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Data Sources and Suitability

Data sources and suitability - introduction

This page lists and describes some of the main official data sources available to statistical users interested in income and poverty in Scotland. The reliability, accuracy and suitability of each source is discussed. The sources are organised into three groups according to the smallest geographical area for which data are available: 'National and International', 'Sub Scotland (including local authority level data)' and 'datazone level'. Future developments in official income and poverty statistics are also discussed.


Data sources and suitability - contents

National and International data

Income and Poverty statistics are used for the Scottish Government's Solidarity Purpose Target.  They are also used in 2 of the Scottish Government's Scotland Performs National Indicators


Sub Scotland level data


Datazone level data




DWP Family Resources Survey ( FRS) and Households Below Average Income dataset ( HBAI)

The Family Resources Survey ( FRS) is the official source of UK and Scottish Government information about income and poverty. It is a face-to-face survey interviewing approximately 4,500 households in Scotland and 26 ,000 households across the UK as a whole. The FRS is run by DWP and aims to collect detailed information about respondents' incomes from employment and other sources. The Households Below Average Income dataset ( HBAI) is derived from the FRS and is the source of UK and Scottish Government official income and poverty estimates.  The HBAI is used for the "Poverty and income inequality in Scotland" publication.

Household responses are weighted and grossed up to be representative of all private households in Scotland. Incomes are equivalised (to take into account household composition) using the OECD equivalisation scale. Once equivalised, weighted and grossed, the total income of every individual is summed to arrive at the total income figure.

The FRS is one of the best sources for understanding changes to the distribution of income over time and the 'risk' of poverty for various groups insociety. At Scottish and UK level HBAI income and poverty figures are considered to be among the most robust available from any source. These estimates however, are not available at Local Authority level or smaller geographies.


More information on uses of the statistics publication 'Poverty and income inequality in Scotland'


Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings

The Annual Survey of Survey of Hours and Earnings is a survey of employers which provides information about levels, distribution and make-up of earnings and working patterns across the UK. The survey is run by the Office for National Statistics and provides local authority level estimates of earnings which can be broken down by industry, occupation and full time/part timework.

The survey only concerns earnings from work and so these figures cannot be used to produce comparable poverty estimates to those from the Family Resources Survey which includes income from other sources. Self employed, and unemployed people are also excluded from the earnings figures. Nonetheless, the local authority level earnings figures produced from ASHE may be useful to researchers interested in understanding the broader picture of income at a local authority level.


Scottish Household Survey ( SHS)

The Scottish Household Survey ( SHS) is designed to provide accurate, up-to-date information about the characteristics, attitudes and behaviour of Scottish households and individuals on a range of issues. This includes information on household income, which is defined in the SHS as that of the households highest income householder and their spouse or partner.

Organised in two-year cycles, it interviews around 15,000 households per annum and can provide data disaggregated at local authority level at the end of each cycle. The SHS is designed to be nationally representative every quarter, representative for larger Local Authorities ( LA) every year, and all LAs (regardless of size) over a two-year period. The SHS is a valuable source for LA level figures on a variety of topics including family income. As well as questions about income it collects information about several related areas such as 'use of credit' and sense of 'coping financially'. For more information see:


There are some definitional differences in the income questions asked in the SHS and FRS. Also, as the SHS asks questions about a variety of topics it inevitably asks less detailed income questions than the solely income-focussed FRS. Research looking at the differences between the two sources can be seen here: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Statistics/16002/SHSIncPaper

It should be noted that the SHS only collects income information for the main householder, his/her partner and one random adult in the household. For many multi-adult households the SHS doesn't record income for some adults and therefore underestimates total household income. This means that SHS household income cannot be equivalised, and meaningful comparisons between households of different household types are difficult to make. In autumn 2008 the Scottish Government comissioned a feasibility study into the possibility of improving the quality of income estimates from the SHS by combining SHS and FRS data. The final report to this study can be found at the following link: SHS/FRS income study.



Personal tax credits statistics - child poverty data from HM Revenue and Customs ( HMRC)


HMRC has published a revised Local Child Poverty Measure.  This is defined as the proportion of children living in families in receipt of out of work benefits or tax credits where their reported income is less than 60% median income. The proportion of children in poverty is calculated as:

  Child Poverty Indicator

  More information can be found in the technical notes which accompany this measure.

Like the SIMD figures, these are used as a proxy for low income in small areas.  They are released annually and, subject to changes to the tax credit system, can be used to track change over time.   Data are available at the following geographies: Scotland, local authority and data zone level.  The revised measure will shortly feature in the Improvement Service Menu of Recommended Local Outcome Indicators.  Further information can be found on the Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics  website.


Annual Population Survey and Labour Force Survey

The Labour Force Survey is the official source of UK/Scottish labour market statistics such as employment, economic activity and unemployment. It is a face-to-face survey with a Scottish sample of around 8,000 households per annum. Official figures at a UK and Scottish Level are published monthly.

The Annual Population Survey is sourced from the annual Labour Force Survey data. The APS sample also includes a boost to the LFS sample which raises the Scottish sample size to around 23,000. Although the LFS is the official source of Scotland-level figures, the larger sample for the APS means that more robust labour market figures can be produced at a local authority level.

The APS does collect some information about income and earnings however this is self-assessed and is not recommended over that collected in other sources such as ASHE or the FRS. The robust local authority level estimates of employment and economic activity may be of interest to statistical users working in this area.

  • Labour Market Briefings are published on a monthly basis:  These contain the following information:
  • 1) Headline national statistics on employment, unemployment, economic activity
  • 2) Claimant count information on areas and occupations most affected
  • 3) Specific briefings relating to youth unemployment
  • These briefings are based on secondary analysis of data from the latest ONS releases for the Labour Force Survey, Claimant Count and other relevant sources that are in the public domain. 

  • Results from the Annual Population Survey are available for a number of different geographical areas, including for Scotland, local authority, 15% most deprived, Enterprise Regions and Scottish Parliamentary Constituencies.  For more information see the Labour Market Statistics publications at the following link: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Labour-Market/Publications

  • Labour Market Statistics are also available through the Office for National Statistics nomis site: https://www.nomisweb.co.uk/Default.asp



Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation ( SIMD) Income Domain

SIMD is the official Scottish Government tool for highlighting areas of concentrated deprivation in Scotland and the income domain is used to highlight areas of income deprivation. This is a useful source for understanding the spread of income deprivation at a local level and data are availble at geographies down to datazone level. Users should note that some people highlighted as income deprived may not be in relative poverty according to the UK and Scottish Government definition (and vice versa). It is also worth noting that not all those living in an income deprived data zone will themselves be income deprived and likewise not all individuals who are income deprived will be living in areas with high concentrations of income deprivation.

SIMD data are available from www.sns.gov.uk and http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Statistics/SIMD/

The SIMD is usually updated every 3 years.  The last full SIMD was published for 2009. Users of SIMD have requested updates of the income and employment domains to monitor, in particular, the effects of the economic downturn and its aftermath.  In response, the Scottish Government has published two sets of annual updates of the income domain, which mainly uses income data for 2009 and 2010 respectively.   The Annual SIMD income domain updates can be found here: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Statistics/SIMD/AnnualUpdates.  More  information on how to best interpret the income domain can be found within this link as well as further analysis of the domain.  Information on the indicators used for the SIMD 2009 and the updates for 2010 and 2011 is found in the table below:


  INDICATOR SIMD 2009 SIMD 2009+1 (revised) SIMD 2009+2
ADULT BENEFITS Number of Adults (aged 16-59) receiving Income Support (Department for Work and Pensions ( DWP)) August 2008 August 2009 August 2010
Number of Adults (aged 60 plus) receiving Guaranteed Pension Credit ( DWP) August 2008 August 2009 August 2010
Number of Adults receiving (all) Job Seekers Allowance ( DWP) August 2008 August 2009 August 2010
Income based Employment Support Allowance ( DWP) N/A August 2009 August 2010
DEPENDENT BENEFITS Number of Children (aged 0-15) dependent on a recipient of Income Support ( DWP) May 2008 May 2009 May 2010
Number of Children (aged 0-15) dependent on a recipient of Job Seekers Allowance (all) ( DWP) May 2008 May 2009 May 2010
Number of Children (aged 0-15) dependent on a recipient of Employment and Support Allowance (all) ( DWP) N/A May 2009 May 2010
TAX CREDITS Number of Adults and Children in Tax Credit Families on low incomes (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs ( HMRC)) August 2008 August 2008 August 2009




Commercial datasets - Caci Paycheck and Experian

Several commercial datasets are available, such as Caci Paycheck or Experian, which model household income at a postcode level. It is difficult to assess the robustness of commercial data as the coverage of the underlying datasets is unknown and details of these collection methodologies, being commercially sensitive, are often not available. Commercial datasets are not used in the calculation of SG income and poverty figures and users should satisfy themselves that they are suitable for a particular purpose before using them.