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Equality and Poverty Analysis Team

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Scottish Government

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Using standard questions

Improvements in Social Surveys

Using standard questions across household surveys

Although many large scale Scottish household surveys have included questions on some or all equality characteristics for some time, consistent questions have not always been used and the utility of the data has been limited. In addition, although the overall sample sizes of surveys can be large, the number of individuals sampled from individual equality groups is often too small to allow for detailed analysis.

In response to this, the Scottish Government has developed a set of core harmonised questions, including questions on six equality characteristics, which will be asked in the major household surveys - Scottish Household Survey, Scottish Health Survey and Scottish Crime and Justice Survey. In addition, the core questions will be strongly recommended for inclusion in all Scottish Government cross-sectional population and household surveys. 

More details on all of the core questions, including equality questions is available in the core question guidance.  Guidance on the individual equality questions is available at collecting equality information.

How will this improve equality evidence?

How will this improve equality evidence?

The core questions will help to ensure consistency in data that are collected across surveys, and through this improve the availability of data, particularly across equality characteristics where data have not been routinely collected. 

Using a harmonised core set of questions in national and other surveys helps us to:

  • Compare results more easily by using harmonised questions in national, local or ad-hoc surveys
  • Reduce the costs of designing surveys
  • Be confident that survey participants understand what is being asked because the questions have been thoroughly tested
  • Group answers in a way that are useful for analysis
  • Reduce the risk of offence or misunderstanding when asking questions about sensitive subjects because questions have already been widely consulted on
When will this happen?

The core questions have been introduced to surveys from January 2012. Smaller surveys, local surveys and administrative data collections are now encouraged to adopt the harmonised core questions.  For example, Fife Council have incorporated the core into their online question bank, and use the harmonised equality questions in all of their surveys.

Pooled samples

Pooled Samples

The Scottish Government’s Long Term Survey Strategy aims to combine data from multiple surveys into a ‘pooled sample’. In 2011 the three main Scottish Government cross-sectional surveys (The Scottish Health Survey; The Scottish Household Survey, and the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey) were designed and sampled in co-ordination with each other so that the 20 core questions asked in each survey can be combined to produce a large enough sample size for robust estimates of our smaller populations (for example, ethnic minority groups, lesbian, gay and bisexual groups) at a national level and of other characteristics at a small area level.

Pooling the core data from all surveys should allow us to provide estimates for the numbers of people and households with particular characteristics, experiences or perceptions:

  1. with greater precision than is possible from a single survey sample. By pooling together data from different surveys, we increase the numbers of individuals answering the questions and therefore can be more confident of the precisions of the estimate. For example: if looking at housing tenure by ethnic group, for the Scottish Household Survey we are only able to produce breakdown for 'White'/'total minority ethnic' and even then the estimates are not very precise because the number of individuals sampled is very small. 
  2. at a lower level of geography than is possible from a single survey sample for some equality characteristics. The recent report of the Christie Commission emphasised the importance of local level statistical information in order to plan services. For example: analysing gender at constituency level rather than just Local Authority level. 
  3. in more precise categories than is possible from a single survey sample. For example: the number of people who are in specific ethnic groups, rather than combined categories of ‘white British’ and ‘minority ethnic’;
  4. and as a combination of the above, to allow for greater analysis of combinations of characteristics, experiences or perceptions. For example: are there differences between perceptions of local crime rates for ethnic minority disabled people compared to 'White British' disabled people?

How will this improve equality evidence

How will this help improve equality evidence?

Combining different samples will produce larger sample sizes which will increase the amount of data available for the core variables at a local level.  Further work on adopting these questions across other data collections, and especially at a local level, will mean that local data can be compared with national data and against other local areas.

Pooled samples will help to improve the evidence base for minority equality groups; particularly sexual orientation and religion at a national level and for many ethnic minority groups. For some equality groups, it will require more than one years’ worth of pooled data to produce more detailed results, which means that there will be more detailed information available, but less frequently.  However there will be some ethnic minority groups with small population numbers where it is not likely to be possible to produce data (for example, Bangladeshi or African) even when 4 years of data are pooled at a national level. This is because the small number of people in certain ethnic minority groups living in Scotland means sample surveys are unlikely ever to contain a high number of these respondents.

At a local level, it is likely to improve data for many groups in some areas, particularly larger ones, but will not be possible to produce fully disaggregated data for all groups in all areas.

Where can I access the pooled data?

The first pooled data sample is already available and users will be kept informed of further developments via ScotStat. ScotStat is a network for users and providers of Scottish Official Statistics.  More information on the network can be found at the ScotStat website.