Methodological Review of the Survey of English Housing by O8iK8ut8


									        Methodological Review of the Survey of English Housing

Part I: Overview
1. Description of the Survey of English Housing

  1.1    Background and history

  1.2    Sampling
         Population definition
         Sampling frame
         Sample selection
         Sample stratification
         Balancing the sample over time

  1.3    Fieldwork and data collection

  1.4    Questionnaire
         Content and structure
         Stability and change

  1.5    Response to the survey

  1.6    Grossing of results

  1.7    Reporting of results

2. A general critique of the existing survey design

  2.1    Sampling
  2.2    Fieldwork and data collection
        Simplicity and robustness
        Choosing household respondents
  2.3    Questionnaire: structure and change
        Questionnaire structure
        Response burden and sensitive topics
        Questionnaire forward planning

  2.4    Some important definitions
        Exclusions from the target populations
        Permanent residence
        Main residence
        Dwelling or household space
        Tenancy group
        Household reference person
        Family unit
        Concealed household
        Vacant accommodation unit

  2.5    Response rate

     2.6    Grossing and analysis

     2.7    Timeliness and flexibility
            Who are the users of the SEH?
            Factors that control the reporting timetable
            Shortening turn-round time

Part II: Special Topics
3. ODPM Housing survey strategy

      3.1      The English House Condition Survey

      3.2   Similarities and differences between the EHCS and the SEH
            Operational links between the surveys

4. SEH sample size and sample design

      3.14.1      The importance of estimates for population subgroups           Formatted: Bullets and Numbering

      3.24.2      Sample stratification and clustering                           Formatted: Bullets and Numbering
             Stratification of primary sampling units
             Area deprivation scores
             Area typologies based on clustering
             Sample clustering and clustering design effects
             The effect of stratifying the selection of primary sampling units
             Calculating sampling errors for complex sample designs

      3.34.3      Other types of design effect                                   Formatted: Bullets and Numbering
             Design effects due to correlated coding or assessment errors
             Design effects due to post-hoc weighting of the data

5.    Increasing effective sample size for important estimates
      5.1    Straightforward scaling up of the sample

      5.2    Boosting the representation of rare tenure groups

      5.3    Boosting the representation of particular geographical areas

      5.4    A larger periodic SEH

      5.5    Periodic SEH sample boosts

      5.6    Ad hoc sample boosting

6.    Pooling results from the SEH and other surveys

7.    Rotation of primary sampling units

      7.1    Rotation patterns

8.    Dwellings

      8.1 Address outcomes and the enumeration of dwellings

      8.2 Collecting and compiling additional information about dwellings

9.    Imputation for missing data

      9.1 Item non-response
            Sources of item non-response
            Effects of missing data on derived analysis variables
            Item non-response and data quality

      9.2 Item non-response and imputation

      9.3 Methods of imputation

10. Grossing and weighting methods

     10.1 Simple expansion estimator

     10.2 Non-response weighting

     10.3 Calibration weighting

     10.4 Limitations of grossing and weighting systems

     10.5 Census check studies

     10.6 Other weighting and grossing systems and software for household surveys

Part III Recommendations
     11.11.1.    Introduction                                                       Formatted: Bullets and Numbering

     11.21.2.    Simplicity and robustness                                          Formatted: Bullets and Numbering

     11.31.3.    Single household respondent                                        Formatted: Bullets and Numbering

     11.41.4.    Household reference person                                         Formatted: Bullets and Numbering

     11.51.5.    Exclusions from the target population                              Formatted: Bullets and Numbering

     11.61.6.    Response rates                                                     Formatted: Bullets and Numbering

     11.71.7.    Sample size                                                        Formatted: Bullets and Numbering

     11.81.8.    Selective sample boosting                                          Formatted: Bullets and Numbering

     11.91.9.    Sample stratification                                              Formatted: Bullets and Numbering

   11.101.10. Rotation of primary sampling units       Formatted: Bullets and Numbering

   11.111.11. Clustering and other design effects      Formatted: Bullets and Numbering

   11.121.12. The grossing and weighting system        Formatted: Bullets and Numbering

   1.13.     Enumeration of dwellings                  Formatted: Bullets and Numbering

   11.131.14. Imputation for missing data

   11.141.15. Forward planning and survey timetable    Formatted: Bullets and Numbering

   11.151.16. Dissemination of results and data sets   Formatted: Bullets and Numbering

   11.161.17. The SEH and the EHCS                     Formatted: Bullets and Numbering


         A Methodological Review of the Survey of English Housing

This design review of the Survey of English Housing (SEH) has been carried out for the
Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) by the Survey Methods Centre of the National
Centre for Social Research. The National Centre currently holds the SEH contract, so both
the team responsible for carrying out the review and the SEH implementation team are staff
of the same organisation. The National Centre may again be an interested party when the
SEH contract is re-tendered in 2003.The review, however, focuses on the design of the SEH,
which was due to Mr Denis Down, the Statistician formerly in charge at ODPM (formerly
DOE). There are no new design features or changes to the survey specification that have
been introduced specifically by, or at the request of, the National Centre. The Survey
Methods Centre review team have therefore taken an independent view, without any
possibility of clashes of interest.

Part I: Overview
1.     Description of the Survey of English Housing

1.1 Background and history
The Survey of English Housing (SEH) is a large continuous household survey. It is designed
to provide ODPM with information on the housing arrangements and preferences of private
households and thus to answer a range of information needs that arise in developing and
monitoring housing policies.

The survey was set up in 1993 by the Housing part of the (then) DOE. It replaced
arrangements that had been made with the (then) Employment Department to run sets of
housing questions and housing “trailers” on the large Labour Force Survey. An independent
purpose-designed housing survey was set up at this time because the design of the Labour
Force Survey was due to change in ways that made it no longer possible to run housing
trailers and because there were limitations of the data that DOE could obtain through trailers,
given that the design and conduct of the LFS were naturally dominated by labour force
research priorities that differ from those of housing research.

Other precursors of the SEH were the very large National Dwelling and Household Survey
mounted (with various follow-ups) in 1977-78 and a long series of ad hoc surveys focusing
on various aspects of housing, such as vacant properties, private lettings, households that
had recently moved house and others. The SEH does not in itself adequately cover all the
issues addressed by the more narrowly focused ad hoc surveys.

For the first five years to 1998 the SEH was carried out by Social Survey Division of the
Office for National Statistics (ONS). In 1998, after competitive tendering, the second five-year
contract was awarded to the National Centre for Social Research.

1.2 Sampling
Population definition
The SEH is based on independent annual probability samples of private addresses and
households in England. The main population to be sampled consists of “households”, with an
individual household member (normally the Household Reference Person1 or his/her spouse
or partner) used as respondent. Institutions and other communal households are excluded,

    The concept and definition of a Household Reference Person are discussed at section 2.4 below.

as are individuals and households who have no permanent home. In its present form the
SEH is therefore a survey of the population of private households, but not a survey of the
population of dwellings or household spaces, even though the sample of addresses would in
principle provide a basis for such a survey. The target size for the analysis sample is about
20,000 households.

Sampling frame
No sampling frame exists for private households as such, but a sampling frame does exist of
addresses at which under 50 items of mail are delivered daily by the Post Office. This is the
Postcode Address File (Small Users) (PAF), which has excellent coverage of private
domestic addresses. The PAF is arranged in a geographically hierarchical order, so that
addresses are listed within postcodes, postcodes are listed within postal sectors, sectors are
listed within postal areas and so on up to the national level.

PAF also contains some addresses that for most household survey purposes are treated as
ineligible, such as hostels, small hotels and boarding houses and business and other non-
residential premises. Unfortunately no reliable method exists of identifying and deleting these
ineligible addresses in the office, so this has to be done in the field. Another very important
limitation for SEH sample design purposes is that the address entries in PAF contain no
information about the size, age or type of the dwelling(s) to be found at the address, nor
about the current residents of the dwelling or their tenure arrangements.

Sample selection
SEH sampling from the PAF proceeds in two stages. At the first stage the entities selected
are postal sectors. The arrangement of the PAF file enables postal sectors to be
distinguished and counts of addresses in each sector to be made.2 The number of addresses
per postal sector is about 2500 on average. Postal sectors are in effect geographical entities;
in densely-populated urban areas sectors they are quite compact, but in thinly populated
parts of the country they often cover much larger areas.

At the first stage 1176 postal sectors are selected from the stratified list with probability
proportional to the number of addresses that they contain. At the second stage 25 addresses
are selected within each of the sectors selected at the first stage, giving 29,400 addresses in
all. The balanced probabilities of selection at the two stages give each PAF address in
England an equal overall chance of selection, while providing interviewer address
assignments of convenient and equal size. At each stage strict probability sampling is used
and selection is by a systematic procedure from a random start in the stratified population

On first making contact with a resident of an address interviewers check how many different
households reside at it. There is normally just one household per address, but where there is
more than one all resident households are included in the sample (i.e. no selection at this
stage). If any households prove at interview to contain separate tenancy groups (see section
2.5), these tenancy groups are also treated for most purposes as though they were extra

Sample stratification
In the SEH sampling stratification is applied to the selection of sectors, so that the sample
distribution of sectors matches the population in terms of: allocation to Government Office
Regions and sub-regions; proportions of privately rented dwellings and of local authority
housing that they contain; and the proportion of resident household heads classified to

 A small number of sectors are judged to have too small a population to be suitable as sampling units.
These sectors are identified beforehand and amalgamated for sampling purposes with an adjacent
sector. Wherever possible the amalgamation is carried out with a sector in the same sampling stratum.

certain socio-demographic groups (higher social classes). The source of information for the
last three stratifiers is the most recent National Census of Population for which results are
available. This is possible because 1991 Census addresses were post-coded and as a result
the characteristics of census households falling within each postal sector can be summarised
as proportions and means. These summary values can then be linked to the current version
of the PAF and used in sample stratification and analysis of survey results.3

Stratification at area level is not equivalent to stratification at the level of addresses or
households. In particular, use of differential sampling fractions within area strata is quite
weak as a means of boosting the proportion of households within the obtained sample that
have particular housing or other characteristics, except where there is an unusual and
extreme, but also stable, concentration of population units of interest within the stratum.4

1.3 Fieldwork and data collection
The prime unit of data collection, analysis and reporting is the household (see section 2.4).
Some information is collected about addresses and household spaces, but the survey does
not compile information on the basis of dwellings (see section 8.2). If a whole address, or a
household space within an address, is found to be vacant, or to be a second or holiday
home, its presence is noted in field returns, but it is then treated as out of scope and no
further effort is made to collect information about it or its residents (if any).

The data for analysis are collected by trained field interviewers, who record details of the
household spaces found at each address and then approach each household with a request
for a face-to-face interview with the head of household or partner. If neither is available or
competent an interview may be conducted with another responsible adult.5 If it is found that a
household contains two or more tenancy groups (see section 2.4) each tenancy group is
treated for sampling and interviewing purposes as a separate household.

Information is normally obtained from one adult household member. A few items of
information are collected about each member of the household, for the purpose of classifying
households according to size, demographic structure, economic activity etc. The respondent
is asked to provide factual answers to the survey questions about the household’s (or
tenancy group’s) housing circumstances and his or her opinions are treated as the corporate
opinions of the household or tenancy group. For some purposes a single household member,
identified as the main earner, is treated as the household reference person (see section 2.4).

Interview length varies according to the number of individuals in the household or tenancy
group whose personal details have to be ascertained and the number of different sections of
housing-related questions that apply.6 Most interviews last 30-40 minutes. The survey
information is elicited and recorded using a computer-assisted personal interview (CAPI)
program running on a lap-top computer. The CAPI programming package used is BLAISE.

  There is also a tendency for Census-based stratification to decline in effectiveness as the Census
results become more out of date.
  An example from the 1991 Census would be the concentration of persons of Bangladeshi origin in
certain parts of East London.
  Exceptionally the respondent may be someone who is not a household member, as for example
where a close relative responds on behalf of a frail elderly person living alone.
  From this point onward the term “household” should be taken to cover both households and tenancy
groups, unless otherwise indicated in the text.

1.4 Questionnaire
Content and structure
The design of the SEH questionnaire owes much to that of the LFS housing trailers of 1980-
92. Some important content domains normally covered are:
   Description of the household. Demographic structure and identification of families.
    Economic activity and disability status of adult members. Estimated income of household
    as a whole and of head of household. Access to vehicles. Occupational and employment
    details of head of household (as basis for socio-economic classification of household).
    Some questions about second homes.
   Details of tenure and accommodation occupied by the household, including any
    lodging or sub-tenancy arrangements.
   Housing history of the household as a unit, with reference to tenure, geographical
    mobility etc.
   Views of households (in effect, of a single household respondent) about the local
    area. Household and area characteristics of the most dissatisfied. Views on local
    services. How area and services could be improved.
   For owner-occupier households, the process of becoming an owner-occupier,
    mortgages and housing finance, leaseholders. Whether they own second or holiday
   For households that have recently ceased to be owner-occupiers, circumstances of
    the change.
   For social renters their household characteristics, movements into, within and our of the
    sector. Tenants’ views and experiences in being offered accommodation. Rent and rent
    arrears. Receipt of Housing Benefit. Views about landlords and attitudes to transfers from
    Councils to RSLs.
   For private renters characteristics of the main tenancy types and of households that
    hold such tenancies. Recent moves into, within and out of the tenure category. Rents
    charged and receipt of Housing Benefit. Views about landlords.

In particular years special trailer questionnaires or follow-ups may be included to collect extra
detail about sub-groups of interest, such as private renters.

Stability and change
Questionnaire content is reviewed each year. It is part of the rationale of a continuous survey
that question modules that have long-term relevance to housing policy and series of statistics
that track important changes in the national and regional housing scene should be repeated.
Thus the SEH has a substantial core of standard question modules and in that respect it
broadly resembles the Labour Force Survey (LFS), the Family Resources Survey (FRS) and
other large government continuous surveys. Nevertheless in most years new question
modules are developed, pilot-tested and included in the main survey, typically for periods of
1-2 years. There may also be modifications to existing question modules, made to reflect e.g.
changes in housing policy or legislation, or to improve the performance of the questions in
obtaining complete and good-quality data.

1.5 Response to the survey
At SEH addresses, or household spaces within addresses, that are believed to be occupied
the rate of response is currently around 73% and the rate of non-response is thus around
27%. There has been a decline in the rate of response over the life of the survey which
mirrors that experienced by other government continuous surveys. The main reasons for
non-response are that residents cannot be contacted in spite of repeated calls by the

interviewer (about 4.5%), or that residents when contacted refuse to take part in the survey
(about 18%). The remaining 4.5% or so of cases fall into the category “Other non-
productive”, which means that some contact was made and no direct refusal was received,
but the survey procedures could not be completed successfully. This would include, for
example, households that repeatedly broke interview appointments and eventually had to be
abandoned because fieldwork time ran out. This level of non-response is not excessively
high compared with that experienced on other household surveys imposing similar response
burden, but nevertheless leaves scope for bias due to mean differences between responding
and non-responding households in terms of their accommodation, circumstances, behaviour,
or opinions.
In the case of non-responding household spaces and household spaces treated as ineligible,
all that is recorded is the existence of the household space and its classification (vacant,
derelict, second or holiday home, non-contact, refusal etc).

1.6 Grossing and weighting of results
The results of the SEH are presented in reports as population estimates. The method used to
produce the estimates, starting from the raw survey results, is quite complex. It involves the
use of a set of grossing-up factors calculated using control totals supplied by ONS Current
Population Estimates and also incorporates adjustments to compensate for bias caused by
non-response. The grossing strategy is discussed in more detail in section 10.

1.7 Reporting of results
Thus far, SEH practice has been to publish annually a paper report containing tables,
commentary and a set of technical appendices (over 300 pages in all) about 12 months after
the completion of a year’s fieldwork. This report is the main channel through which external
users learn about the results of the survey and it is probably well used internally also. Some
results are supplied to users within ODPM to a faster timetable where policy priorities require

The SEH sample design is approximately nationally representative per calendar quarter and
results for a half year, based on approximately 10,000 responding households, are for many
purposes quite robust statistically. It is possible and useful to base some analyses on data
for (say) 6 months, but even then a period of at least 12 months is required between the
identification of a policy need for new data, or for some other change to the survey
questionnaire, and the publication of a full set of interpreted results.

2.   General critique of the existing survey design

2.1 Sampling
The SEH uses a sampling frame and a type of multistage, equal-probability household
sample design that is common to a number of other government household interview
surveys. It has a uniform selection probability for addresses in all strata, no sample rotation
and no built-in longitudinal features.
Various changes to the sample design that might be made to meet user requirements are
discussed in Part II.

2.2 Fieldwork and data collection
Simplicity and robustness
All the SEH data are collected in the course of a single interview per household (separate
tenancy groups found at an address are treated as extra households).7 The survey involves
no fieldwork complications such as the need to interview several members, or one particular
member, of each household, or to fill in diaries, or to organise a separate data collection visit
by a physical surveyor (cf. the EHCS). The efficiency with which the SEH is conducted in the
field is enhanced by survey contractors’ depth of experience in designing and operating other
large government surveys of broadly similar design and also by the stability of its main
content and procedures, with which interviewers become familiar.

Choosing household respondents
One reason why the data collection design is relatively straightforward is the reliance on a
single household informant, who will normally be either the person designated as HRP (the
main income earner), or his/her spouse or partner.8 In this it resembles the Labour Force
Survey, but differs from, for example, the General Household Survey, the Health Survey for
England, the Family Resources Survey and the Expenditure and Food Survey, which require
interviews with all adult members of the household (and in the case of the GHS and the HSE
sometimes interviews with children also).

The GHS and the HSE aim wherever possible to interview individual members of multi-
person households in conditions of privacy, which helps when personal and potentially
sensitive questions are being asked about such topics as alcohol consumption, cohabitation
relationships or contraceptive practices. The FRS and the EFS, one the other hand,
encourage simultaneous interviewing of two or more adult household members and
interviewer skills and the CAPI software used must be equal to this. Simultaneous
interviewing is done partly to reduce the amount of time that the interviewer has to spend
with each household, but also to assist in the eliciting of detailed financial information by
allowing respondents to confer and agree and avoid duplications and omissions of amounts.

In the case of the SEH it seems reasonable to rely on a single responsible adult (a
“householder”) when asking factual questions about tenure, housing financial arrangements
and the like as they relate to that particular household. Where more than one household
member is qualified to be the respondent it also seems reasonable to leave it to the
interviewer to make a choice based on availability and survey convenience.

However, when sampling opinions and attitudes it is less clear that a single “convenient”
household respondent can adequately represent the views of “the household”, each member
of which may actually have different views and preferences. For example, it is not clear that
the views of a male resident, who spends much of his time working elsewhere, on the good
and bad features the neighbourhood will adequately represent those of his partner, who
spends most of her time at home looking after young children. At best, therefore, the use of a
single “convenient” respondent adds to the variance of measures of “household opinions”
and at worst it may important substantial biases because the views of less readily available
household members will be under-represented. Another relevant consideration here is the
fact that some household member(s) might really prefer to live as a separate household.

  Exceptions to the “one respondent, one interview” pattern are cases where a partial interview is
taken with someone other than the HRP or spouse and supplemented by telephoning the HRP later;
and the special data collection procedures undertaken to assist sampling for the English House
Condition Survey.
  In exceptional cases an interview may be taken with a person who is not a member of the household.
This can occur, for example, where a relative responds as proxy for a frail elderly person living alone.

Such concealed households are often the subject of policy interest, but the views of the
individual(s) concerned are effectively masked by those of the current household respondent.

2.3 Questionnaire: structure and change
Questionnaire structure
The SEH questionnaire consists mainly of a core that is broadly constant from year to year.
Questionnaire design for an upcoming year therefore involves only a limited number of
changes and does not require radical rethinking. The questionnaire structure can be seen as
modular, with well-defined modules on, for example, personal attributes of household
members, the household’s housing history, housing finance and so on. Some modules apply
only to particular types of household, with others being routed past them. The main structural
complication results from the need to capture detail about housing histories and transitions
(i.e. about the dynamics of the housing market), so that households in each tenure have to
be asked retrospectively about transitions from other tenures and other accommodation.

The smooth flow of the questionnaire is a result of careful thinking that has gone into the
structure and ordering of the modules and the logical interdependencies between data items.
A questionnaire and interview in which the ordering of modules was changed, or new
modules simply "slotted in” to replace old modules, would not necessarily work well. The
current model contrasts with that of an Omnibus survey, where the operational vehicle
remains constant from year to year but the question content changes to meet short-notice ad
hoc requests from customers.

Response burden and sensitive topics
Although quite demanding on the respondent, the SEH questionnaire is not grossly
overloaded. The most sensitive questions are probably those on income and housing finance
(particularly repossessions and rent arrears) and, for some, those which require questioning
about the circumstances of past housing events involving relationship breakdown and
change of partners. These are, however, vital topics for the survey to cover.

Questionnaire forward planning
So far as we know the SEH does not have an explicit forward plan or strategy, similar to that
which developed over time on the General Household Survey, of treating some question
blocks as permanent and mandatory, inserting others periodically (say every third year) and
treating others again as temporary ad hoc insertions (and therefore requiring to be piloted).
Also so far as we know, there have so far been no cases where questions have been
inserted for parts of a calendar year and then withdrawn or replaced by others for the
remainder of the year. We understand that there have been instances where, in spite of
piloting, it is only after revision on the basis of data obtained in the first year of inclusion that
questions have been deemed to work as intended in the second year.

2.4 Some important definitions
In collecting the SEH data interviewers are instructed to apply a number of important
definitions that affect the inferences that can be made from the results. A selection of key
definitions of special importance to housing surveys is discussed below.

Exclusions from the target population
The SEH aims to provide information about private households and their housing
arrangements. However, the populations of households and dwellings thus defined
constantly gain members from and lose members to “fringe” populations, which are excluded
from the SEH as ineligible. In the case of households the “fringe” includes residents of
institutions such as hostels, elderly residential and children’s homes, prisons and military
establishments and individuals and households in temporary accommodation, i.e. all

households and individuals that have no permanent private residence (see below under
definition of “permanent residence”).

In the case of dwellings the “fringe” includes premises that are have become temporarily or
permanently unfit for habitation (though some of these actually have occupants such a
vagrants or squatters), and vacant accommodation (see below under definition of “vacant
accommodation unit”).9 These exclusions simplify SEH fieldwork, but at the cost of making
the survey database less suitable as a basis for studying the dynamics of movement
between the main and “fringe” populations.

Permanent residence
For survey purposes each individual is assumed to have just one identifiable permanent
address and residence. Special definitions are applied where the dwelling at the address is a
caravan or other moveable structure, but is nevertheless the permanent home of a
household. One aim of the definition is to avoid counting as residents at an address any
individuals found there who are “visitors” and therefore assumed to have a permanent home
address elsewhere (no check is made to establish whether they actually do have such a
permanent home). Auxiliary definitions are then needed to ensure that individuals who are on
extended visits (but still have a permanent private address elsewhere) are excluded, and
that, conversely, individuals who constantly travel but nevertheless have the address as their
only permanent home, are included. Residence at the address for at least six months of the
past twelve is used as an operational criterion for identifying permanent residence, but it is
generally assumed that the permanent residence of one spouse is also the permanent
residence of her or his partner, even if the latter does not satisfy the residence criteria.
If the aim is to account for all members of the survey populations of households and
individuals, these assumptions that each person has a unique address of permanent
residence and that there is for each individual some address at which he or she satisfies the
“permanent residence” rules, are questionable. It seems likely that applying them (particularly
the second) results in substantial under-coverage of certain population subgroups, such as
individuals and families in temporary accommodation and single adults, often young, who
have a vagrant lifestyle and spend time at a number of different addresses, but never for long
enough to qualify as a permanent resident. There are some alternative sources of
information for households placed in temporary accommodation by local housing authorities,
but not for the second group, which is probably much larger.10 Both groups are important
from a housing policy viewpoint.

Main residence
The assumption that each household and individual has just one permanent home is
enforced through rules that require each household and individual to have a unique “main”
residence. The main residence is defined prima facie as the address which the household
respondent names as such in answer to a direct question, or, if there is any doubt, as the
address at which the household spends most of its time. A corollary is then that dwellings,
with any households or persons who occupy them for the time being, are excluded as
ineligible if they are not anyone’s “main” address and people who have no permanent home
according to the definition discussed above become statistically invisible so far as the SEH is
concerned. It is, of course, likely that the excluded households and individuals, even if
treated as eligible, would have high survey non-contact and refusal rates in practice.

Households and individuals who actually have several permanent addresses can only be
treated as eligible if contacted at their “main” address. This rule is intended to avoid giving

  Second and holiday homes are also excluded, but some information about these dwellings is
collected when the owners are picked up as members of the eligible SEH sample.
   It seems likely that a substantial part of the Census undercount is also accounted for by this group.

households that have several homes multiple chances of selection. A corollary is that
households or individuals who spend much of their time at a second or holiday home (which
may be outside the UK) have a lower chance than others of being included in the SEH
analysis sample (since if the call were to be made at their “main” residence they would be
classified as non-contacts).

Dwelling or household space
For responding SEH households a household space is effectively defined as the
accommodation that they occupy (allowing appropriately for any accommodation assigned to
sub-tenants or lodgers). Interviewers also seek to identify and enumerate all other household
spaces at sample addresses. However, the concept of “a dwelling” includes in addition a
criterion of “self-containedness” which is not satisfied by all occupied (or vacant) “household
spaces”, for example in housing in multiple occupation. The three major sources of housing
information, namely, the SEH, the EHCS and the Census, use definitions of a dwelling that
are not identical and can lead to different ways of allocating accommodation to separate
dwellings and to non-identical dwelling counts.

A household is defined as one person living alone, or a group of people who have the
sample address as their only or main residence and who either normally share at least one
meal a day, or share a living room. This is the standard definition used in censuses and
surveys. It subsumes other rules mentioned above that define permanent residents of the

Tenancy group
A tenancy group is defined as a group of persons resident at an address who occupy their
accommodation under a common formal arrangement, which could be owner occupation or
some form of tenancy, sub-tenancy or rent-free agreement. In the great majority of cases a
tenancy group is coterminous with a household, but the cases where this is not so need to be
catered for and are of policy interest. The tenancy group is an important concept in housing
policy and research, since an estimate of the number of tenancy groups is used in estimating
total housing demand. As mentioned above, separate tenancy groups at an address, once
identified in the SEH, are for most purposes treated as though they were additional
household units.

Household reference person
A further definition uniquely identifies a household reference person (HRP) for each
household. It is useful to identify a HRP as a means of classifying households socially (using
the occupation of the HRP) and also in estimating trends in household formation via
“headship rates”. Until 2000 the HRP was identified with the Head of Household (HoH), using
a definition which selected a person who owned the household accommodation or was
legally responsible for paying the rent (a “householder”)11. Where two household members of
opposite sex (usually spouses) qualified according to this criterion the male was selected and
where two of same sex qualified, the elder. These partly gender-based tie-breaking rules
were used to ensure that one individual only was selected and also because, of two spouses,
the man was (and still is) likely to be the higher earner.

From April 2001 the older definition was abandoned in the face of objections that the tie-
breaker rule was sexist and replaced with a definition of the HRP as the household member
with the highest income. It is difficult to see much merit in this change in the case of housing
surveys. The title “Head of Household” could reasonably have been replaced as it is no

  To deal with cases of rent-free tenure this was extended to “the person had the accommodation by
virtue of some relationship to the owner in cases where the owner or tenant was not a household

longer used colloquially and could convey an out-of-date implication that the HoH is
dominant within the household in sociological or legal senses. However, choosing the
“highest income” criterion seems equally if not more unfair to women and also likely to cause
doubts and anomalies in practice. How, for example, should it operate in a household where
the husband, a qualified heating engineer, is unemployed and the wife has a part-time
cleaning job? Is the wife then SRP until the husband gets a job, or is the husband to be
selected because he is potentially the higher earner?

Family unit
In the course of the SEH household interview other units of interest, such as family units, are
identified for analysis and also for questionnaire routing purposes. Family units are usually
defined as two or more adults, married or cohabiting, with or without dependent children for
whom they are responsible. Most households containing families consist of just one such
unit, but amongst certain ethnic minorities, for example, large households containing more
than one family unit are quite common. On the other hand, the SEH does not recognise
arrangements where two individuals operate as a couple but retain their own separate
permanent dwellings.

Concealed household
Some individuals or groups who live reside with others in a single dwelling would count as
concealed households. These are usually defined as single adults or groups of adults, with or
without children, who occupy the accommodation with, but do not belong to, the household
reference person’s family unit. There are various ways in which this kind of situation can
arise (e.g. extended families, unrelated single adults sharing accommodation, elderly parents
in “granny flats” etc) and doing justice to each of these is a complex area of housing
research. A full account of the residents of a dwelling, with their ages, sexes and the
relationships between them, is required to identify such concealed households with certainty.

Vacant accommodation unit
Conceptually, vacant accommodation units (household spaces) are defined as those that are
fit for, or are in course of being repaired or altered so as to be fit for, human habitation, but
currently have no permanent residents. As in the case of second or holiday homes,
interviewers will sometimes have difficulty in distinguishing “vacant” units from units the
residents of which are seldom at home. By the same token, there will often be no readily
accessible respondent who is able and willing to supply accurate information about important
dwelling attributes such as tenure, nature of accommodation, amenities etc. Use of casual
third-party respondents also raises issues of confidentiality.

2.5 Response rate
Maintaining high rates of response to household interview surveys is a perennial challenge
which is becoming more severe over time. The SEH has not escaped the downward trend in
rates of response which has affected all the continuous household surveys conducted by the
National Centre and by the Office for National Statistics, particularly over the past 10 years.
The reasons for this trend are likely to include:
   less public tolerance of unsolicited approaches (some made for survey purposes, but
    most for purposes of direct selling);
   more use of barriers to such approaches, such as entry-phone systems;
   more widespread fear of crime, particularly in some areas;
   more people being in full-time employment and leading over-busy lives, with less spare
    time and energy to take part in surveys;
   growing prevalence of lifestyles that cause people to be frequently away from home;
   members of the public becoming blasé and less flattered and intrigued at being invited to
    take part in a survey;

   less public faith in and support of the institutions of government (evinced also in lower
    electoral participation rates);
   less deferential acceptance that government has legitimate reasons for collecting
    information about households and individuals.

The above interpretation is difficult to confirm and quantify scientifically without strictly
comparable evidence from non-response studies conducted recently and in earlier times, but
if correct it suggests that there is no easy way (other than perhaps the judicious use of costly
response incentives) in which survey sponsors and practitioners can revive the willingness of
members of the public to take part in government surveys.

2.6 Grossing and analysis
The most innovative and complex feature of the survey is probably the grossing and
weighting. This is further discussed in Part II.

2.7 Service to users, timeliness and flexibility
Who are the users of the SEH?
The SEH is a major government continuous household survey. It is justified within
government as a means of meeting the housing policy information needs of ODPM.
However, in common with its peer surveys, it is also a vital source of information and data for
local government, academic, commercial and other users outside central government who
are interested in housing and in other topics that are covered by large household surveys.

The view we take is that, whereas ODPM and other government uses are paramount,
account should also be taken of the requirements of external users. These requirements are
not limited to getting speedy access to those sets of SEH results to which the Department
attaches greatest importance and priority, important though that is. They also include having
access to the household-level micro-data so as to carry out new analyses defined by
themselves, subject to data protection safeguards, and to survey methodological information,
such as complete specifications of the sampling and data collection designs and the
fieldwork documents, procedures and outcomes. The annual published reports, as well as
presenting tabulated results and commentary, have hitherto supplied much of this
methodological information.

Factors that control the reporting timetable
Like all the large and complex continuous surveys conducted for government, the SEH
operates on a long time cycle. For example, any significant change to the questionnaire must
be agreed with sponsors and users well before it goes into the field as part of the main
survey, so as to allow time for pilot tests to be set up and the details of the main survey
questionnaire and field procedures to be finalised in the light of pilot results. Proposed
content changes often involve net additions to the questionnaire and internal negotiation
within the department may be required to decide whether a longer interview can be funded
or, if not, what can be dropped from the existing questionnaire so as to hold interview length
and other cost-related features of the design constant. Internal content review processes
may therefore need to start a good deal earlier still.

If one measures from the point at which a new set of question topics is internally approved
within the sponsoring department for one of these surveys, it is necessary to allow for:
   drafting the new questions in consultation with users and integrating them into the
    questionnaire to give a realistic context;
   piloting the questions in that context;
   digesting pilot feed-back and making any required modifications to question wording etc.
    (which may involve negotiating with the originators);

   integrating the questions into the Computer-Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI)
    programs for the main SEH round to start in the following April;
   running the questions for 12 months;
   processing the data and preparing them for analysis;
   running, interpreting and writing up the required analyses.
The time lapse from start to finish can in some circumstances be as long as two years. Given
all this, the SEH has so far had quite a good record for publishing reports reliably to the sort
of timetable just described.

Shortening turn-round time
The above cycle of activities operates on the SEH to a rhythm that is no slower than on other
comparable large continuous household surveys, but policy users within ODPM are keen that
the processes should be speeded up and the timetable shortened. Results required for
internal policy purposes (not necessarily for external dissemination) do not have to wait for
the published report or for publication on the ODPM website. The delay in providing full year
results internally can therefore be as short as 18 months for full year results and 12 months
for half-year results. Half-year results can be very useful, bearing in mind that the sample
size for six months is around 10,000 households and that the results for each calendar
quarter are approximately nationally representative. However, time-lags of this order are still
long in relation to the normal timetable for the policy-making process.

Currently SEH managers at ODPM are moving to a system in which the principal output is a
set of tables published on the ODPM website (the main batch will be scheduled for
publication before Christmas for the fieldwork year ending on 31 March of that calendar
year). At least one further batch will be published in the spring. There will probably be other
small batches made up of tables that have been produced in response to ad hoc requests
but are felt to be of wider interest. The tables on the website will not be confined to the
results from the latest 12 months of fieldwork, but will include results from earlier years in the
case of questions that are not asked every year. There will still be an interpretive report, but
this will be smaller than in the past, and will contain only selected tables.

Apart from this the main focus of SEH management has been on shortening the amount of
time that must be allowed between internal notification of a requirement new questions and
the launch of the main survey. This period has been reduced to about 15 weeks, so that, with
the main survey fieldwork cycle beginning on 1st April, some requests for new questions can
be taken on board as late as the end of the previous November. This assumes, of course,
that the generation of demand for new questions always occurs in the autumn, but the
exigencies of the policy process may mean that the demand surfaces in the spring, adding
another six months to the timetable. Another point to remember is that putting pressure on
the time available for testing and improving the questions can result in questions forms being
inserted in the main survey which are not fully tested and do not perform as well as they

A survey such as the SEH could only be speeded up more radically only by changing the
design so fundamentally as to turn it into a different kind of survey. For example, to run a
quarterly as well as an annual cycle of questionnaire reviews and changes, with
corresponding cycles of data collection, data processing, analysis and reporting (effectively
four surveys a year) would require far more resources, different organisation and some
watering down of statistical and data quality standards. We believe that thinking about the
content of the SEH needs to be long-range, focusing on aspects of housing that are of
durable significance and that a sufficient number of topics in this category exist to justify the
survey. Information needs generated by short-notice policy changes or innovations should be
addressed in other ways. On the other hand it is right that there should be regular reviews of

content and the survey should on no account be allowed to fossilise or to become dominated
by requirements to continue annual statistical series which are not really justified.

Part II: Special Topics
In Part I we have given a general description of the design and execution of the SEH
(Section 1) and an overall review and critique of the design (Section 2). In Part II Sections 3-
10 we provide further commentary on a number of important design issues and problems
that have either been flagged in the brief for this consultancy, or have emerged from the
critique (or both).

3. ODPM housing survey strategy
Housing policy is about matching the supply of housing units of various types, within
geographical areas, that meet minimum standards in terms of physical condition and
amenities, with the housing demand generated by persons in those areas who wish either to
live together in multi-person households of various types and sizes, or to live alone. To
provide information on which policy can be based ODPM conducts two large surveys, the
English House Condition Survey and the SEH.

3.1   English House Condition Survey
The EHCS has been running as a regularly repeated survey since the nineteen seventies. It
samples from the population of all dwellings, including those that are vacant12. It aims to
collect sample information (a) about private dwellings and household spaces and their
physical condition and (b) about the households inhabiting those dwellings and is thus able
to investigate which types and conditions of dwelling are inhabited by which types of
household. The EHCS interview with dwelling residents overlaps considerably in content with
the SEH interview, but there are some differences in definitions and question wording. The
EHCS is now run continuously, like the SEH, but the SEH has a substantially larger annual
sample size.

3.2    Similarities and differences between the EHCS and the SEH
The EHCS can relate survey-measured attributes of the resident household(s) to surveyor-
assessed condition and other physical features of the dwelling, including e.g. adaptation to
the needs of the disabled. Its follow-up surveys expand the information available about the
physical attributes of the dwelling. The content of the EHCS household interview overlaps
heavily, but by no means completely, with that of the SEH and within common sections
includes details not covered by the SEH. Even where there are topics in common, definitions
and question wordings sometimes differ.

The SEH can relate attributes of the resident household to the type, but not the condition, of
the dwelling. It does not systematically collect sample information about the population of all
existing dwellings and in reporting covers only those that are inhabited.

The PAF address sampling frame used by both surveys in principle covers all private
housing units. Neither the SEH nor the EHCS covers the complete population of households

  For brevity we will in the remainder of this discussion use the term “dwelling” to include the idea of
“household spaces” that may not be structurally separate, except when structural separateness is an

and individuals that require accommodation, since it excludes those that have no permanent

Two important differences between the sample designs of the two surveys are:
   EHCS samples differentially, assigning much higher selection probabilities to dwellings in
    rare tenures and older housing compared with other parts of the housing stock;
   in the EHCS a high proportion of the dwellings and households included in one year are
    also included in at least one subsequent year (sample rotation at the level of dwellings).

This rotating sample design reflects the high priority attached in the EHCS to reducing the
standard errors of measures of change in the mean condition in the housing stock. Another
advantage of retaining addresses and dwellings in the sample for more than one round of the
EHCS is that it offers the possibility of conducting longitudinal studies at the level of
individual dwellings and household spaces. Such studies of micro-change at the level of
dwellings have considerable attractions in theory, but in have often been disappointing in
practice. The main reasons for this are:
   confusion of addresses, leading to errors in identifying on recall the housing unit that was
    surveyed on the earlier occasion;
   the fact that changes of occupancy make it hard to find reliable respondents who can
    give details of how and when changes or repairs were made;
   the fact that there are many ways in which dwellings may disappear or be transformed
    that are hard to track unambiguously;
   unreliability and error in the items of information collected at successive stages (which
    generates spurious “change”).

Operational link between the surveys
In 2001-02 an operational link was put in place between the SEH and the EHCS. The EHCS
now uses a “shadow sample”, drawn at the same time as the SEH sample, to provide
sufficient numbers of cases in certain strata. The SEH addresses and their “shadows” are
normally next-door or closely adjacent to one another. The method depends partly on the
correlation in terms of type and tenure that exists between closely adjacent dwellings and
partly on procedures built into the SEH fieldwork to check tenure and other details of each
“shadow” address. In sampling terms, therefore, the EHCS partly depends upon the SEH. So
far as we are aware no further use has as yet been made of the close co-ordination of the
two survey samples.

4. SEH sample size and sample design
4.1 The importance of estimates for population subgroups
As with most large-scale surveys, the main issue in discussions of the optimum SEH sample
size is the representation of population subgroups. Housing policy in England is often
directed to minorities, such as households and dwellings in rare tenures, households that
have recently changed their tenure arrangements, ethnic minority households and others.

Separate estimates for these groups are therefore desired and an important function of the
SEH is to screen a large sample of residential addresses in order to identify sufficient
numbers from minority sub-populations, defined in terms of housing and demographic
variables, to provide stable estimates for those sub-populations. This requirement is
reinforced by demands from users to improve the detail, precision and reliability of estimates
for separate regions and sub-regions of the country. Detecting and measuring change in the

distribution of housing variables over time is another particular concern, which interacts with
the demand for finer geographical breakdowns.

4.2 Sample stratification and clustering
The most powerful determinant of the precision of estimates of level and change in variables
measured by the survey, and also of the power of tests of relationships between variables, is
usually sample size. However, crude (sub-)sample size is not the only factor that affects the
precision of estimates. Two other features that affect the statistical performance of sample
designs are stratification and clustering.

Stratification of primary sampling units
Stratifying the selection of sampling units Use of relevant stratifier variables in selecting
samples tends to reduce the variance of estimates, particularly if based on the total sample,
but only in proportion to the degree to which the selected stratifiers are . “Relevant” here
means “correlated with important those variables the level or rate of change of which the
survey is designed to estimate”.

Like almost all the other large government household surveys, the SEH issues to the field a
sample of addresses drawn from the PAF. The PAF has good coverage of addresses, but a
limitation is that it contains no information about the households that reside in them, other
than their geographical location as indicated by the postcode. Over the years arrangements
have been made to link the geographical referencing system of PAF with that of outputs from
successive Censuses of Population. Census confidentiality prevents the making of links at
the level of individual addresses or postcodes13, and in any case information about residents
rapidly becomes inaccurate unless regularly and frequently updated. Therefore, links are
made at small area level. As a result, where postal sectors are used as primary sampling
units (as in the SEH) it is possible to stratify them by reference to the averaged attributes of
the households and individuals found to be living in the sector at the time of the last census.
Stratification at the small area level is useful, since there are some marked contrasts
between areas that are relevant to surveys. Housing attributes, such as tenure, type of
dwelling and age of dwelling, provide some good examples of such area contrasts.

Five points should be noted.
                                                                                                            Formatted: Bullets and Numbering
1. Because the largest component in the population variance of survey variables is usually
   between households within small areas, rather than between area averages, area                           Formatted
   stratification can operate to control only a relatively small component of variance. It is               Formatted
   thus much weaker in its effects than household-level stratification would be. Thus in
   looking at evidence on the scope for improving stratification schemes it must always be
   remembered that any improvement achieved affects only the smaller, between-areas,
   component of total between-households variance.
2. There is a tendency, varying according to which survey variable is looked at, for
   households of particular types to cluster together geographically. This produces
   unfavourable design effects in address samples that are themselves drawn in two stages,
   with small areas selected at the first stage (see next section). If all small areas were
   identical in terms of the survey variables such design effects would not arise; but nor
   would there be any point in stratifying the selection of primary sampling units. As it is, the
   sample designer tries to recover through area stratification the losses in precision that
   result from address clustering. Sadly, it almost always turns out that the effect of

  The exception is the linking of census and survey addresses carried out after each census by the
Office for National Statistics, using its uniquely privileged position vis-à-vis the census. This linkage
enables responding and non-responding survey households to be compared in terms of their census-
measured characteristics.

       clustering in increasing variance is stronger than the effect of stratification in reducing
3. Both clustering effects and stratification effects tend to decrease in magnitude for
   estimates based on sub-samples (which in practice most estimates are). However, for
   within-region estimates the regional stratifier has no effect, whereas the clustering effect
   is undiminished.
4. Clustered sample designs, such as that of the SEH, that allocate address selections to
   many primary sampling units (areas) are better, but gain less from stratification, than
   designs that use fewer areas and larger clusters. Nevertheless, within those limitations
   area stratification can make a useful contribution to making estimates as precise as
5. Household-related results from a given census remain in use until the small area data
   from the next census become available about 12-13 years later. Over that period their
   effectiveness in stratifying area samples is likely to be reduced by changes in area
   composition over time. This factor does not affect the power of regional stratifiers.

Large surveys within many primary sampling units (PSUs) give scope to distinguish many
strata in selecting PSUs (areas). This is likely to make stratification more effective, provided
that all distinctions made between strata mark genuine area contrasts that are relevant to the
survey variables. In practice most sample designs make a trade-off between number of
stratifying variables and fineness of discrimination on particular stratifiers. A rule-of-thumb
empirical guide sometimes used is that it is better to use several stratifiers that contrast
areas in different ways (provided that all are relevant to the survey variables) than to make
very fine distinctions on just one stratifier.

In the case of the SEH these important estimates all relate to households. Large national
household surveys are often designed to provide a wide range of different estimates and
consequently tend to select a general-purpose set of relatively independent census-based
stratifiers.14 The selection often includes:
                                                                                                     Formatted: Bullets and Numbering
      a classification of the country into geographical regions;
      measure(s) that distinguish conurbations, other urban areas, suburban areas and rural
       areas (or a measure of population density);
      measure(s) that take account of the preponderant form of housing in each area;
      measure(s) of “average area social class” (interpreted as the proportion of household
       heads or reference persons within the area that were at the time of the census in “middle
       class” rather than “working class” occupations);
      a measure of the average level of affluence of area residents, such as car ownership.

Variables such as housing tenure are, of course, of direct relevance to housing policy, but
also function partly as measures of relative material deprivation and for that reason are used
in stratifying samples for surveys not primarily focused on housing topics. Social class
reflects cultural and lifestyle differences, but also relative material affluence or deprivation.
The last two variables mentioned above are the nearest the census and other available area
information sources can get to stratification by average area level of household income or
relative material deprivation. The choice of stratifiers often owes something to political and
well as statistical considerations. For example, survey users may wish to be assured that the
proportion of the sample assigned each region, or to each ethnic group, is controlled. These
frequently-used stratifiers are all to some extent intercorrelated across the population of

     A list can be found in Barton (1996).

In the case of the SEH, the most important survey estimates relate to households. One
would ideally wish to control through stratification the representation of particular types of
address in the sample as selected – for example, addresses containing accommodation in
particular housing tenure groups. Unfortunately, however, stratification at the level of
addresses can be applied only to control the representation of areas, since PAF entries
contain no other information about addresses. Accordingly, stratification is applied at the
level of primary sampling units (postal sectors), but this is much weaker in its beneficial
effects. This is because there is much more variation between houses and households within
areas than there is between area averages. The marginal effect of sample stratification at the
PSU level in improving precision of estimation at the household level is quite small,
particularly in the case of large well-spread samples such as that of the SEH and particularly
when one is looking at just one of several stratifiers.

As already described in Part I, the SEH design is quite elaborately stratified at the PSU
(postal sector) level. The population of postal sectors is classified into 17 regions and sub-
regions and takes account of the proportions of households per sector in private renting and
in local authority renting tenures and the proportion of households per sector in higher versus
lower social classes (based on occupations of heads of households). These factors are
balanced over the year within the sampling scheme. It would not be possible to incorporate
additional PSU stratifiers into the current design without either dropping one or more of the
existing ones or reducing the detail of the classifications.

Compared with other large household survey designs the SEH design gives more scope to
the overtly housing-related census-based area stratifiers. The regional stratifier and the two
tenure-related stratifiers are concise and satisfy the requirement that they be directly related
to important survey estimates, so we do not think they should necessarily be changed (see
also below on area deprivation scores and area typologies based on clustering). It is possible
that the stratification based on area social class indicators could be improved upon and it will
be necessary to consider this issue when the small-area results of the 2001 Census become
available and sampling frames are updated, because ONS has switched, in classifying
Census data on occupation and status in employment, from the old Socio-Economic Groups
(SEG) classification to a new National Statistics Socio-Economic Classes (NS-SEC)
classification. The 100% processing of 2001 Census occupational data should strengthen
this form of stratification15 and analyses carried out in the course of developing NS-SEC
suggest that it may perform slightly better than SEG in distinguishing disadvantaged types of
household, which is probably what one of the aims of SEH stratification requires. These
improvements should carry through when the classification is carried up to small area level
via the proportion of household heads (or of employed persons) whose occupations are
assigned to particular NS-SEC categories. Another important set of sampling options likely to
be opened up when the results of the 2002 Census become available is the ability to
distinguish area entities below the level of postal sectors that may be particularly meaningful
in housing and environmental terms, such as “neighbourhoods”.

During the past decade trials have been reported aimed at optimising the stratification
designs of the Family Resources Survey (using the results of the Family Expenditure Survey
as a test-bed) (Bruce 1993, Barton 1996) and the General Household Survey (Insalaco
2000). In principle the optimum way of combining stratifiers could be different for each
outcome variable, so the approach has been to define a small set of important outcome
variables and to look for stratifiers that perform well in reducing the variance of most or all of
these important variables. The criterion set of variables chosen tends to vary from one
survey to another and the same variable may be used in a different form from one survey
Certain stratifiers (e.g. the social class measures) tend to recur, but it is not safe to

     Formerly social class information was coded for only 10% of households.

generalise from one survey to another. Nevertheless, results pointing to worthwhile
improvements in the way stratifiers are defined, selected and used have been obtained. This
type of test requires only a survey data set in which the allocation of cases to primary
sampling units and hence to strata is defined and access to the required census area-level

To predict for the SEH which exact combination will produce the greatest reduction in the
between-areas component of sampling variance, empirical trials are needed using a
customised list of key output variables. We therefore recommend that a similar exercise be
undertaken for the SEH. The best opportunity to do this work would probably be as part of
the redesign of the SEH sample that will in any case be required when the 2001 Census
small area data come on stream. However, in our view not too much should be expected by
way of improvements in statistical efficiency. Some of the papers referenced (e.g. Barton
1996) give a misleading impression in interpreting results showing how area stratification
impacts on the variance of household-based estimates. The improvements claimed affect
only the minor component of variance, that is, variance between area averages. Thus, for
example, if a reduction in variance of 15% is predicted for a new set of stratifiers as
compared with the old, but the between-areas component accounts for only 10% of total
between-households variance, then the actual reduction in the variance of household-based
estimates is only 1.5%.


Area deprivation scores
In addition to single Census variables there exist area-level deprivation indicators derived
from sets of variables, the development of which was sponsored by the (then) DOE (DOE
2000). [reference]. These indicators are based partly on Census variables and partly on other
small area statistics that are regularly updated, such as registered unemployment rates.
There is a family of these deprivation indicators, each corresponding to a different domain
(e.g. the Housing Domain, the Income and Employment Domain), as well as an overall
indicator. These will need to be updated on the basis of the 2003 Census results, but we do
not know what the timetable for that will be. There has been some technical controversy
about methods by which the indicators were derived.

From the SEH viewpoint a a drawback to using these indicators to stratify the area sample is
that they are available for electoral wards only. The matching with postcode sectors, which
are the SEH primary sampling units, is necessarily rough and this would weaken the power
of area deprivation scores as stratifiers. SEH designers have tended instead to use individual
census small area measures, because they are more easily interpreted and more clearly
related to the aims of the survey. A more thorough review of advantages and disadvantages
of the scores in SEH sampling would require more time and effort than we can afford to give
within the scope of the present review. Our feeling is, however, that there are no great gains
to be made.

Area typologies based on multivariate cluster analysis
Another way of reprocessing Census Small Area Statistics, often used in market research
and sometimes in social research, has been to subject a set of about fifty area indicators to a
form of cluster analysis16, which seeks to assign every small area (for example wards) to an
area cluster. This is another type of area classification; one such system is known as
ACORN and another as MOSAIC. Impressionistic labels are given to the clusters on the
basis of the indicators on which they score notably above average. The labels tend to refer to

 Note that in this section we are using the terms “cluster” and “clustering” to refer to a form of

multivariate data analysis, not to a sample design feature.

demographic, socio-economic and housing attributes of areas, along the lines of “Pebble-
dashed Subtopia”, “Bohemian Melting Pot” and the like. At the most detailed level there may
be around 40 area clusters (quite uneven in size), but these can be recombined
hierarchically into a more manageable number, perhaps 11, for use in sample stratification.
However, recombination necessarily robs the classifications of much of their precision and
interpretability and hence their intuitive appeal.

We have been asked to consider whether the SEH sample stratification should be re-based,
wholly or in part, on one of these area classification systems. We believe that that would not
be justified. The labelling of area clusters is designed to maximise customer appeal by
appearing to “capture” many different dimensions of variation between areas and their
residents. It also gives an impression that the clusters are much more sharply distinguished
statistically than is actually the case. The clustering algorithm, by its nature, cannot be
optimally focused on any one area of application, such as housing. We believe that the
existing set of stratifiers is more focused, more transparent and likely to control more of the
variance in SEH target variables than the area clustering systems.

It is worth noting here that the performance of different sets of stratifiers could be tested and
compared empirically if indicators of deprivation score(s) and the area cluster assignment for
each PSU were attached to a recent SEH data set (see above under stratification).

Sample clustering and clustering design effects
In the SEH sample design addresses are selected in two stages. This produces a two-stage
clustered design. The clusters correspond to primary sampling units (PSUs) and each
consists of the set of households for which data are obtained within a postal sector. Sample
clustering is one important source of unfavourable sample design effects, which increase the
variance of estimates and hence the corresponding standard errors of estimation. The size of
the clustering design effect (DEFF) can be approximately estimated as a joint function of the
mean intra-cluster correlation coefficient () for the variable of interest and the mean number
of cases in each cluster (M):

DEFF = 1 + (M – 1) x 

The design effect is the factor by which the variance of the estimate for the complex design is
greater or less than the variance for a simple random sample of the same size. Design effect
coefficients greater than one indicate that the sample design is less statistically efficient than
a simple random sample (so the effective sample size is smaller than the actual sample

It will be seen from the above formula that, even if the value of is so small that it would be
considered negligible in many applications of correlational analysis (say 0.02 or less), if M is
large (say 100 or greater) the design effect will also be large enough to concern survey
sample designers. In housing surveys some  values are relatively high because of the
tendency for blocks of housing to have been built at much the same time and to similar
designs. Being aware of this, designers aim to keep down the number of cases per cluster,
which for fixed total sample size entails having a larger number of smaller clusters, rather
than a smaller number of larger ones. The SEH thus selects 1176 first stage units and the
average cluster size (number of responding households/tenancy groups per first stage unit)
is approximately 17. This is also a convenient number for a single SEH interviewer to cover
in one month.

Calculating sampling errors for complex sample designs
In the case of simple random sampling it is possible to calculate directly, from a knowledge of
the sample means and standard deviations of variables and base numbers, the values of the

standard errors of estimates presented in tables. However, in the case of complex sample
designs the calculation is more laborious and requires rho values, cluster sizes and
stratification to be taken into account. This can be done through the use of algorithms
embodied in special software, which enables true variances and standard errors for
estimates based on samples with complex designs to be calculated. In general the standard
errors are larger than those estimated by assuming simple random sampling. In the SEH
reports, rho values and true standard errors are published for a range of important

In specifying the SEH design the unfavourable clustering design effect has been carefully
balanced against practical arguments in favour of clustering. Appendices to the SEH reports
show standard errors and design factors for quite a wide range of estimates based on the
grossed-up sample (or sub-samples of it). The largest design factor value shown is around
1.88, but the majority are under 1.2 and many are close to 1.0. The largest design factors
observed reflect geographical clustering in the population, as occurs for example for
households living in high-rise buildings and members of certain ethnic minorities. We
therefore agree that the balance of advantage is in favour of a two stage clustered design
because it makes fieldwork so much less costly and more manageable.

Where the subgroup for which estimates are required is spread across most of the sampling
strata and area sampling units, the number of cases per area cluster and thus the clustering
design effect is reduced. However, it is not reduced when the subgroup is defined to include
certain classes of area only, such as those located in a particular geographical region.
Therefore the precision of estimates for regions is reduced not only because the sample size
is (obviously) smaller than for national estimates, but also because the clustering design
effect is the same as for national estimates.

4.3 Other types of design effect
Design effects due to correlated coding or assessment errors
While clustering design effects due to the sample design are pervasive in the surveys we are
considering, they are not necessarily the only serious type of clustering design effect that
influences the precision of results. For example, interviewers may differ, slightly but
systematically, in the codes they record at particular questions, perhaps because they
interpret their instructions differently. That will produce a rho value greater than one for
certain variables within the cluster of households interviewed by the same interviewer. Each
SEH interviewer typically deals with only a small number of responding cases18 and there are
no obvious cases where coding of responses depends on interviewer judgement19, so the
effect on standard errors is likely to be negligible.20

Design effects due to post-hoc weighting of the data
In the case of the SEH selection of households is with equal probability, but the results
presented are based on data that have, as an inherent part of the grossing procedure, been

   We are not sure whether or not these estimates, in addition to taking account of the sample design,
also allowed for the complex grossing and weighting scheme applied to the SEH results, but we think
   It must be remembered, however, that some interviewers cover more than one quota of SEH
addresses in the course of a year.
   Apart, perhaps, from interviewer assessment of “shadow sample” addresses.
   However, effects due to systematic inter-assessor differences cannot automatically be dismissed as
negligible. In the EHCS surveyors responsible for assessing the condition of dwellings tend (in spite of
special training) to differ systematically from each other in the standards they apply. The rho value is
still small in absolute terms, but when it interacts with the fact that the average number of dwellings
assessed by each surveyor is large, the resulting unfavourable design effect is also uncomfortably

differentially weighted to reduce biases due to non-response. Such differential weighting
tends in most circumstances to generate unfavourable design effects and inflate standard
errors, the magnitude of the effect being proportional to the sample variance of the weighting
factors applied. Because of the complexity of the SEH weighting and grossing system it may
be that true variances and sampling errors could only be estimated through some balanced
repeated replications algorithm. It seems possible that Elliott (1997) carried out some such
estimations, but if so he does not report results for the SEH.

The SEH weighting and grossing system consolidates several conceptually different stages
and it seems unlikely that the effects on variance of different weighting elements (non-
response weighting, calibration weighting) could be separately calculated using existing data
sets. To investigate these effects for a selection of SEH estimates a special data set would
be required that incorporated not only the raw survey results for some suitable set of
variables but also full meta-data on both the sample design and the weighting scheme,
including per-case values of the weights applied at each stage (see section 10). Specifying
and obtaining such a data set, carrying out appropriate analyses and interpreting the results
is a larger task than could be attempted within the limits of the present review.

5. Increasing effective sample size for important estimates

5.1 Straightforward scaling up of the sample
The simplest response to demands for more detail and greater precision in estimates based
on the SEH would be to increase the total set sample size for the survey as a whole, while
holding the sample design constant. This solution, as well as being conceptually simple in
itself, would have the merit of maintaining the relative simplicity of the design. However,
because the precision of estimates is proportional to the square root of sample size, total
sample size would probably have to be at least doubled and quite possibly quadrupled to
satisfy a reasonable proportion of the demands. That would have the obvious disadvantage
of raising data collection and data processing costs very substantially. It would also be
difficult to justify, since it would boost the representation of large population subgroups
already well covered, as well as that of small but important subgroups.

5.2 Boosting the representation of rare tenure groups
A strategy that might in principle be more efficient is weighted sample selection. This could
be applied whether or not total sample size was increased. For example, a key feature of the
current English housing scene is that approximately 70% of private households currently own
or are buying their accommodation, so that all other tenure arrangements have become
relatively rare. There is much of importance to be studied in the owner-occupied sector and
in movements of households into, out of and within it. However, developments in other
tenure sectors where the units are relatively few and sparsely distributed are also of great
policy interest and it would be more efficient if representation of the rare tenures could be
boosted relative to that of owner-occupation.

It would in principle be straightforward to achieve this if at least one complete and up-to-date
list sampling frame of private housing units existed which contained information on tenure. In
the past something that roughly corresponded to that ideal existed in the shape of the Rating
and Valuation Lists, a master copy of which was held by the Inland Revenue Department and
edited copies of which were held by Local Rating Offices. The use of the lists for revenue
collection encouraged local authorities to keep their copies up to date. Authorised staff were
able to gain access to the Local Rating Office lists for sampling purposes, but in practice
sampling had to be done on local authority premises. The lists were held in non-standard
formats and as a result sample stratification and selection was a laborious and error-prone
procedure. Nevertheless, this was the source from which a very large weighted sample was
drawn for the purposes of the National Dwelling and Household Survey in 1977. Even if such
an administrative source were somehow to be recreated, it seems doubtful, in the light of
personal privacy legislation that has since been enacted, whether access to it would now be
granted for survey sampling purposes.

When the domestic rating system was replaced by the Council Tax the accessibility of the
lists for sampling purposes lapsed and since then most national housing surveys have relied
either on straight PAF samples or on follow-ups of other large surveys, such as the LFS or
the GHS, which bore the cost of screening address samples to identify households and
dwellings in particular categories (e.g. private renters, recent movers etc).

Currently, therefore, there are no sampling frames available that contain information about
the housing characteristics of every dwelling in England. However, there are two commercial
data-bases known to us which estimate the ‘average’ characteristics of a dwelling in any
particular postcode. One is called Residata and the other is developed and maintained by the
commercial agency Experian.

Residata, is maintained by the Building Research Establishment and uses information from
multiple sources, including Census data and insurance applications, to estimate the most
dominant type (flat or house) and age group for dwellings in each unit postcode in the United
Kingdom. Residata also predicts whether dwellings in the postcode are predominately owner
occupied, privately rented, in the social sector or of mixed tenure (i.e. some private sector
and some social sector). The correlation between the characteristics of a particular dwelling
and the housing characteristics attributed to its postcode by Residata could in principle be
exploited when selecting samples for the SEH. To be useful, such stratification would need to
control the representation of housing units in rare tenures, considered separately.

From comparisons of dwelling characteristics predicted by Residata with those measures in
the EHCS 1996, it was concluded that Residata was fairly good at identifying the age and
type of dwelling, but was not so accurate for tenure (see Lynn et al, 2000). Using the
information from Residata would correctly predict the age group for about 71% of dwellings
and the type of dwelling for about 87% of dwellings. For tenure, the figure would be about
64%. Although the correlation for tenure might seem encouraging at first sight, it only actually
measures the ability of Residata to differentiate between private and social housing –
Residata is not able to differentiate within these tenure groups. In particular, a very small
proportion (13%) of dwellings that are private rented would actually be identified as such by
Residata – and those identified would be in areas of high density of rented accommodation
and hence would be atypical of private sector dwellings in general. Also, Residata is unable
to distinguish between local authority and RSL housing. As over-sampling the rare tenure
groups was a key requirement of the EHCS, it was decided not to use Residata.

Therefore Residata could provide a simple and relatively cheap method of assessing for
sampling purposes likely dwelling age, whether the dwelling is a flat or a house, and also
whether a dwelling is in the social or private sector. Sampling strata could be distinguished
and selection probabilities between strata could be varied to boost the representation of the
housing attributes mentioned above. However, it would not be possible to use it to boost the
sample representation of rare tenures.

The fundamental problem therefore remains that there is no cheap way of selectively
boosting the representation in the SEH sample of the rarer tenure groups, or, indeed, of
particular demographic groups. The only practical option is through screening a large
additional sample of addresses, which is costly and inherently uneconomic, since most of the
extra addresses screened would then be discarded.

5.3 Boosting the representation of particular geographical areas
The sponsors of the SEH might also wish to consider oversampling particular geographical
areas, such as smaller regions, or parts of the country that are subject to chronic housing
difficulty or stress. The weighted selection would, of course, be done in a controlled way,
such that unbiased estimates for the total population could still be computed. This is quite
easy to implement in sampling terms, but for fixed total cost would entail reducing the
representation of other areas and would also generate unfavourable design effects for
national estimates. It seems unlikely that such a scheme would commend itself, unless the
total sample size were to be increased at the same time, so that the sub-sample sizes for
smaller regions or sub-regions was brought up to some agreed minimum level.

5.4 A larger periodic SEH
It can be seen by comparing the figures in successive SEH annual reports that the national
distributions of many housing variables do not change rapidly, even in response to specific
policy interventions. It can therefore be argued that measuring them every year is not cost-
effective. One might then suggest a design where the available funding was devoted to a

survey held (say) once every five years, but with a sample size increased by a factor of five.
The intervening years would not necessarily be without survey activity. As in the case of the
NDHS, the large periodic base survey could be used to identify sub-samples of special
interest and of statistically viable size, which could then be used for follow-ups in depth,
focused longitudinal studies etc.

On reflection, however, there are a number of powerful objections to this option. From the
user viewpoint, some key housing variables, such as house prices and housing finance
arrangements at household level, are subject to rapid change. Policy users of the SEH might
well feel too exposed by a system that did not give the kind of reliable annual nation-wide fix
on housing market trends that the full-sized SEH provides.

From an operational viewpoint a complex survey with a six-figure sample size, held every
five years, is difficult to manage and quality-control. It would require a consortium of survey
organisations to be formed to carry it out and tendering and managing the required contracts
would in itself constitute a substantial extra management task for ODPM. The prospective
contractors would, inevitably, be carrying out large and complex surveys simultaneously for
other demanding clients and for them an enormous one-off housing survey would be rather
like a cuckoo in the nest. Because the last “big boost” would have been five years earlier, it
would be unlikely that the contractors (even if they continued to bid for and win the contract)
could again allocate many key staff who had previously carried out this unusual type and
scale of operation. In some very real senses, therefore, the contractors and their staff would
always be doing this enormous and demanding survey for the first time and that is a recipe
for sub-optimal performance. The operation of a periodic “big boost” design would certainly
contrast unfavourably with the current relatively smooth, well-oiled running of the continuous

5.5 Periodic SEH sample boosts
Compromise designs could be suggested in which the continuous survey continued to run,
but at a lower annual sample size than at present, but the size of the whole sample was
heavily boosted every Nth year. N might be a number other than 5 and the ratio of the
“steady” to the “boost” sample size could be varied. Obviously the attitude of the Department
to limiting the overall cost over the N-year cycle would be a key factor. The range of possible
compromises would need to be gone through in detail with survey customers to see whether
there was one or more where the advantages clearly outbalanced the disadvantages.

5.6 Ad hoc sample boosting
Cases might be made for boosting in an ad hoc way the representation of geographical
areas deemed to be under housing stress21, of ethnic minorities and so on. This idea is
logically the same as that of an SEH design in which units in different population strata are
selected with differential probability. However, it tends to come up in contexts where the
emphasis is not so much the definition of a fixed long-term sampling strategy for a
continuous SEH, but rather a desire to make the SEH more flexible and adaptable to
changing policy priorities, both in terms of questionnaire content and in terms of sample
design. For purposes of the following discussion it is assumed that the aim is to add more
members of sub-population X to the main SEH sample, where they would answer only the
standard SEH questions applicable to them. Whether it would be feasible to incorporate into
the SEH interview a module of extra questions to obtain more detail about members of the
boosted group, thus significantly increasing average interview length, is a separate issue.

  For example because of shortages of affordable accommodation or poor quality of the housing

From a sampling viewpoint a boosting strategy is straightforward to design and implement
where the groups to be boosted are geographically defined (e.g. regional sub-samples). In
other cases it is usually necessary to carry out an address screening operation to locate and
select members of the group(s) to be boosted. Such screening usually has to be done face-
to-face by knocking on the requisite number of doors and that is really a survey in itself. The
groups being by definition minorities the screening operation is inherently uneconomical,
since most of the households screened will prove to be ineligible for the boost. To provide a
manageable field coverage task the sampling for the screening operation has to be
organised in such a way that the screened-in sample is clustered on the ground, but it is
seldom possible to arrange evenly-sized clusters. Each of these problems can be solved, but
solving them is demanding technically and generates high unit costs.

A second major problem that arises where several subgroups are to be boosted is that each
subgroup is likely to need a different sampling strategy. The strategy must provide the
required additional cases in a way that is efficient in fieldwork terms and provides a statistical
basis for combining the cases from population X that form part of the main SEH sample to be
combined statistically with the boost sample. This implies knowledge of selection
probabilities for each unit in the population.22 As a result attempts to combine several boosts
in the same design tend rapidly to generate severe statistical and practical complications.

In practice, therefore, it would probably be best, if pursuing a boosting strategy, to take the
sub-populations to be boosted one at a time and to deal with a different one each year, or in
rotation. An exception could be made if and when two sub-populations that require a similar
boosting strategy were to be targeted. A hypothetical example would be households
containing young people and households consisting of elderly people. In that case the two
groups do not overlap and together make a larger target, so that screening actually becomes
more efficient. An example of two groups difficult to boost at the same time would be (say)
ethnic minority households and households renting from RSLs.23

6. Pooling results from the SEH and other surveys

General social surveys sponsored by government, such as the GHS and the ONS Omnibus
Survey, tend routinely to include at least one housing variable (usually housing tenure).
Large surveys sponsored by social policy departments other the ODPM, such as the LFS,
the FRS and the EFS, usually contain small sections of questions on housing, because the
housing background of individuals interlocks with and illuminates so many other topics.24
From an ODPM viewpoint, therefore, various large survey data sets provide scope to analyse
tenure and sometimes other housing variables by other standard variables measured by the
survey. Even if no housing variables were included in a particular large government survey,
the extra cost of including simple and easy-to-measure ones such as housing tenure would
be quite small and it would sit naturally with other classificatory variables.

   Many of these problems are illustrated and discussed in the reports on the various follow-up surveys
to the 1977 NDHS.
   The EHCS has in the past boosted the representation of RSL housing units in its sample by
approaching a small sample of housing associations, requesting from each access to its list of
properties and drawing a sample from the lists supplied. The rate of co-operation by housing
associations was not very good and the resulting sample would have had high clustering rho values
for housing attributes due to the tendency for properties owned by a particular housing association to
be similar in age, location and design.
   Conversely, the SEH and the EHCS contain sections on topics such as economic activity and
disability (to name just two) that are of central interest to other departments and to some external
users. Recently a joint team from the National Centre for Social Research and National Statistics
conducted a review of survey sources on individual disability, the report of which illustrates both this
point and others to be made below.

Against that background we have been asked to consider whether housing data collected by
a range of different government continuous surveys could be aggregated. It would be
particularly valuable if an acceptable way of sample pooling were devised and implemented
that enabled annual estimates for important housing variables of a useful degree of precision
to be provided at regional and sub-regional levels of aggregation. This would get round a
major limitation of the SEH and could, prima facie, be achieved at no additional data
collection cost and without imposing extra burdens on the public as respondents. This is one
of the key benefits offered by the proposals for an Integrated Social Survey recently
circulated by ONS.

7. Rotation of primary sampling units

From preliminary discussions with Mr Kafka we understand that he wishes to explore the
idea of rotating primary sampling units (PSUs) within the SEH sample design. This is to be
distinguished from rotation at the level of addresses as practised by the EHCS.

7.1 Rotation patterns
The aim of PSU rotation is to reduce the sampling variance of change in key survey variables
from one year to the next. A simple and not unusual PSU rotation pattern would be where the
PSUs in Year 1 are split into replicate halves (preserving the stratification scheme) and one
half is retained in Year (N+1) but then dropped and replaced by new selections from the
same sampling stratum in year (N+2). Thus each PSU remains in the survey sample for two
successive years. If longer-range change is seen to be more important, other rotation
patterns can be used in which less than half of the PSUs are changed each year and each
PSU remains in the sample for more than two years. It is possible also to devise and operate
more complex patterns where sets of PSUs reappear in the sample at set intervals (say
every five years), but these are seldom used in practice.

PSU rotation makes the measurement of aggregate change more precise because the
component of the sampling variance of measures of change between Year N and Year (N+1)
that is due to replacing half the PSUs is eliminated.25 The effect of rotation in controlling
variance in measures of change would be maximal if all PSUs were retained from one period
to the next. However, the larger the proportion of PSUs retained, the more any random
peculiarities of the Year N sample would then tend to be perpetuated.26 The power of the
sample to provide effective up-to-date cross-sectional representation of the population as a
whole would also be reduced. With a moderate degree of year-on-year overlap these effects
might not be too serious, given the large number of PSUs and the careful stratification used
by the SEH. However, severe practical and statistical difficulties would clearly arise if all or
most of the PSUs were retained over a longer period.

A second problem with a rotational (overlapping) designs is that they reduce the
effectiveness of aggregating samples year on year to obtain a large enough total sample to
support finer-grained geographical or other estimates. This is because, with a design that
rotates half the PSUs annually, the number of PSUs that results from year-on-year
aggregation is not double the number of PSUs used in any given year, but only one and a
half times the number.

A third objection to heavily overlapping rotation designs at the level of quite small units such
as postal sectors is that PSUs would tend to become “over-surveyed” and measures might

   Note that, even in the retained half, different addresses would be selected in Year (N+1) from those
used in Year N.
   An example of such a peculiarity might be that a particular ethnic sub-group was markedly over- or
underrepresented relative to the population. Stratification gives only partial protection against this.

have to be taken for PR reasons to avoid reselecting individual addresses. From a statistical
viewpoint, also, it would not be desirable to double the sample size in overlapped PSUs.

These drawbacks might be tolerated if the reduction in the variance of measures of change
was likely to be a large one. This is prima facie more likely in the case of housing surveys
than in the case of surveys on other topics because of the uneven sector-level distribution of
many housing variables in the population. That in turn results from the tendency for blocks of
housing to have been constructed at much the same date and to be of similar design and
quality. Thus variables measuring (for example) the state of repair of houses within the same
postal sector tend to be more strongly correlated than (for example) variables measuring the
behaviour or opinions of the inhabitants. With two-(or multi-) stage sampling of the kind used
in the SEH this lumpiness generates unusually high sample design effects due to clustering.
On the other hand, the design effects are reduced by judicious stratification of the PSU
sample such as that used in the SEH (see above).

A balance must therefore be struck between:,
      optimising the sensitivity of measures of change but risking the perpetuation of random
       sampling peculiarities (large year-on-year overlap) and reducing the power of sample
       aggregation across years;
      and optimising the ability of the sample to represent the population cross-sectionally and
       when aggregated across years, but having no reduction in the variance of measures of
       change (no overlap, as at present).
It would be possible to examine these issues (e.g. the reduction in variance of measures of
change associated with particular rotation patterns) empirically using special SEH data sets
which contained variables identifying PSUs and strata.

8.      Dwellings

The SEH is based on a sample of households, but it also provides collects some information          Formatted
on dwellings. The definition of a dwelling quoted in the introduction to the English House          Formatted
Condition Survey report runs as follows:
     A dwelling is a self contained unit of accommodation where all rooms and facilities
     available for the use of the occupants are behind a front door. For the most part a
     dwelling will contain one household, but may contain none (vacant dwelling), or may
     contain more than one (HMO)27.

We understand that a count of dwellings is of value to ODPM as a measure of the housing
stock potentially available for occupation by households, whether or not it is currently so
occupied. The above definition of a dwelling focuses on the criterion of self-containment and
privacy. Analysts and policy makers are in the best position to judge what value to attach to       Formatted
this measure in its own right, rather than as a stage on the way to counting dwellings that do
and do not satisfy criteria both of self-containment and of fitness for habitation. Additional      Formatted
fitness criteria would presumably include -                                                         Formatted
      having (behind the front door, and for the exclusive use of a single resident household) a   Formatted
       minimum set of housing amenities, including hot and cold water supplies, a bath or           Formatted
       shower and an indoor WC; and                                                                 Formatted: Bullets and Numbering
      being in an adequate state of repair.

If the EHCS were completely successful in obtaining a physical survey at every household
space selected as part of its sample, it would be able to refine the enumeration of dwellings
     The full definition of an HMO is much wider than this.

so as to distinguish those that had minimum amenities and were fit for habitation from those
which failed either or both tests, and to provide estimates on that basis. In practice, of
course, it suffers from differential non-response and almost certainly significant non-response
bias with respect to coverage of certain types of dwelling, and it has a sample size too small
to yield estimates that can be geographically disaggregated to the extent required.

A question therefore arises as to whether the SEH can contribute more than it has so far to
providing estimates of the population of dwellings. Estimates of the number of dwellings in
the housing stock, of the numbers, types and locations of vacant dwellings, of the numbers of
households that occupy sub-standard accommodation that does not qualifydwellings as a
dwelling, and of the numbers of households or tenure groups that share a dwelling with
another household, are all of interest. We were asked to consider whether use of information
already recorded by interviewers on Address Record Forms (ARFs), plus small amounts of
additional information that could be collected relatively cheaply, would enable useful
estimates relating to a wider population of dwellings to be provided.

8.1 Address outcomes and the enumeration of dwellings
The SEH currently produces results about dwellings only on the basis of information supplied
by households that fully respond to the survey. It would be desirable to cover the population
of dwellings more completely. Mr Kafka has asked us to consider whether use of information
already recorded by interviewers on Address Record Forms (ARFs), plus small amounts of
additional information that could be collected relatively cheaply, would enable useful
estimates relating to a wider population of dwellings to be provided.

8.1 Address outcomes
The SEH starts from a random sample of all addresses listed in the Postcode Address File
(Small Users)of PAF addresses. Interviewers are required to enumerate household spaces
at each address before selecting a household to be approached for interview. The vast
majority of households are sole occupiers of the only dwelling at covered by an address. If
the SEH interviewer finds more than one occupied household space at an address and the
any of the additional household spaces is the current main residence of at least one
household, (s)he is instructed to add the extra household(s) to her/his assignment. As an
example, iWe assume that the SEH interview then collects all the information needed to
determine the dwelling status of households that respond. However, that still leaves
indeterminate the dwelling composition of addresses where the interviewer identifies
household space(s) that appear to be vacant, or household space(s) which are treated as
ineligible because not a main residence, or where the residents of some household spaces
are not contacted or refuse to take part in the survey.
As mentioned above, the SEH is based on a sample of all addresses listed in the Postcode
Address File (Small Users). In the 20001998-2001 1999 SEH the breakdown of outcomes to
initial interviewer enquiries at each selected address was as shown in Table 1.

Table 1 Outcome classification of SEH addresses issued to the field
                                                                        %     Number
  Selected addresses                                                  100      28,224
  Untraceable in the field                                         1.20.8     260345
  Premises used for business purposes only                         1.81.2     435997
  Demolished or judged to be derelict                              0.50.4     112836
  Vacant (including not yet fully built)                           4.74.5    1,3191,3
  Temporary accommodation only / second or holiday home            0.80.8     259213
  Other ineligible, including iInstitution or communal             0.80.2      52221
  Permanent main address of one or more                              90.3    25,4902
  householdEligible addresses found s                                91.1      6,787
  Extra ineligible households found at multi-household                               98

  Extra eligible households found at multi-household                                 490
  Total sample of eligible households found                                    25,979

 Source: Report: Housing in England 20001998/01, DTLR and National Statistics 2000

The source of the information summarised in Table 1 is the Address Record Form
completed by interviewers for every address. Completion of ARFs is standard practice in
outcome accounting for surveys based on randomly pre-selected address samples.

It will be seen that about 2% of the issued addresses (the first two categories) were probably
outside the scope of any household survey, but about a further 7% were rejected as ineligible
because they did not satisfy the eligibility criteria for the SEH, namely, that they should be

the permanent main address of one or more households. Of the ineligible addresses the
majority (4.5% of all issued addresses) were judged to be vacant, but in addition there were
about 0.8% that were determined or judged to be temporary or secondary accommodation
only28, another 0.4% that were thought to have been demolished or were judged to be
derelict and another 0.2% that proved not to be private addresses as defined, but the
addresses of institutions or communal establishments.

8.2 Collecting and compiling additional information about dwellings
The SEH procedures thus identify as potential analysis units:
                                                                                                          Formatted: Bullets and Numbering
a) occupied household spaces at each sample address that are ascertained to be the main
   or only residence of one or more households (these comprise the existing main analysis
b) household spaces enumerated at an address and identified as occupied, that did not
   respond to the interview approach.
In addition, other types of household space are identified by interviewers and recorded on
Address Record Forms (ARFs), but then rejected as ineligible for the main analysis sample.
By drawing on data already recorded on ARFs iIt would be procedurally simple and quite
cheap to add to the cases available for analysis compile, by drawing on data recorded on
ARFs, an analysis data set that includes all the following types of unit:
                                                                                                          Formatted: Bullets and Numbering
c) household spaces units identified in the field as vacant household spaces;
2.d)    household spacesunits identified in the field as second or holiday homes.;
household spaces enumerated at an address and identified as occupied, that did not
respond to the interview approaoccupied household spaces ascertained at interview to be
the main or only residence of one or more households (or tenure groups).
We understand that arrangements have in fact been made to modify the 2003-04 fieldwork
procedures so as to make this possibleenumerate household spaces of types (c) and (d), .
but not to distinguish them separately. The effect of this will be that there is in principle a
complete enumeration, available for analysis, of household spaces at those addresses where
at least one household responds to the SEH. This will require a change interviewer
instructions.29 This is not unprecedented. In an number of surveys conducted by the National
Centre similar moves have been made to collect data about units in category (b) (identified
but non-responding), the object being to obtain information useful in non-response weighting.
On the SEH itself procedures have recently been put in place to enhance the “shadow
sampling” information collected.

In standard fieldwork practice the purpose for which the ARF document is designed and used is field
control, rather than collection of substantive survey data. It enables controllers to check that the
interviewer has made adequate and appropriate efforts to identify households at each address and to
secure an interview with each household. The record of calls at the address is also used as part of the
SEH grossing and weighting procedure, but otherwise the ARF data have not hitherto been used in
the analysis of the substantive results.

  The distinction between “vacant” and “holiday or secondary” accommodation my not be particularly
    In standard survey fieldwork practice the purpose of the ARF document is field control, rather than
collection of substantive survey data. It enables controllers to check that the interviewer has made
adequate and appropriate efforts to identify households at each address and to secure an interview
with each household. In the case of the SEH, the ARF record of calls at the address is also used as
part of the grossing and weighting procedure. Otherwise the ARF data have not hitherto been used in
the analysis of the substantive results.

That said, it is perfectly possible to change the instructions and also to change interviewers’ cultural
assumptions with regard to collecting information about units in categories 1-3 above. In an number of
surveys conducted by the National Centre this has been done with respect to units in category 3, the
object being to obtain information useful in non-response weighting. On the SEH itself procedures
have recently been put in place to enhance the “shadow sampling” information collected.

The key issue then appears to us to be, how complete and how reliable will be the
information obtained for purposes of (a) identifying and (b) describing dwellings in situations            Formatted
1-3 above. It should be borne in mind that interviewers will still be under pressure to get the
main contacting and interviewing job done and to control their time-use and costs. They
cannot take on the role of detectives in the very common situation where there is no
respondent available and qualified to answer questions about units in categories 1-2.

If the address appeared to be occupied, but the occupants did not respond to the SEH
because of non-contact or refusal, interviewers could attempt to code the type of
accommodation by observation. This information it might enable those types of
accommodation that are more likely not to be self-contained or to lack amenities to be
identified, but not with any certainty.

At households that are interviewed the SEH collects all the information needed to determine
the dwelling status of the accommodation. On the other hand, the interviewers will still be
under pressure to get the main contacting and interviewing job done and to control their time-
use and costs. They cannot take on the role of detectives in the very common situation
where there is no respondent available and qualified to answer questions about units in
categories (b)-(d) above.
Our main concern, therefore, is whether any dwelling-level data set could be:
   sufficiently complete in terms of its coverage of dwellings,
   sufficiently accurate in its identification of dwellings,
   sufficiently full in terms of the information recorded about each dwelling,
   of sufficiently good quality in terms of the validity and reliability of the information
to justify the cost of the extra interviewer effort involved. The conclusion reached on the basis
of experience in 2003-04 will no doubt turn on what specific analytic enhancements to the
SEH the extension of the fieldwork procedures is expected to deliver and what weight will be
placed upon the data obtained in policy applications. The situation may be one where some
extra information on dwellings is deemed to be better than none and therefore worthwhile at
the price.

9. Imputation for missing data
9.1 Item non-response
Sources of item non-response
The ideal for all surveys is, of course, that each respondent should give an acceptable
answer to every question put to them. It is also true that virtually no surveys literally achieve
the ideal. Traditionally there have been a number of different sources of such item non-
response in interview surveys. They include:
a) interviewer routing errors (sometimes leading to a whole section of questions being
   omitted in error);
b) interviewer failure to record a response that was given by the respondent;
c) out-of-range codes recorded;
d) respondent declines to give an answer;
e) respondent says she/he does not know the answer;

f)   an answer is given, but found at the data editing stage to be unacceptable (say, an
     implausibly high amount specified in answer to a question about rent payments).

The situation is less complex with questions that invite the respondent to choose one (or
more) of a predetermined list of alternatives, than with questions that invite a verbatim
answer. In the former case it is simple to define in formal terms what constitutes an
acceptable answer, but in the latter case it may only be at the stages of office data coding
and editing that an answer is ruled to be out-of-scope, too vague to be usable or effectively a
refusal to answer. This can happen, for example, in the case of questions designed to elicit a
codable job-title and description.

The introduction of computer-assisted interviewing (CAPI) has virtually eliminated
components (a), (b) and (c) of item non-response, which are due to interviewer mistakes.
This is because the CAPI computer program requires a response within the permitted range
to be recorded before the next question can be displayed on the screen. CAPI also reduces
item non-response of type (f), since internal plausibility checks can be included in the
program which inform the interviewer if a response outside the plausible (or logically
possible) range has been entered and require that it be amended to an acceptable code. As
regards (d) and (e), CAPI programs provide codes that the interviewer can enter for “Refusal”
and “Don’t know”, so in the formal sense CAPI normally ensures that some permissible
answer is entered at each question. Questionnaire designers take particular pains to ensure
that response problems are avoided at key filter questions, which determine on the basis of
the response given what route the questioning should take through the remainder of the

Effects of missing data on derived analysis variables
In many surveys the analysis of data is conducted largely using variables that do not relate
directly to what is recorded as the response to a particular question, but are derived from
several different responses using logical or arithmetical procedures. If the source items are
affected by non-response (missing data), decisions are needed on how to proceed with the
derivation. A conservative policy would be to set the derived variable value to “missing” if any
of the source items are “missing”, but in some situations it may be thought justifiable to
effectively impute values for some missing responses. These are very real and important
issues in household surveys concerned with detailed income and expenditure, for example.
What the analyst sees is affected by the editing and imputation policies adopted.

Item non-response and data quality
The “tidiness” enforced by CAPI does not necessarily mean that the data obtained are valid
and reliable, as well as being formally complete. In the first place a refusal to answer or a
“Don’t know” is often tantamount to missing data from the point of view of the analyst. In the
second place, by presenting a limited list of alternative responses at a question (precoding)
the questionnaire designer may fail to provide for answers that respondents legitimately wish
to give. All precoding, even instances that might appear to the designer and the data analyst
to be very simple and unproblematic, entails a degree of forcing of responses into a
predetermined frame. For example, where a question designer might assume that the
alternatives “Yes” and “No” (with perhaps provision for a “Don’t know”, if volunteered) cover
all cases, some respondents might wish (but would not be allowed) to say “Yes from one
point of view, no from another”. There is also the pre-emptive “Have you stopped beating
your wife? Yes or no?” type of question.

A key hidden skill of question design is to make sure that there is no undue forcing of
responses that distorts the data for the purposes for which they will be used in analysis. In
general, it is probable that respondents who, wishing to help and not wishing to appear
inadequate, hazard inaccurate guesses when they really do not know the answer to a

question, do more harm to data quality than respondents who say they don’t know. But of
course the inaccuracy of the guesses is invisible to data analysts, whereas the presence of
missing data is obvious.

9.2 Item non-response and imputation
In large household interview surveys item (question-level) non-response rates of 0-3% are
commonly found. Often the highest rate of item non-response (perhaps 10%) occurs at
questions asking for details of income or savings, because some otherwise co-operative
respondents are unwilling to give these. It is important to recognise that all methods of
imputing for missing data are very much a second best to finding ways of reducing missing
data rates at source. If there is a particular problem, one should look first at question design
and data collection procedures. In general, case-level (household) non-response is a much
more serious statistical problem than item non-response (see Section 10 below), but item
non-response, even at low levels, can be an irritation to data analysts because it leads to
minor discrepancies in the data set, depending on which set of variables is used in a
particular analysis.

Our enquiries suggest that there are few if any data items in the SEH that suffer from rates of
non-response that are unusually high, compared with other surveys, and that most are in the
0-3% range. It would, of course, be good if a simple, cheap and statistically effective method
existed for replacing missing data with valid responses. We draw a distinction here between
imputation for particular missing values within case records and grossing and weighting of
the data set as a whole. Technically the distinction is quite clear, but if the main concern is to
correct biases in the data obtained from the responding survey sample, then a particular
grossing and weighting strategy is likely to have effects which overlap with those of case-
level imputation.

9.3 Methods of imputation
Methods of imputation range from the highly particularistic to the highly generalised. Some
key factors affecting decisions on whether imputation is worthwhile and which methods to
employ are:
a) the likelihood that imputing data will significantly improve the quality of the data set as a
b) whether any independent data sources exist that might help to supply or infer values that
   are missing;
c) whether imputation for missing values is to be integrated into a general data editing
d) the time and money costs and complications of applying imputation.
Two examples may illuminate this.

For many years an expert was employed in editing the data collected by the (former) Family
Expenditure Survey, an important part of whose job was:
    to identify cases where certain key item(s) of information were missing and arrange for
     them to be reissued to the interviewer, so that (s)he could revisit the household to fill in
     the gaps (thus avoiding the need to impute); and
    to enter Benefit reference books, using survey information on the circumstances of
     households that failed to answer questions on amounts of benefit received and make a
     best guess at the rates of benefit received by respondents. 30

  The cases so treated had either been unable to say how much they received, or had given an
implausible answer which suggested that they were confusing or conflating different benefits.

The FES reported household-level response rates, but not missing data rates, so it is not
possible to say either how large the missing data problem was, nor what the effect of
imputation was. The expert guesses made are likely to have been fairly good, but their
statistical effect on bias and variance of the estimates that would have resulted without
imputation is not known.

At the other extreme, statistical imputation methods have been developed for censuses and
some very large surveys. It should first be said that data collection methods used in these
cases are usually much weaker than those employed by the SEH and suffer from much
higher levels of missing data. “Hot deck” and “cold deck” imputation methods rely
fundamentally on the idea that, in very large household survey data sets, it will usually be
possible, for any given case record C, to find other case records (i.e. other households)
which closely match record C in terms of some basic and influential variables (say household
structure variables, car ownership, economic activity profile etc). If case C is missing an item
of data D, one can then proceed by randomly selecting a record M from within the other
cases processed which matches C in the specified respects and substituting the D value
found in record M into record C, thus filling the gap in the data. The more exactly cases can
be matched, the more successful the method is likely to be.

Because the case-matching criteria are pre-specified and the selection from matched cases
is random, the procedure satisfies statistical criteria of being unbiased and having calculable
effects on variance of estimates. It can also be implemented by a computer program. The
problems lie in the selection of matching criteria and in the integration of the imputation
procedure with other editing and grossing procedures that may be applied. Employment of
this type of method requires not only a very large sample, but also substantial investment of
statistical design and development and computer programming resources.

Subject to comments from ODPM, our view is that missing data problems in the SEH are at a
level where the extra complications and costs of addressing them systematically as part of
data editing are unlikely to be justified by any benefits obtained. It is not sufficient or correct
to embark on such a programme simply because small amounts of missing data are an
irritation. It is possible that SEH analysts have in mind particular variables where missing
data is a problem. In that case we should consider first ways of reducing it at source.

10. Grossing and weighting of results
This topic has been well discussed in two papers by David Elliott: “Software to weight and
gross survey data” (1997) and “Report of the Task Force on Weighting and Estimation”
(1999) (particularly Appendix D on the SEH). The present section is indebted to Elliott’s work
and does not attempt to duplicate it. We do however make a number of points about grossing
and weighting methods, with particular reference to methods that are currently used and
might in future be used in the case of the SEH.

The term “grossing” is used to describe the process of converting sample numbers into
numeric population estimates. In general the aims of a grossing strategy should be:
a) to bring up the sample numbers so that they relate to an (independently know) population
b) to minimise the variance of grossed-up survey-based estimates;
c) to remove or reduce any biases arising in the survey sampling and data collection
   processes (or in the grossing process itself).

The results of the SEH are presented in reports as population estimates and the grossing
scheme applied to the raw survey data combines three main elements: an expansion
estimator, adjustments for non-response and calibration weighting. In detail the method is

quite complicated and the effects of successive stages of grossing interact, so it is not easy
to see analytically what the net effects of any particular element on the grossed-up estimates
are likely to be.

Elliott (1997) brings together some main findings regarding the net effect of grossing and
weighting the SEH and results given in an appendix to the annual SEH reports compare the
weighted and unweighted distributions of some important variables, such as housing tenure,
household type, household size and employment status of the head of household. The most
obvious (but of course not the only) effect of weighting is to increase the representation in the
weighted sample of single-person households. This probably reflects the experience of all
general population household surveys that response tends to be lower than average
amongst single-person households and particularly amongst young single people living

In what follows we trace and comment on the main stages of the grossing process.

10.1 Simple expansion estimator
Simple expansion estimation strictly requires only values for the effective sample size and for
the size of the target population. Since the SEH sample of households is selected with equal
probability, a standard grossing factor, calculated as the population size divided by the
responding sample size, might be applied to the responses of each household in the
responding sample, so as to make the grossed up total match an externally available
population total. Such an approach would compensate not only for the set sample being a
fraction of the population and for the achieved sample being smaller than the set sample
(because of non-response and other losses), but also for shortfalls in the survey sampling
frame and sampling procedures.31

On the other hand a simple expansion estimator does not in itself correct any imbalances
within the sample, such that some groups are over-represented and others under-
represented relative to the population. These can arise through random sampling variability,
particularly with respect to the representation of rare population subgroups that are unevenly
distributed geographically, but the major cause of imbalances is often differential non-
response bias. In practice most grossing systems address such internal imbalances to some

10.2 Non-response weighting
In the case of the SEH non-response weighting is integrated with the application of the
expansion estimator. It uses an unusual method based on the following two observations.
    Some SEH households are contacted at the first interviewer call, others only at the
     second or later call and others again (about 6%) are not contacted at all and have to be
     abandoned after a number of calls. Thus for every sample household, responding and
     non-responding, a number of calls is recorded.
    The measured characteristics of “harder-to-contact” households that do eventually
     respond differ systematically, on average, from those of “easier-to-contact” households

   Such shortfalls arise not only because a small proportion (estimated to be about 2%) of inhabited
addresses do not appear in the PAF, but also because the survey process is “leaky”. This can be seen
from the fact that, if one attempts on any large household survey to gross up to the population of
individuals by using the inverse of the effective sampling fraction, the population size at which one
arrives is always well short of the population size as shown in (for example) ONS current population
estimates, even when PAF under-coverage is discounted. The “leakage” is no doubt due to a variety
of factors, but an important one is probably that household surveys miss numbers of individuals who
do not qualify as “residents” at any address.

     that do respond; for example “harder-to-contact” households tend on average to contain
     fewer individuals.

The weighting strategy is then applied as follows.
    Both responding and non-responding households are sorted into groups that received 1-
     2, 3, 4-5 and 6 or more calls.32 Households that were never contacted are placed in a
     group according to the number of calls made before the case was abandoned.
    A separate response rate is then calculated for each group of households. A weighting
     factor is calculated for each group as the inverse of the response rate for the group.
    Each responding member of the weighting group is multiplied by this factor to
     compensate for the absence of the non-responding members.
    At a later stage of grossing the weights are effectively scaled so that the final totals match
     the population controls.

A limitation of this method is that it actually adjusts for the effects of failure to contact
households, rather than for household non-response as a whole. The refusal component of
non-response is actually much larger than the non-contact component (about 25% as
compared with about 6%) and studies of other surveys [references] have shown that non-
response due to refusal is a different phenomenon from non-response due to non-contact
(e.g. Foster (1998), Lynn et al. (2002), Groves and Couper (1998)). For example, it turns out
in a number of surveys that have been studied that elderly people have lower-the-average
non-contact rates (because they spend much of their time at home) but higher-than-average
refusal rates. Therefore assuming, in effect, that all non-responding households have the
same characteristics as non-contacted households seems fallacious and could quite possibly
make net non-response bias for some estimates worse. The design of the current round of
survey non-response checks using the 2001 Census takes account of this. See

It seems that this the SEH non-response weighting procedure makes a significant impact in
adjusting the results. For example, it tends to increase the proportion of smaller and reduce
the proportion of larger households in the weighted sample and also to increase the
proportion of households consisting of young people. However, without being to able to
inspect the weights and measure their effect on distributions at each stage of the grossing
process it is impossible to be specific regarding the effects of this method of adjusting for
non-response, since they undoubtedly interact with the effects of calibration weighting.

  The grouping of values produces a smaller number of larger weighting groups, which is likely to
provide more stable weighting factors.

10.3 Calibration weighting
Calibration weighting (post-stratification) is in origin an extension of classical probability
sampling theory. Its aim is to remove (some of) the random variance in survey estimates that
results from random sampling. It also implicitly addresses imbalances arising from other
causes including, in particular, non-response bias, though it is not necessarily the best
method of adjusting for non-response.

Calculation of post-stratification weights depends on having available trusted external
estimates of relevant population parameters (control distributions) and in that respect
resembles expansion estimation. In fact the one merges into the other where the population
control totals are available for sub-groups, such as age by sex groups, since then it is natural
to gross up to the separate group totals, thus forcing the grossed-up sample distribution to
match the corresponding population distribution and removing any imbalances in the
distribution of the sample by age and sex. In the case of the SEH the external sources used
in calibration are the ONS current population estimates for age-groups by sex and by
standard region of England. The standard region adjustment is applied as the final step in the
grossing process, but the age by sex distributions are applied earlier, using the method
described next.

There are various different statistical methods of implementing post-stratification-style
weighting, which can produce somewhat different results. The method used by the SEH is
unusual. The prime aim is to correct for the known and consistent under-representation in
household surveys generally, and in the SEH in particular, of young adults in households
consisting only of young adults. Thus, although the method is discussed here under the
heading of calibration weighting because external control totals are used, the motivation for
using this special “cascade” method of adjustment is largely to correct for non-response bias.

The key feature is a “cascade” procedure, whereby a weighting factor based on age and sex
control totals is first calculated for the weighting class “youngest member of each household
if aged under five years”. This obviously deals only with those households that include at
least one member aged under five. Then another weighting factor is calculated for the class
“youngest member of each household if aged 5-15 years. This excludes the first weighting
class, where the weight already calculated is allowed to stand. Then other weighting factors
are successively calculated, moving up the grouped age range but in each case allowing the
weights already calculated to stand, until all households have been dealt with. The final
weighting class therefore consists of “elderly (as defined) persons who are either the
youngest or the only member of their household”. From age 30 upwards the age classes
used for “youngest person” are broader (30-44 years for example). This is because response
does not vary sharply with age at ages above 30. A refinement from age 20 upward is to
introduce a further division into separate weighting classes for households that consist
entirely of people in the youngest adult age group and those that also contain older persons.

A crucial feature of this method is that the household member defined at each stage is
unique within the household (multiple births can be treated as one individual). In this way
weighting factors calculated for individuals can be applied to households (with all household
members receiving the same weight).

As described above the method proceeds by weighting one class of household at a time. A
consequence of this is that, as each successive weighting class is “forced” to conform to the
population distribution, there is a tendency for the remaining discrepancies to become
concentrated in the classes still to be dealt with and, in particular, in the last class to be dealt
with. The total variance of the weights required across the whole sample is not affected, but
the more extreme weights will tend to be concentrated in those households forming the last

class to be weighted. This will have effects on the variance of some estimates based on the
grossed-up sample, but without special analyses which pick apart the components of the
weighting system it is not possible to give examples.

Another weakness of this method as applied to the SEH is that it requires external control
totals for each weighting class. Thus there should be a control total for “youngest members
of households if aged under five years”, for “youngest members of households if aged 5-15”
and so on. In fact Current Population Estimates do not provide such separate totals, so the
weighting calculation at each stage uses as its control total “All persons aged under 5”, “All
persons aged 5-15” and so on. It is not clear what effect these substitutions would be likely to
have on the validity of the weights and the variance and bias of survey estimates.

In the case of the SEH, straightforwardly correcting distortions in the sample of individual
household members in terms of age, sex and region might to some extent reduce, but would
certainly not remove, the variance and bias of estimates of survey outcome variables such as
housing type, housing tenure and housing attitudes. Age and sex distributions for household
members, for which control distributions are available, seem unlikely to be very closely
correlated with the household-level variables in which the SEH is most interested. The way in
which they are actually used in the grossing system represents an ingenious attempt to bring
them to bear in a way that improves their power to reduce the bias in particular of household-
level estimates.

There does, however, appear to be some cause for concern, on the side of variance, about
the reliance of the grossing system on small groups, such as households that are not
contacted and relatively small weighting classes, in calculating values for the weights. This
would show up in the results of true standard error calculations for a range of survey
estimates (i.e. calculations that take full account of the weighting and grossing system as
described above, as well as of the clustered sampling design), but it is not clear to us
whether such calculations have ever been carried out. It seems possible that Elliott did so
when preparing his 1997 paper.

Our comments above on certain potential weaknesses in the SEH grossing and weighting
system should not be allowed to obscure our view that the system is an impressive, though
complicated, one that appears to serve a number of the key aims reasonable well. A
thorough empirical assessment is, however, severely hampered by the lack of diagnostic
information on how the different elements of the system perform separately and together in
reducing both bias and variance.

10.4 Limitations of grossing and weighting systems
A key point about calibration-style weighting (which in practice also addresses non-response
bias) is that external control distributions are usually unavailable for the most important
survey outcome variables.33 Calibration weighting therefore relies on correcting the
distributions of other variables (such as age and sex) for which population parameter
estimates are available and which can be shown (using sample or other data) to be
correlated with the key survey-measured variables.

The effectiveness of calibration (post-stratification) weighting therefore depends crucially on
the nature and strength of the statistical relationship between the control variables used in
weighting and these key survey-measured variables. In general the power of the variables
used in weighting, taken together, to predict what the true distributions of the key survey
variables should be is likely to be modest, so we should not expect weighting to remove all,
or even most, of the bias in survey estimates. There is in fact no “gold standard” for judging

     If such information were available the case for carrying out a survey at all might be undermined.

the performance of weighting systems, so usually we only have plausibility as a criterion. It is
an illusion to suppose that, because the grossed up sample matches population distributions
in terms of control variables such as age, sex and region, all must be well.

Another general point to bear in mind about both calibration and non-response weighting is
that, while they correct the distribution of the variables explicitly used in weighting (e.g. age
and sex), their effects in removing distortions in the distribution of other survey variables can
be difficult to predict. This is because in certain cases the relationship between control and
target variables incorporates complex interactions.

This is easiest to understand in the case of non-response weighting. Let us take the simple
case where males are under-represented (and females correspondingly over-represented) in
a responding sample. It is simple to devise and apply weighting that corrects the sex ratio,
but what this in effect does is to weight up males who did respond to “replace” males who did
not respond. However, it is likely that the sub-population of males not disposed to respond
differs from the sub-population of males who are disposed to respond in their behaviour and
lifestyle (e.g. tending to be out rather than at home at times when interviewers call), in their
demographic attributes (e.g. tending to be older and married rather than younger and single)
and in their attitudes. Thus weighting up responding males may not compensate satisfactorily
for the absence from the sample of non-responding males. This warns us that weighting is
not a panacea for nullifying the effects of non-response on survey results and that we should
always be aware of the processes that are likely to generate response/non-response in

As already noted, in implementing weighting schemes an optimum balance needs to be
struck between reducing the bias of estimates and increasing their variance. The use of
differential weights is in general likely to increase variance and the effect increases as a
function of the variance across the analysis (sub-)sample of the weighting values applied.
For example, in certain cases it may be possible to form elaborate contingency tables both
from the survey data and from the trusted external data source (say a Census). In the case
of the SEH this might be a table of age in years by sex by region. It is then possible to
generate a separate weighting factor for each cell of the table (“cell weighting”). However,
such a method, although it may look to be maximally effective in removing bias, is prone to
increase variance unacceptably.34 This is because correction factors calculated using small
sample cell totals are likely to be unstable from one year of the survey to the next and to
produce extreme and extremely variable weights that in turn increase the variance of survey

10.5    Census check studies
A great and obvious problem in devising and testing weighting systems to compensate for
non-response bias is that the same factors that lead to non-response in the first place (the
elusiveness and reluctance to take part in the survey of some sample members) make it
expensive and difficult to collect any information helpful in weighting from a sufficient
proportion of non-responders.35 One exception in this country is the series of studies of non-
response in large continuous household surveys that ONS have been able to conduct in the
wake of successive Censuses of Population, thanks to their privileged ability to match both
responding and non-responding survey households with Census records for the same

   In practice there would be empty cells in the sample table which would enforce the need to form
larger age categories, but the detrimental effect of using too many small weighting cells goes well
beyond that.
   The current SEH grossing and weighting system bypasses this problem by assuming that the
“difficulty in contacting” variable is an effective proxy for direct measures of the attributes of non-
responding households.

households. This enables comparisons to be made, in terms of Census-measured
characteristics, between those households that responded to the survey and those that did
not (see for example Kemsley (1975), Redpath (1986), Foster (1998)) . In some of these
studies non-responding , households that were not contacted by the survey and are
distinguished from households that refused to take part in the survey.

Using these methods it has been found by successive Census check studies [references]
that (for example) that:
    households consisting of one or several young adults and, in particular, of a young adult
     living alone, have lower-than-average rates of response due to non-contact;
    households headed by self-employed persons have lower-than-average rates of
     response, mainly due to refusals;
    households with young children have higher-than-average rates of response;
    in the case of burdensome surveys such as those that require diary-keeping, elderly
     households have lower than average rates of response because of refusals, particularly
     in the case of burdensome surveys such as those that require diary-keeping.36

So far there has not been an opportunity to include the SEH in such Census check studies
(since the survey was not in existence at the time of the 1991 Census), but we understand
that it will be included in the 2001 Census matching exercise and we would expect this
exercise to provide important opportunities to research both non-response to the SEH as
such and the effectiveness of the weighting and grossing system. As noted above, non-
response due to non-contact and non-response due to refusal will be distinguished. Census-
matching studies are not, of course, a panacea, since the range of variables included in the
Census is limited, but it does include allow non-response bias as it affects several important
housing measures and allow the attributes of housing spaces and their inhabitants to be
looked at together. and allow the attributes of housing spaces and their inhabitants to be
looked at together to be identified.

10.6 Other weighting and grossing systems and software for household surveys
Because of the above considerations and because sometimes only marginal control
distributions are available, grossing and weighting methods that use marginal population
distributions as controls are often preferred. In order to generate a consistent set of weights it
is then necessary to use one of a set of statistical methods usually known as “raking
estimation”. This name is used because the method involves “raking” through a contingency
table iteratively, adjusting cell values to each set of marginal totals in turn, until a unique
stable convergence that satisfies all the marginal constraints is reached.

Since the early 1990s these methods have been further developed and refined for household
surveys, in particular by a group at INSEE (Deville and Sarndal 1992, Deville, Sarndal and
Sautory 1993; see Elliot 1997 for more detail). Their methods have been embodied in a
generalised computing package known as CALMAR. Over the same period other packages
for performing the same types of adjustment have been developed for ONS (GROSSWGT
aka G-UP), by Statistics Netherlands (BASCULA) and by Statistics Canada (GES). Elliott
(1997) reviewed and trialled each of these packages (in the versions current at the time) and
recommended CALMAR as the most versatile and usable.

We have been asked to comment on whether the present method of grossing and weighting
the SEH results should be replaced by CALMAR. There is a problem here in that, whereas
CALMAR is a generalised set of statistical algorithms, the current system is very much a
customised product. To provide an unambiguous answer one would need to apply both
  This is a general finding, but Groves and Couper (op. cit.) argue that the tendency of elderly persons
to refuse tends to disappear when household size is allowed for.

systems to a common SEH data set to check, first, whether they led to notably different
weighted distributions for key survey variables. If so, it might be possible to use the data set
provided by the Census check exercise to compare their effects in reducing bias. It would
also be important to compare the systems in terms of the variance of the grossed estimates
to which they lead. We believe that methods exist for providing variance estimates using
CALMAR. In the case of the current SEH system it may be necessary to estimate variances
using some type of balanced repeated replications procedure.

11. Recommendations

11.1 Introduction
We were asked to review technical aspects of the design and execution of the Survey of
English Housing. Mr Kafka briefed us about current methodological issues to which we
should give attention and we are confident that we have understood the long-term aims and
design priorities of the survey and the way it is designed to meet them. However, making
recommendations regarding possible design or operational changes requires assumptions
about the value and acceptable cost of options to survey customers and to ODPM as a
whole. The assumptions we have made may or may not be correct and the following
paragraphs should be read with that in mind.

11.2 Simplicity and robustness
The SEH uses a sampling frame and a type of household sample design that is common to
other government household interview surveys. It has a uniform selection probability for
addresses in all strata, no sample rotation and no built-in longitudinal features. All the SEH
data are collected in the course of a single interview per household/tenancy group. The
survey does not require the collection of information from more than one member of each
household, or on more than one occasion. The efficiency with which the SEH is conducted in
the field is enhanced by the stability of its main content and procedures. The questionnaire is
not grossly overloaded, as has happened in the past with some other government surveys.
The design is of a standard kind and is well adapted to the aims of the survey (subject to
certain detailed points made in following sections). Sound basic design, relative simplicity
and operational robustness are all strong points and an insurance against the unforeseen.
They should not be compromised without good reason.
Recommendation: The basic design and current operational procedures should be

11.3 Single household respondent
The way in which a single household respondent is selected conflicts with the use of the
survey to measure housing attitudes, aspirations and satisfaction. These are attributes of
individuals on which household members may well not agree. That could be accommodated
if a random member of each multi-adult household were selected to answer attitude
questions. However, it is not technically acceptable for this purpose to choose the household
respondent on the basis of convenience, as happens at present.
Recommendation: Consideration should be given to selecting a random member of
each multi-adult household to answer attitude questions.

11.4 Household reference person
From April 2001 the older procedure for identifying uniquely a “Head of Household” was
abandoned as being sexist and replaced with a definition of the Household Reference
Person as the household member with the highest income. In the case of housing surveys it
is difficult to see much merit in this change. The title “Head of Household” could reasonably

have been replaced, but the “highest income” criterion seems equally if not more unfair to
women and also likely to cause doubts and anomalies in practice (see also recommendation
11.3). How, for example, should it operate in a household where the husband, a qualified
heating engineer, is unemployed and the wife has a part-time cleaning job? Is the wife then
SRP until the husband gets a job, or is the husband to be selected because he is potentially
the higher earner?

11.5 Exclusions from the target population
The SEH aims to provide information about private households and their housing
arrangements. However, certain “fringe” populations are excluded from the sample as
ineligible. In the case of households and individuals these include residents of institutions
such as hostels, elderly residential and children’s homes, prisons and military
establishments, families and individuals in temporary accommodation, vagrants and
squatters. In the case of dwellings the excluded “fringe” includes premises that are have
become temporarily or permanently unfit for habitation (though some of these actually have
occupants), and vacant accommodation. Second and holiday homes are partly covered in
the main questionnaire when households owning such homes are found and respond at their
main address, but are excluded as ineligible when encountered in field sampling.

For SEH purposes each individual is assumed to have just one identifiable permanent
address. This assumption is enforced through eligibility rules that require each household
and individual to have a unique “main” residence. A corollary is then that dwellings, with any
households or persons who occupy them for the time being, are excluded as ineligible if they
are not anyone’s “main” address; and people who have no permanent home according to the
definition discussed above become statistically invisible so far as the SEH is concerned.

The assumptions that each person has a unique address of permanent residence and that
there is for each individual some address at which he or she satisfies the “permanent
residence” rules are questionable. It seems very probable that applying them (particularly the
second) results in substantial under-coverage of certain population subgroups, such as
individuals and families in temporary accommodation and single adults, often young, who
have a vagrant lifestyle and spend time at a number of different addresses, but never for long
enough to qualify as a permanent resident. There are some alternative sources of
information for households placed in temporary accommodation by local housing authorities,
but not for the second group, which is probably much larger.

Households and individuals who actually have several permanent addresses can only be
treated as eligible if contacted at their “main” address. This rule is intended to avoid giving
households that have several homes multiple chances of selection. A corollary is that
households or individuals who spend much of their time at a second or holiday home (which
may be outside the UK) have a lower chance than others of being included in the SEH
analysis sample (since if the call were to be made at their “main” residence they would often
be classified as non-contacts).

The excluded and under-sampled groups, particularly those who have no permanent private
residence, seem important from a housing policy viewpoint. On the other hand it is likely that
the excluded households and individuals, even if treated as eligible, would have high survey
non-contact and refusal rates in practice and the unit costs of attempting to cover these
groups would be high, but we nevertheless recommend that some attention be given to these
rather fundamental issues.
Recommendation: Attention should be given to the possibility of extending the
coverage to bring in excluded and under-sampled groups

11.6 Response rates
Maintaining high rates of response to household interview surveys is a perpetual challenge
which is becoming more severe over time. The SEH has not escaped the downward trend in
rates of response which has affected all the continuous household surveys conducted by the
National Centre and by the Office for National Statistics, particularly over the past 10 years.
No survey contractor can supply a magic, costless ingredient that will enable surveys to defy
this trend (reasons discussed in the main text). The time may have come for the SEH, along
with other major government surveys, to consider the payment of response incentives in
cash or other forms, since experiments on other surveys have shown that these do have a
significant impact in raising response.
Recommendation: some experiments with response incentives should be conducted.

11.7   Sample size
As in the case of every other important government survey, there are users and uses of the
SEH that statistically demand a larger sample size than is available at present. In particular,
there is demand for reliable results for small areas, for households in the rarer tenures
(considered separately) and for other population subgroups. Ultimately, determining the
appropriate size/cost/benefit balance must be a matter for the Department, but a number of
technical recommendations can be made that bear on the decision.
Since the SEH selects an independent sample of addresses to the same design each year, a
low-cost and technically straightforward way of boosting the numbers of cases (households)
available for analysis is to aggregate results from several consecutive years. There are no
statistical disadvantages, but of course it is inherent that the time-reference of the results
becomes blurred. This matters more for some types of analysis than for others and we
accept that for the former there is a high premium on being able to use up-to-date results.

Boosting of the continuous SEH address sample to provide useful and reliable results for any
set of geographical entities down to local authority size is probably too costly for a single
department (it was done for the NDHS in 1977, but on a one-off basis). Boosting with equal
probability would not be cost-effective, because the sampling shortfall affects households in
minority tenures and other small subgroups, rather than owner-occupier households. The
need to selectively boost certain subgroups has long been recognised by the SEH’s sister
survey, the EHCS, which uses designs with widely different sampling probabilities between
address/dwelling strata defined by area, tenure and age of structure. Ironically, however, a
recent review of the EHCS carried out by the present consultants showed that, because of
the dearth of good stratifiable address sampling frames, the best way to maintain this feature
of the EHCS design was to rely on the larger SEH to effectively create an auxiliary stratified
sampling frame for it through “shadow sampling”.

ONS is currently promoting the idea of a very large Integrated Social Survey (ISS),
conducted on behalf of a range of user departments by ONS. In principle this could deliver,
for a very limited number of key housing variables, the very large sample sizes that some
desired uses of the SEH require. It also appears to offer a sample considerably larger than
that of the SEH for a wider range of housing variables, though it is not clear from the
proposals so far circulated exactly what that would mean. This ambitious project is still at an
early stage of development and raises many technical and survey ownership issues.

It has been pointed out that a simpler low-cost version of this approach might be put together
by aligning with the SEH the results of housing questions already included in other large
government surveys such as the LFS and the GHS, so as to be able to provide results for a
few key variables based on a large aggregated sample. The proposition appears feasible

and cost-effective, but would of course require interdepartmental agreement and
collaboration and currently the IHS initiative holds the interdepartmental stage.
Recommendation: If the ISS fails to make progress, pursue the possibility of
achieving a larger sample by combining housing data from other government surveys
with SEH data.

11.8 Selective sample boosting
In principle a preferable alternative to global SEH sample boosting would be to boost the
representation of rare subgroups of interest to housing policy (we refer here to groups that
are not geographically defined). Two likely examples out of several would be tenure groups
and ethnic groups. It must be remembered that the requirement is not just to find an
additional N households belonging to a particular tenure or ethnic group, nor even to do that
and be able to contact and interview them at affordable cost and acceptable rate of
response. It must also be done in such a way that the extra cases can be added to those
covered by the existing SEH in such a way that the aggregate sample can support national
estimates that can be shown to be unbiased and to have calculable and acceptable margins
of sampling variance.
This approach once again runs up against the lack of complete and reliable national address
sampling frames in which the subgroups of particular interest can be pre-identified. To
overcome this an address screening design would almost certainly be needed. This can be
and has been successful as a means of providing statistically valid samples of minority
populations, but it is inherently uneconomical because a large screening sample is needed of
which, by definition, the majority will prove to be out of scope. Also, it usually results in
samples that require weighting, which reduces their statistical efficiency, and screening
simultaneously for several different sets of subgroups (e.g. ethnic groups and tenure groups)
rapidly becomes too complicated.
Recommendation: If the SEH sample is to be boosted selectively only one set of non-
overlapping subgroups at a time should be addressed in this way.

11.9 Sample stratification
In the SEH non-geographical stratification of the sample can be applied only at the PSU
(sector) level. This is because the PAF sampling frame contains locational information only.
The aim of stratification is to reduce the variance of sample-based estimates, but in the case
of large, well-spread samples such as that of the SEH the marginal effect of such
stratification is usually quite small. Against that background we have considered various
suggestions for improvement but do not recommend any changes in the present stratification
scheme (described in Section 1). We note, however, that several of the stratifiers are
Census-based will in any case need to be reviewed when the 2001 Census small area
statistics become available.
Recommendation: No change in the present stratification scheme, but see 11.11

11.10 Rotation of primary sampling units
Mr Kafka asked us to consider the merits of introducing into the SEH a sampling feature
whereby the postal sectors used in any one fieldwork year would be split into (say) two
replicate subgroups, with one being retained for the next year or years and the other
replaced by a new replicate selection. In the third year the retained sectors would be
replaced and so on. This is known as rotation of PSUs. Rotation at the level of PSUs should
be clearly distinguished from rotation at the level of addresses, which is a feature of the
EHCS. Because most of the variation within the sample in terms of important housing
variables is between addresses within sectors, rather than between sector means, the effects

of PSU rotation on the statistical performance of the sample are much smaller than those of
address rotation.

The aim of PSU rotation is to reduce the variance and standard errors of measures of
aggregate change over time (in the simple example given above, year-on-year change).
Experience of other surveys with similar sample designs suggests that the beneficial effects
of such rotation would be very small. On the other hand rotation reduces the effectiveness of
year-on-year aggregation of samples to obtain a larger sample size, which seems rather
important. It also has a complication cost, since the Post Office constantly reviews the post-
coding system and sectors may change their boundaries or even be radically reorganised
from one year to the next.
Recommendation: PSU rotation should not be introduced..

11.11 Clustering and other design effects
Like most national household interview surveys the SEH has a sample drawn in two stages.
At the first stage areas (postal sectors) are selected systematically (with stratification and
probability proportional to size) from a list of all sectors. At the second stage an equal
number of addresses is selected by a random systematic procedure from those listed within
the sectors selected at the first stage. This produces an equal-probability sample made up of
standard-sized clusters of addresses. The number and size of clusters is balanced so that
each provides a convenient interviewer workload.

The practical and cost advantages of two-stage sampling over simple random sampling of
addresses are enormous, but a price is paid in that the statistical efficiency of clustered
samples, as measured by the standard errors of estimates based on them, is lower than that
of a simple random sampling. Two features of the SEH design help to reduce this
unfavourable design effect to a minimum: one is stratification in the selection of sectors and
the other is limitation on the number of addresses per cluster. In spite of these features the
design effect is still significant for many housing estimates based on the survey. In our view
the balance struck in the case of the SEH design is a good one. Nevertheless, empirical work
on other surveys (FRS, GHS) comparing the effects of different stratification designs has
suggested that ways of increasing the variance-reducing effects of stratification might be
Recommendation: The number and size of clusters should not be changed. It would,
however, be worth carrying out empirical work to check whether the existing
stratification scheme could be improved by fine tuning. A suitable opportunity for
doing such work will be the general updating of the design that will be necessary in
order to make use of the 2001 Census data for small areas. .

Another source of design effects in the SEH is differential weighting applied to the results.
Differential weighting tends in most circumstances to generate unfavourable design effects
that inflate standard errors , of estimates, the magnitude of the effect being proportional to
the variance across the sample of the weighting factors applied. To investigate the effects on
the variance and bias of estimates a special data set would need to be produced,
incorporating not only the raw survey results for some suitable set of variables but also full
meta-data on both the sample design and the weighting scheme, including per-case values
of the weights applied at each stage (see section 10). We recommend that this be done, but
specifying and obtaining such a data set, carrying out appropriate analyses and interpreting
the results is a larger task than could be attempted within the limits of the present review.
Recommendation: Establish a special data set and use this to investigate the effects
on variance and bias of the differential weighting used currently. This data set would

also be used for a comparison of the current grossing method with the CALMAR
weighting and grossing approach (see below).

11.12 The grossing and weighting system
Another reason for making the recommendation at the end of the previous paragraph is the
need for better empirical and theoretical understanding of the current grossing and weighting
system, which is both complex and unique. We believe we have understood the rationale
and in principle how the system works, but a separate project would be required to compare
it in detail with, say, the CALMAR weighting and grossing approach, which is more widely
used in handling government survey data and is more fully documented. Such a comparison
would need to compare important estimates produced by the two (or more) systems tested in
terms of their bias and variance. D Elliott (1997,1999) has explored and reported on this area
and evidently looked at the SEH system, but did not publish specific results. He should
certainly be consulted.
Recommendation: Undertake a project to compare the results of the current weighting
and grossing approach with the equivalent using CALMAR, taking into account the
work carried out by D.Elliott (see references).

11.13   Enumeration of dwellings
It would enhance the value of the SEH to users in ODPM if it could be made to yield useful
estimates relating to the population of dwellings, as distinct from the population of             Formatted
households. The first step towards this would be to take steps to ensure that all actual or       Formatted
potential private dwellings forming part of each PAF address included in the sample are
identified by the survey. As a start, one could take advantage of the fact that SEH
interviewers, as part of the existing field procedures, already identify and list on Address      Formatted
Record Forms (ARFs) all household spaces found at an address. The information recorded            Formatted
is likely to be more reliable where they are able to gain access to the address and (optimally)   Formatted
find someone able to tell them what households live there. Emphasis will need to be given to
identifying and counting vacant as well as occupied household spaces. For a complete
enumeration it is also desirable that dwellings used as holiday or second homes be included       Formatted
in the count, even though the occupants for the time being of such addresses are treated as       Formatted
ineligible for the household sample under current rules. That can also be arranged by using
information already recorded on ARFs, but again there may be problems in the field in
gaining access and/or in finding a reliable informant. It has been agreed to implement these
changes for fieldwork year 2003-04.
Recommendation: The results of the new dwelling enumeration procedures to be
introduced in 2003-04 should be monitored and checks should be made, possibly by                  Formatted
revisiting a sample of problematic addresses, on the accuracy of the dwelling count               Formatted
obtained. Policy-makers at ODPM should consider the value of the dwelling count                   Formatted
obtained and whether there is a case for enhancing the survey procedures (at higher
cost) in order to obtain more information about dwellings other than those occupied
by responding households.

11.1311.14      Imputation for missing data                                                       Formatted: Bullets and Numbering

On Mr Kafka’s instructions we have looked at this aspects of data processing. We concluded
that the missing data problems on the SEH were more of a minor nuisance (as on most other
well-conducted surveys) than a serious threat and that no general method of imputation
would be cost effective.
Recommendation: Imputation should not be introduced into SEH processing.

11.145 Forward planning and survey timetable

So far as we know the SEH does not have an explicit forward planning cycle that extends
beyond the upcoming fieldwork year. On the General Household Survey, by way of
comparison, a planning system developed in which some question blocks were formally
classified as permanent and mandatory (“core”), other were covered periodically (say every
third year) and others again were treated as temporary ad hoc insertions. New sections and
sections requiring substantial redevelopment, which will generally require questionnaire
development and piloting, were identified well in advance, appropriate resources were costed
in and timetables prepared. There may be scope for some similar system on the SEH.

We are aware of the demand from SEH users within ODPM for a survey able to respond
more quickly to changing user needs and priorities. The cycle of operations from articulation
of a new data request to data delivery will normally require a year at minimum, even where
part year’s results will suffice (the sample for each quarter is for practical purposes nationally
representative and large enough for many analysis purposes). In response, we know that
work has been done to cut out unnecessary delays in the planning, data processing, data
analysis and reporting phases. We do not think it possible to make a large continuous survey
like the SEH double as an agile “Omnibus” or ad hoc instrument and we would not like to see
either robustness and simplicity (see first recommendation) or dissemination of results (see
below) sacrificed to vain efforts in that direction (see next section).
Recommendation: Consider the establishment of a formal planning cycle extending
over several survey years

11.156 Dissemination of results and data sets
Whereas the needs of ODPM and other government users of the SEH are paramount,
account should also be taken of the needs of external users. These are not limited to getting
speedy access to the latest SEH results, but also include having early access to the
household-level micro-data and to survey methodological information, such as complete
specifications of the sampling and data collection designs and the fieldwork documents,
procedures and outcomes. Annual published reports, as well as presenting tabulated results
and commentary, have hitherto supplied these needs. There is a tendency to assume that
detailed paper reports, containing well-selected tables etc and detailed expert commentary,
are rapidly becoming obsolete, so that the resources put into writing and publishing such
documents can be reduced. However, every consultation that is conducted amongst the
wider population of users of important government surveys contradicts this.
Recommendation: Continue to produce paper reports containing selected tables and

11.167 The SEH and the EHCS
In the course of this consultancy we became aware the ODPM were also reviewing the
possibility of in some way merging the SEH and the EHCS. This was not within our remit, but
our main strategic comments would be the following. EHCS sampling currently relies upon
the SEH “shadow-sampling” and the household questionnaires of the two surveys have
topics in common, but otherwise they have quite different designs. Specifically, the SEH has
an equal-probability design while the EHCS uses sharply different sampling factions between
strata; and the SEH draws independent address samples each year, whereas the EHCS has
a sample that rotates at the address/household level. Unless some important features of the
EHCS were sacrificed, a merged survey would be very complicated to design and
implement. On the other hand if the task were to produce a single design from scratch from a
brief which incorporated the key aims of both surveys and looked to a sample similar in size
to that of the current SEH, innovative thinking might possible be able to address some of the
problems and shortcomings of both existing surveys.


Barton, J. (1996) Selecting Stratifiers for the Family Expenditure Survey. Survey
Methodology Bulletin, 32, pp21-26, ONS

Bruce, S. (1993) Selecting Stratifiers for the Family Resources Survey. Survey Methodology
Bulletin, 32, pp20-25, ONS

DETR (2000) “Multiple Deprivation at the Small Area Level – Indices of Deprivation” HMSO:
ISBN 1 851 124 535

Elliott, D (1997): “Software to weight and gross survey data” GSS Methodology Series No 1

Elliott, D (1999) “Report of the Task Force on Weighting and Estimation” GSS Methodology
Series No 16

Foster, K. (1998) Evaluating non-response on household surveys. GSS Methodology Series
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Insalaco, F. (2000) “Choosing stratifiers for the General Household Survey”. Survey
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Groves, R.M. and Couper, M.P. (1998) Non-response in household interview surveys.
Chichester: John Wiley. Groves and Couper argue the need to separate out non-contacts
and refusals.

Kemsley, WFF (1975) “Family Expenditure Survey: A study of differential non-
response based on a comparison of the 1971 sample with the Census”. Statistical
News 31 pp3-8

Lynn, P.; Clarke, P.; Martin, J. and Sturgis, P. (2002) The effects of extended interviewer
efforts on non-response bias. In: Survey Nonresponse (ed.s Groves, R.M.; Dillman, D.A.;
Eltinge, J.L. and Little, R.J.A.), chapter 9, Chichester: John Wiley.

Redpath, R (1986) “Family Expenditure Survey: A second study of differential non-
response, comparing census characteristics of FES respondents and non-respondents”
Statistical News 72 pp13-16


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