|Understanding Society, or the United Kingdom Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS), is conducted by the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER), at the University of Essex. The survey research organisation is NatCen Social Research (formerly the National Centre for Social Research), and in Northern Ireland, the Central Survey Unit of the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).
As a multi-topic household survey, the purpose of Understanding Society is to understand social and economic change in Britain at the household and individual levels. It is anticipated that over time the study will permit examination of short- and long-term effects of social and economic change, including policy interventions, on the general well-being of the UK population. The study has a strong emphasis on domains of family and social ties, work, financial resources, and health. Further information about the survey may be found in the documentation, and on the Understanding Society web site.
The study is an annual survey of each adult member of a nationally representative sample. The same individuals are re-interviewed in each wave. If individuals leave their household, all adult members of their new household are interviewed. Each wave is collected over 24 months, such that the first wave of data was collected between January 2009 and January 2011, and the second wave between January 2010 and January 2012.
Data collection takes place using computer assisted personal interviewing (CAPI). One person completes the household questionnaire. Each person aged 16 or older answers the individual adult interview and self-completion questionnaire. Young people aged 10 to 15 years are asked to respond to a paper self-completion questionnaire.
The study has four sample components: the General Population component, the Innovation Panel, a boost sample of ethnic minority group members, and participants in the former British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) (held at the UK Data Archive under SN 5151). Waves 1-2 (SN 6614) include the General Population component and the ethnic minority boost sample. The Innovation Panel data are held separately under SN 6849. Former participants of the BHPS joined Understanding Society from Wave 2. BHPS sample members have an identifier within the Understanding Society datasets from Wave 2 onwards, allowing the matching of BHPS data to Understanding Society.
For full details of the study methodology, sampling, changes over time, and a complete set of documentation, see the main Understanding Society study, held at the Archive under SN 6614.
The Understanding Society: Innovation Panel is a separate sample component, designed to support methodological research related to the longitudinal surveys. One of the key features of the Innovation Panel is its incorporation of experimental studies in which households are randomly assigned to different survey procedures and/or instruments. The studies are described in Burton et al. (2008, 2010, 2011). The design, content and data collection procedures are similar to the main stage Understanding Society study (held at the UK Data Archive under SN 6614).
As with other components of Understanding Society, the Innovation Panel is an annual survey of each adult member of a nationally representative sample (restricted to Great Britain). The same individuals are re-interviewed in each wave. If individuals leave their households, all adult members of their new household are interviewed. Further information is available on the Innovation Panel webpage.
The Understanding Society: Innovation Panel: Special Licence Access, Census Area Statistics Wards dataset contains Census Area Statistics Ward (CASWARD) geographic variables for each wave of Understanding Society: Innovation Panel to date, and a household identification serial number for file matching to the main Understanding Society: Innovation Panel data. These data have more restrictive access conditions than those available under the standard End User Licence (see 'Access' section below). Those users who wish to make an application for these data should contact the HelpDesk for further details.
For the second edition (August 2012), data for Waves 1 and 2 were redeposited and data for Waves 3 and 4 were added. The documentation remains unchanged.