Understanding Society: The UK Household Longitudinal Study extension for Wave 12

Lead Research Organisation: University of Essex
Department Name: Inst for Social and Economic Research

Abstract

Understanding Society: the UK Household Longitudinal Study is the largest household panel study in the world, designed to address key scientific and policy questions of the 21st century. It collects high quality annual longitudinal data on individuals of all ages in households representative of the UK population. Such data enable researchers to explore the experiences, causes and consequences of changes in people's lives - their family structure, health, income, expenditure, employment and housing. The Study has additional samples for the detailed exploration of the circumstances of key immigrant and ethnic minority groups; and collects data on cognition, objective measures of health and genetics to understand how people's health and wider circumstances interact. Increasingly we have been able to secure linkage to contextual information for places and organisations, and with consent, to individual level data including administrative records, social media and commercial information. Additionally, the Study experiments with innovative ways of collecting data to continually improve the content and quality of data available. Finally, we invest in supporting researchers and working with policy makers to ensure the research based on these data is used to inform policy and practice.

The Study began in 2008 with the Innovation Panel (IP), which tests methods, and the first main wave of fieldwork started in 2009. It builds on and incorporates the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), which means for some families we have annual information from 1991. To date, seven waves of the main Study and nine waves of the IP, as well as data collected from a nurse visit, are deposited in the UK Data Service. Data collection and planning are ongoing for Waves 9-11 and IP11-12; IP10 and Wave 8 data will be released in 2018. This bid covers the costs of data collection for Wave 12 of the main Study and IP13 and 14, and associated activities.

In Wave 12 we will continue to push web-first data collection within our mixed mode framework to reduce costs while maintaining response rates and data quality. We are funding Methodological Fellowships to support this. Additionally, in IP13 and 14 we will experiment with other ways of collecting and harvesting data - for example between-wave surveys, apps, scanning till receipts - to expand the research opportunities available. We are also reaching out to other potential respondents: those whom we lost in BHPS where we can find them, and the partners of people in the Study who do not live in the same households. Finally, we will be trying to understand why people who emigrant do so by interviewing such groups as they leave the Study, and also we will interview family members when a respondent moves into a care home.

Policy and research agendas are constantly evolving, and it is important in a longitudinal study to balance creating long series of the same data with including new questions that address emerging topics. For Wave 12 we are reviewing whether our survey adequately captures the way in which technology impacts on different aspects of our lives. We have appointed a number of experts - Topic Champions - to improve the content of the survey and the way we present the data to users. We also aim to focus on developing our content in childhood, which is limited at present.

Supporting researchers in universities, government, third sector and businesses to use the data effectively is fundamental to the success of the Study. We have a Policy Unit that directly works with government departments and third sector organisations to help them use Understanding Society data, and we undertake a wide range of activities to promote findings based on the Study to policy users. We are planning a range of international events to promote effective comparative research, especially in relation to policy analysis using the Study. We are also funding Policy Fellowships to promote the policy impact of the Study.

Planned Impact

Understanding Society is a valuable longitudinal resource that addresses key social and policy issues. The Study is beneficial to academic staff and students in the UK and abroad in three ways. First it is a unique resource for investigating the short and long run causes and consequences of changes in individuals' and families' income, education, housing, employment, behaviour and health. Second, findings from the data contribute to knowledge in ways that inspire new lines of research. Third, there is a strong focus in Understanding Society on the need for rigour in survey design and methods, and as a result the Study is at the cutting edge of methodological advancement in longitudinal studies, which benefits survey organisations and funders of surveys and research.

Non-academic beneficiaries include a wide range of organisations and stakeholders listed below; the Impact Fellow and Policy Unit work directly with them to raise awareness and capacity to use the data, as well as to generate research that leads to policy impact, and to promote impact.
o Government researchers, politicians and policy makers. The data supports important research in a broad set of policy areas, and is used for statutory reporting by a number of government departments. Key areas where important impacts are emerging include the responsibilities of the devolved governments of Scotland and Wales, as well as Whitehall departments such as DH, DWP, DfE, DfT, MHCLG, DEFRA, Home Office and BEIS. Co-Funding Government departments are directed supported in their use of the Study.
o Government executive agencies, non-departmental public bodies, parliamentary select committees, and supported research centres also use the Study's data and findings, e.g. ONS, Public Health England, Financial Conduct Authority, Bank of England, What Works centres, the Low Pay Commission, etc.
o EU policy-makers and the international policy community. Findings will be relevant to other countries, either directly, if generalisability can be assumed, or indirectly by inspiring new lines of thought and comparative investigation.
o Local government officers, councillors and consortia are responsible for different services that are addressed by the Study - such as public health, social housing, social care, education, policing, recreation and recycling - and have influence over others through local development frameworks, transport plans, planning decisions and potential new powers with increasing devolution.
o Third sector organisations, think tanks, charities and independent and private research organisations. Many organisations of this type, such as the Nuffield Foundation, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, MIND, AgeUK, the Children's Society, are employing data from the Study in their work. Our Research Voucher scheme is expanding use in this sector.
o Private sector businesses. Findings on a range of aspects of individual behaviour and decision making and changes in societal outcomes will be relevant to market research, evaluating initiatives, location strategies and corporate responsibility plans. We have held joint workshops and projects with the financial sector, and two large businesses use Understanding Society data as benchmarks to compare their achievements with (housing and wellbeing). Equally, methodological challenges the Study faces are relevant to commercial market research and data analytic companies, and shared projects and learning are planned.
o General public. Members of the general public will have an interest in Study findings. We are planning a number of public engagement activities and media collaborations to promote public understanding of social science drawing on the data and findings from the Study.

Policy impacts have already occurred on the Study and will continue to develop with evidence from the Study increasingly incorporated into policy debates, although impacts on policy and practice will take longer to filter through the policy process.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Understanding Society fieldwork - wave 12 - Kantar (2018 - Still Active) 
Organisation Kantar Group
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Management of the sub-contract with Kantar for the provision of fieldwork services for wave 12 of Understanding Society - partnership working (with NatCen as consortium partners) to deliver the survey.
Collaborator Contribution Delivery of the fieldwork and associated activities for Understanding Society wave 12
Impact See all other outputs, which are dependent on the delivery of fieldwork by our partner agency.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Understanding Society methods fellows 
Organisation University of Cambridge
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Overseeing and supporting the Understanding Society methods fellowship scheme
Collaborator Contribution Research projects undertaken by each of the methods fellows.
Impact Research projects leading to potential working papers, papers, other outputs and impact. Not yet completed.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Understanding Society methods fellows 
Organisation University of Edinburgh
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Overseeing and supporting the Understanding Society methods fellowship scheme
Collaborator Contribution Research projects undertaken by each of the methods fellows.
Impact Research projects leading to potential working papers, papers, other outputs and impact. Not yet completed.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Understanding Society methods fellows 
Organisation University of Lincoln
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Overseeing and supporting the Understanding Society methods fellowship scheme
Collaborator Contribution Research projects undertaken by each of the methods fellows.
Impact Research projects leading to potential working papers, papers, other outputs and impact. Not yet completed.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Understanding Society methods fellows 
Organisation University of Manchester
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Overseeing and supporting the Understanding Society methods fellowship scheme
Collaborator Contribution Research projects undertaken by each of the methods fellows.
Impact Research projects leading to potential working papers, papers, other outputs and impact. Not yet completed.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Understanding Society methods fellows 
Organisation University of Southampton
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Overseeing and supporting the Understanding Society methods fellowship scheme
Collaborator Contribution Research projects undertaken by each of the methods fellows.
Impact Research projects leading to potential working papers, papers, other outputs and impact. Not yet completed.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Understanding Society policy fellows 
Organisation Cardiff University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Overseeing and supporting the Understanding Society policy fellowship scheme
Collaborator Contribution Research projects undertaken by each of the policy fellows.
Impact Research projects leading to potential working papers, papers, other outputs and impact. Not yet completed.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Understanding Society policy fellows 
Organisation Newcastle University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Overseeing and supporting the Understanding Society policy fellowship scheme
Collaborator Contribution Research projects undertaken by each of the policy fellows.
Impact Research projects leading to potential working papers, papers, other outputs and impact. Not yet completed.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Understanding Society policy fellows 
Organisation University of Oxford
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Overseeing and supporting the Understanding Society policy fellowship scheme
Collaborator Contribution Research projects undertaken by each of the policy fellows.
Impact Research projects leading to potential working papers, papers, other outputs and impact. Not yet completed.
Start Year 2018
 
Description University of Exeter - epigenetics 
Organisation University of Exeter
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Leading the collaboration and providing the blood samples to Exeter.
Collaborator Contribution Analysis of blood samples for epigenetics, return of data to the team.
Impact Data returned to the team.
Start Year 2019