|The Family Expenditure Survey (FES), which closed in 2001, was a continuous survey with an annual sample of around 10,000 households. They provided information on household and personal incomes, certain payments that recurred regularly (e.g. rent, gas and electricity bills, telephone accounts, insurances, season tickets and hire purchase payments), and maintained a detailed expenditure record for 14 consecutive days.
The original purpose of the FES was to provide information on spending patterns for the United Kingdom Retail Price Index (RPI). The survey was a cost-efficient way of collecting a variety of related data that the government departments required to correlate with income and expenditure at the household, tax unit and person levels. The annual FES began in 1957 (with an earlier large scale survey conducted in 1953/54) and was one of the first Department of Employment (DE) systems to be computerised in the early 1960s. The UKDA holds FES data from 1961-2001. The Northern Ireland Family Expenditure Survey (NIFES), which ran from 1967-1998, was identical to the UK FES and therefore used the same questionnaires and documentation. However, starting in 1988, a voluntary question on religious denomination was asked of those aged 16 and over in Northern Ireland. The UKDA holds NIFES data from 1968-1998, under GN 33240.
Significant FES developments over time include:
From 2001, the both the FES and the National Food Survey (NFS) (held at the UKDA under GN 33071) were completely replaced by a new survey, the Expenditure and Food Survey (EFS). Prior to the advent of the EFS, there had previously been considerable overlap between the FES and NFS, with both surveys asking respondents to keep a diary of expenditure. Thus, the 2000-2001 FES was the final one in the series. The design of the new EFS was based on the previous FES; further background to its development may be found in the 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 Family Spending reports. From 2008, the EFS became the Living Costs and Food Survey (LCF) (see under GN 33334).
- 1968: the survey was extended to include a sample drawn from the Northern Ireland FES and a new computer system was introduced which was used until 1985
- 1986: DE and the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys (OPCS) converted the FES into a new database system using the SIR package
- 1989: the Central Statistical Office (CSO) took over responsibility for the survey
- 1994: in April, computerised personal interviewing was introduced using lap-top computers, the database system changed to INGRES and the survey changed from a calendar year to financial year basis
- 1996: in April, OPCS and CSO were amalgamated into the Office for National Statistics (ONS), who assumed responsibility for the FES
- 1998: from April onwards information from expenditure diaries kept by children aged 7 to 15 was included in data, and grossing factors were made available on the database
This schedule was taken at the main interview. Information for most of the questions was obtained from the head of household or housewife, but certain questions of a more individual character were put to every spender aged 15 or over (or 16 or over from 1973 onwards). Until the introduction of the community charge, information on rateable value and rate poundage was obtained from the appropriate local authority, as was information on whether the address was within a smokeless zone. Information was collected about the household, the sex and age of each member, and also details about the type and size of the household accommodation. The main part of the questionnaire related to expenditure both of a household and individual nature, but the questions were mainly confined to expenses of a recurring nature, e.g.:
- Household: housing costs, payment to Gas and Electricity Boards or companies, telephone charges, licences and television rental
- Individual: motor vehicles, season tickets for transport, life and accident insurances, payments through a bank, instalments, refund of expenses by employer, expenditure claimed by self-employed persons as business expenses for tax purposes, welfare foods, education grants and fees
Data were collected for each household spender. The schedule was concerned with income, national insurance contributions and income tax. Income of a child not classed as a spender was obtained from one or other of his parents and entered on the parent's questionnaire. Information collected included: employment status and recent absences from work, earnings of an employee, self-employed earnings, National Insurance contributions, pensions and other regular allowances, occasional benefits - social security benefits and other types, investment income, miscellaneous earnings of a 'once-only' character, tax paid directly to Inland Revenue or refunded, income of a child.
The diary covered fourteen days. Each household member aged 15 or over (or 16 or over from 1973 onwards) was asked to record all expenditure made during the 14 days. Children aged between 7 and 15 were also asked to complete simplified diaries of their daily expenditure. Data from the children's diaries was included in the survey results for the first time in 1998-99.