodation, neighbourhoods and community safety, education and training, employment, income, travel and transport, volunteering, local services, health and disability (self-reported general health; long-standing illness, health problems or disability; caring; limitations on daily activities; adaptations to home; smoking behaviour). The Scottish House Condition Survey is also now an integrated module of the SHS.

Target population: Adults aged 16 years and over living in private households in Scotland. The highest income householder, or his/her partner/spouse, is interviewed face-to-face about themselves and other members of the household. In addition, a randomly selected adult member of the same household aged 16 or over (who may, by chance, be the same person) is interviewed on other topics. In this way, results from the survey are representative of both Scottish households and adult individuals.

Sample size: In 2015, the achieved sample size was 10,325 households nationally. The minimum effective sample size (i.e. equivalent sample size if a random sample size was used) for each local authority will be 250 household interviews each year. The sample is 100% unclustered, offsetting the effect of smaller sample sizes and so leading to only a small net reduction in precision.

Response rate: The overall response rate for the 2015 survey was 64%. 

Method of data collection: Information is collected by face-to-face interview using Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI).

Smallest geographical unit reported: Local authority. Up to and including 2011, statistically reliable results were available for larger local authorities (n=5) on an annual basis and for all others (n=27) every two years. From 2012, headline statistics will be available for every local authority annually due to a more efficient sample design (100% unclustered).

Availability of results and further information: Full results from the survey are currently available up to 2014. Further information on the survey and the survey reports are available from the Scottish Household Survey website. Datasets are available from the UK Data Service. For further information about the survey, contact the SHS team (Email: e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , Tel: 0131 244 1685).