Living Costs and Food Survey (LCFS)
(formerly called the Expenditure and Food Survey)


Main uses

As its name implies, LCFS is a survey focussed on expenditure and food and is the main survey covering such matters.  It is a relatively small survey and should therefore not be used when there are alternative surveys with the required data.  This means that, apart from a few isolated cases (e.g. home contents insurance), its use should restricted to expenditure and food.


In summary:

  • Available from: UK data archive.
  • Registration required: yes.
  • First survey available: 1961.
  • Frequency: annual.
  • Updated: August.
  • Scope: UK-wide.
  • Format: SPSS, STATA or TAB.
  • Files: around 12 files per year, with the main files being one at the household level and one at the individual level.  Note that these two files come in both ‘raw’ and ‘processed’ flavours, with the ‘processed’ versions being the obvious ones for outside researchers to use.
  • Documentation: comprehensive.
  • Weighted or unweighted: weighted from 1998/99 onwards but unweighted for earlier years.
  • Household income data: yes, both gross and net.  The data is equivalised from 2003/04 onwards but unequivalised for earlier years.  Only the gross (rather than net) household income has been equivalised.

Note that, prior to 2008, the equivalent survey was called the Expenditure and Food Survey (EFS).  Also, prior to 2001/02, the equivalent survey was called the Family Expenditure Survey (FES), and these datasets are in a different part of the UK data archive.

In addition to the dataset itself, ONS publishes an annual report giving many statistical analyses from the dataset.

General issues

Which software to use

As the annual dataset is around 16,000 records for individuals and 7,000 records for households, it can be exported into Excel.

When to use the individual and household datasets

For most purposes, the household dataset is the one to use as it contains the data on the total expenditure of the household.

Which fields to use

Many of the fields cover the same items of expenditure, with subtle differences in definition.  The user manual should therefore be carefully read before deciding which ones are the most appropriate for the required analyses.

More specifically, there are multiple ways by which the detailed data is aggregated, where the differences in these groupings can only be determined by close examination of the documentation.  Of these, two of the main ones are:

  • The ‘EFS method’ (codes P600 to P630): this uses the standard European COICOP groupings and thus has the potential advantage of facilitating comparisons with other European countries
  • The ‘LCFS/FES/ONS method’ (codes P535 to P551): this uses the traditional UK groups and is the only consistent grouping that goes back prior to 2001/02.

In addition, even within a particular grouping, each type of expenditure typically has three different fields, one of which (suffix c) refers to child expenditure, the second (no suffix) refers to adult expenditure and the third (suffix t) is the combined child and adult expenditure.  For most purposes, therefore, it is the suffix t fields that will be most relevant.

Regional analyses

Given the small size of the survey, analysis below the UK-wide level is not recommended.

UK graphs

Indicator Graphs Table Comments
Lacking consumer durables third household  
Without a telephone all household  
Without home contents insurance second household

Use the existence of otherwise of insurance premiums to decide whether the household has home contents insurance.

Use the OECD equivalised household income rather than McClements.  Allocate each record to a household income quintile, calculating the quintile thresholds required to achieve this.

For each new year, need to calculate the equivalent results for a decade previously from the Expenditure and Food Survey.