Family Resources Survey (FRS)


Main uses

FRS is the main UK-wide general household survey and contains a variety of information about households, families and individuals.  Example uses therefore include analyses of those lacking:

  • Central heating.
  • Essential items.
  • Second pensions.
  • Bank accounts.

Note that some researchers erroneously use the British Household Panel Survey, General Lifestyle Survey or Living Costs and Food Survey for general UK-wide or Great Britain-wide household analyses.  Except in isolated cases, however, their use in this regard has been supplanted by the much larger Family Resources Survey.


In summary:

  • Available from: UK data archive.
  • Registration required: yes.
  • First survey available: 1993/94.
  • Frequency: annual.
  • Updated: June.
  • Scope: UK-wide (but did not include Northern Ireland prior to 2002/03).
  • Format: SPSS, STATA or TAB.
  • Files: 25 files per year (see below for list).
  • Documentation: comprehensive.
  • Weighted or unweighted: weighted.
  • Household income data: no, but the relevant household income data can be obtained from its sister dataset, Households Below Average Income.

A summary of each of the 25 tables is provided below.

Table name Data aboutA record per: Associated with: Used in this website
accounts Bank accounts Account An individual Yes
admin Administrative data Household n/a No
adult Individual adults Individual adult A benefit unit Yes
assets Assets and savings Asset An individual No
benefits Benefits received Benefit An individual Yes
benunit The benefit unit Benefit unit A household Yes
care Those needing care Individual A benefit unit No
child Individual children Individual child A benefit unit No
dsspay Benefit deductions Benefit deduction A benefit No
endowmnt Endowment policies Endowment policy A mortgage No
extchild Children living outside the household Individual child A benefit unit No
househol The household Household n/a Yes
insuranc Insurance policies Insurance policy A household No
Job Jobs Job An individual No
maint Maintenance payments Maintenance payment An individual No
mortcont Mortgage payments Mortgage payment A mortgage No
mortgage Mortgages Mortgage A household No
oddjob Occasional jobs Job An individual No
owner Owner-occupiers Household n/a No
penamt Benefit payments Benefit payment A benefit No
penprov Pensions Pension An individual No
pension Non-State pensions Pension An individual No
rentcont Rent payments Rent payment A household No
renter Renters Household n/a No
vehicle Vehicles Vehicle A household No

Collectively, these tables form a hierarchical database, as illustrated in the diagram below (where those levels used in this website are highlighted in yellow).  The records at each level in the hierarchy can be associated with the relevant record at the next level up.  So, for example, a bank account can be associated with an individual, which can be associated with benefit unit, which can be associated with a household.

General issues

Which software to use

All the tables apart from the accounts table are less than 50,000 records and, as such, they can be exported into Excel.  The accounts table can also be exported but will then cross multiple worksheets.

The importance of ‘benefit units’

‘Benefit unit’, which is the technical term for ‘family’, is an important level in the FRS hierarchy as it is at this level that data about family type, family work status and lack of essential items is recorded.

For an in-depth discussion of what a ‘benefit unit’ is, and how it relates to both households and individuals, see the page on households, families and benefit units.   In summary, whereas a household is everyone who lives behind the same ‘front door’, a ‘benefit unit’ is an adult plus their spouse (if applicable) plus any dependent children they are living with. So, for example, a young adult living with their parents would count as one ‘household’ but two ‘benefit units’.  More generally:

  • A household comprises one or more benefit units.
  • A benefit unit comprises precisely one or two adults plus their dependent children.

Links to the Households Below Average Income (HBAI) dataset

The HBAI dataset is derived from the FRS dataset and, as there is precisely one record in the HBAI dataset for each benefit unit in the FRS dataset, the two datasets can be linked together using a combination of the household serial number and the benefit unit number.

So, for example, FRS records whether or not each household has central heating.  By linking this data to the relevant records in the HBAI dataset, the proportion of households without central heating can be calculated for each level of household income.

When to use FRS and when to use HBAI

The HBAI dataset is a whole series of variables which have been derived from original data in FRS.  The relationship between the two datasets can be summarised as follows:

  • Where household income is concerned, the variables in HBAI effectively supersede those in FRS.
  • Where other household or benefit unit data is concerned, the variables in HBAI are largely a subset of those in FRS.
  • Where data in other levels of the FRS hierarchy is concerned (individuals, accounts, benefits, etc), there is no equivalent data in HBAI.

The net result of this is that:

  • If the required analysis is primarily concerned with household income, use HBAI.
  • For all other analyses, use FRS.

Which tables to use

The obvious rule is to use the table which holds the required data, linking this table to other tables higher up the hierarchy as required.  So, for example:

  • For analysis of central heating, use the household table.
  • For analysis about lacking essential items, use the benefit unit table.
  • For analysis about people not contributing to a second pension, use the individual adult table.
  • For analysis of bank accounts, use the accounts table, linking this table to the individual adult table if the need is to estimate the proportion of adults without bank accounts or to the household table if the need is to estimate the proportion of households without bank accounts.

Relevant graphs on this website

UK Graphs

Indicator Table Graphs Comments
Lacking essentials benefit unit first two  
No private income individual adult second and third

Exclude adults who are either of pensionable age or are not employees.

Without a bank or building society account accounts and household first

Exclude Northern Ireland to ensure consistent time series.

Aggregate accounts by household.


Aggregate accounts by household.

Without central heating household first

Question not asked since 2003/04.

Exclude Northern Ireland to ensure consistent time series.


Question not asked since 2003/04.


  • To allow the analyses by household income, the household, benefit unit and individual adult tables all need to be linked to the household income data in HBAI.
  • From time to time, DWP updates the weights for previous datasets in which case the new datasets need to be download for all these years and results re-calculated.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland graphs

These are effectively a subset of the UK graphs using government region (from the household table) as a filter.