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Chapter 1: Introduction and Demographics, Wealth in Great Britain 2010-12 This product is designated as National Statistics

Released: 15 May 2014 Download PDF

This report

This is the main report covering the third wave of the Wealth and Assets survey (WAS), the fieldwork period for which was July 2010 – June 2012. Over the two-year period the WAS achieved a sample size of 21,451 private households.

The measure of household wealth is split into four components for this report: property, physical, financial, and private pension wealth. Chapter 2 brings together all four of these components of wealth while Chapters 3 to 6 look at the individual components.

Chapter 2: Total wealth - This chapter looks at the sum of net property wealth, net financial wealth, physical wealth and private pension wealth.

Chapter 3: Property wealth - This chapter looks at the value of any property privately owned in the UK or abroad (gross, and net of any liabilities on the properties).

Chapter 4: Physical wealth - This chapter looks at the value of contents of the main residence and any other property of a household including collectables and valuables (such as antiques, artworks or stamps), vehicles and personalised number plates.

Chapter 5: Financial wealth - This chapter starts by looking at the value of formal and informal financial assets held by adults, and of children’s assets. The chapter then looks at total gross financial wealth, financial liabilities and net financial wealth. Net financial wealth is calculated by subtracting from financial asset values the value of any financial liabilities.

Chapter 6: Private pension wealth – This chapter looks at the value of all pensions that are not state basic retirement or state earnings related. In addition, it considers the value of private pension schemes in which individuals had retained rights (in other words, from which they would receive an income in the future) or from which they were receiving an income (including pension income, based on a former spouse’s pension membership).

Chapter 7: Technical Chapter - The remaining chapter provides a summary of technical information to assist users in interpreting and using the survey estimates. This includes; descriptions of the survey design and methodology; procedures used in the collection of data; derivation and quality of the estimates; and definitions and key concepts.  The technical chapter will

A number of changes have been introduced with the publication of wave 3 data. Some are methodology changes specific to wave 3 (e.g. the weighting strategy), some affect waves 2 and 3 only (e.g. the imputation strategy), and some affect all three waves (e.g. the financial assumptions used in the calculation of pension wealth).  Details of the changes to the financial assumptions used in the calculation of pension wealth are also given in this chapter.


Wealth is an important component of the economic well-being of households, as a household's resources can be influenced by its stock of wealth. However, data on wealth is sparse and consequently measures of household income are often used as the sole gauge of economic well-being. The increase in home ownership, the move from traditional roles and working patterns, a higher proportion of the population now owning shares and contributing to investment schemes as well as the accumulation of wealth over the life cycle, particularly through pension participation, have all contributed to the changing composition of wealth. To understand the economic well-being of households it is increasingly necessary to look further than a simple measure of household income.

The Wealth and Assets Survey (WAS) is a longitudinal household survey, which aims to address gaps identified in data about the economic well-being of households by gathering information on, among other things, level of savings and debt, saving for retirement, how wealth is distributed across households and factors that affect financial planning.

Methodological considerations

External Quality Assurance of WAS Estimates - To assist with the interpretation of results derived from the WAS, where possible, attempts have been made to compare estimates with other sources. These ‘quality assurance’ reports have been included as annexes and accompany each of the component wealth chapters. Estimates have been compared against a variety of sources including other social surveys (e.g. the Family Resources Survey), the Census, HMRC data on ISA holdings and house purchase data from the Land Registry.

Measures of Central Tendency - Outliers exist in WAS data; they reflect the highly skewed nature of wealth. All outliers were checked for supporting evidence from interviewers. Where appropriate, edits were made to ‘correct’ outliers. In many cases, interviewer notes supported the validity of outliers and these remain in the WAS datasets. Given the skewed nature of wealth data, and the impact that outliers can have on parametric estimates, Wealth in Great Britain 2010/12 does not report on any mean values. All wealth estimates are reported on using median and/or deciles for Wealth in Great Britain 2010/12. Mean values, particularly when exploring change across waves, can lead to the reporting of spurious change with the inclusion of extreme outliers.

Equivalisation - Equivalisation is a standard methodology that adjusts measures to account for different demands on resources, by considering the household size and composition. Estimates within Wealth in Great Britain 2010/12 have not been equivalised and therefore do not account for differences in household size or composition.

Accounting for Inflation - All estimates within the Wealth in Great Britain 2010/12 report are presented as current values (i.e. the value at time of interview) and have not been adjusted for inflation.

Significance Testing - No statistical significance testing was performed within the Wealth in Great Britain 2010/12 report.

Wave 1 half-sample - A methodological decision at wave one (2006-08) of the WAS to reduce respondent burden resulted in a selection of questions, including components of physical wealth, to be asked only of a subset of households. This decision had implications for the estimation of aggregate total wealth for 2006/08. This subsequent ‘half sample’ was sufficiently large to produce robust results and does not affect the reliability of the wealth distributions at a household level. Estimates of total household wealth for 2006/08 are therefore based upon data from this half-sample of 17,316 households. To estimate aggregate total wealth for 2006/08 the full sample has been used for property wealth, financial wealth and private pension wealth (to correspond with the estimates presented in the separate chapters). However, estimates of aggregate physical wealth are based on responses for the half sample (17,316 households) which have been adjusted using a ‘rating up factor’ in addition to our standard weighting procedures. At wave two and subsequent waves, each household were asked the full suite of questions on the components of net wealth. Consequentially 2008/10 and 2010/12 estimates of total household and aggregate total wealth are both based upon the full responding sample.

What’s new for Wave 3

The third wave of the WAS will provide data on three new topics:

Individual and Household Estimates of Income – Up to now it has not been possible to consider individual or household income alongside data on household wealth derived from the WAS.  Consequentially the majority of research on financial inequalities has been forced to consider only income despite the commonly held view that wealth is considered by some to be a more appropriate measure of inequality. The possibility of considering wealth and income alongside each other has been a long awaited research tool. 

Subjective Well-being – A set of questions developed to measure subjective well-being were added to the survey for the second year of wave 3 and will allow, for the first time, this topic to be analysed alongside wealth measures.

Financial Acuity – Some individuals and households are far more pro-active than others when it comes to their finances. This new measure takes into account whether individuals take active measures to manage their finances as well as their understanding and opinions on financial products.

Since it is the first time these topics are available they are still undergoing quality assurance. Therefore these data will be published in separate reports over the next few months.

Characteristics of the Sample (demographics)

This chapter illustrates some summary characteristics of the households and household members responding in Wave 3 (2010/2012) of the Wealth and Assets Survey (WAS).

In total, 21,451 households across Great Britain were interviewed, encompassing 40,396 individuals aged 16 or over.

Households have been categorised by their region and household type. Individuals have been categorised by their region, age, sex and marital status, as well as employment status, education level and socio-economic classification.

Regional distribution of households/individuals

Table 1.1(a): WAS sample, by region of residence: Great Britain, 2010/12

Individuals 16+

Region of residence Frequency Percentage (%)
North East 1,928 5
North West 4,690 12
Yorkshire & Humber 3,778 9
East Midlands 3,393 8
West Midlands 3,568 9
East of England 3,957 10
London 3,836 9
South East 5,834 14
South West 3,491 9
England 34,475 85
Wales 2,115 5
Scotland 3,806 9
Great Britain 40,396 100

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. The region in which respondents main residence lies.

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Table 1.1(b): WAS sample by region of residence: Great Britain, 2010/12


Region of residence Frequency Percentage (%)
North East 1,041 5
North West 2,511 12
Yorkshire & Humber 2,035 9
East Midlands 1,777 8
West Midlands 1,882 9
East of England 2,090 10
London 2,008 9
South East 3,036 14
South West 1,880 9
England 18,260 85
Wales 1,123 5
Scotland 2,068 10
Great Britain 21,451 100

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. The region in which respondents main residence lies.  

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Table 1.1 shows the distribution of the WAS sample of individuals and households by region of residence, that is the region of a households’ main residence. The achieved sample varied in terms of the percentage of respondents in the different regions, for example 14% of the achieved sample lived in the South East compared with only 5% in the North East. The differences between regions will in part be a reflection of regional variations in response.

Household Type

Table 1.2 shows the distribution of households by household type. Households were categorised into one of 10 household types according to the number of people living in the household, family type and ages of the respondents.  The largest group were those households with married or cohabiting couples with dependent children (19%) and the smallest were those households with a lone parent and non-dependent children (3%). The percentage of households consisting of married or cohabiting couples with dependent children was more than 3 times greater than the proportion of households consisting of lone parent households with dependent children.

Table 1.2: WAS sample by household type: Great Britain, 2010/12


Household Type Frequency Percentage (%)
Single person over SPA 3,488 16
Single person below SPA 2,706 13
Couple over SPA 3,264 15
Couple below SPA 2,584 12
Couple, one over one below SPA 968 5
Couple and dependent children 4,163 19
Couple and non-dependent children only 1,246 6
Lone parent and dependent children 1,335 6
Lone parent and non-dependent children only 679 3
More than 1 family, other household types 1,018 5
All Households 21,451 100

Table source: Office for National Statistics

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Gender and marital status

Table 1.3 demonstrates the marital status and gender of individuals living in Great Britain based on the WAS sample. In 2010/12, 45% of the sample were married. Over a tenth of the sample were widowed or divorced (11%).

Table 1.3: Individuals by gender and marital status: Great Britain, 2010/12

Gender and Marital Status Frequency Percentage (%)
Men Women All persons Men Women All persons
Married1 11,011 11,017 22,028 46 43 45
Cohabiting2 1,833 1,834 3,667 8 7 7
Single 9,152 8,415 17,567 38 33 36
Widowed 826 1,950 2,776 3 8 6
Divorced 931 1,700 2,631 4 7 5
Separated3 338 440 778 1 2 2
All households 24,091 25,356 49,447 49 51 100

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. Includes civil partnerships
  2. Includes same sex couples
  3. Includes persons of any age

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Table 1.4 represents the distribution of the sample by age. The largest group were individuals aged 65 and above (22%). Half of the sample were aged 45 years or older.

Table 1.4: Individuals by age: Great Britain, 2010/12

Age Frequency Percentage (%)
Under 16 9,051 18
16-24 4,673 9
25-34 4,573 9
35-44 6,375 13
45-54 6,854 14
55-64 7,107 14
65+ 10,814 22
All Persons 49,447 100

Table source: Office for National Statistics

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Education Level

The majority of eligible adults had qualifications that were below degree level (57%). More than a quarter (27%) of the sample had achieved degree level or above qualifications and 16% did not have any qualifications.

Table 1.5: Individuals by education level: Great Britain, 2010/12

Education Level Frequency Percentage (%)
Degree level or above 10,162 27
Other qualifications 21,754 57
No qualifications 6,198 16
All Persons 38,114 100

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. Includes only eligible adults who gave their education level

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Economic Status

Economic activity can be significant in determining individual and household wealth. Table 1.6 details the samples economic activity and demonstrates that more than half of all eligible adults are employed. Of these, 14% were self employed. Economic inactivity represents 43% of the sample and includes those respondents that are looking after the family/home, sick, disabled or retired. The majority of respondents that were economically inactive were retired (31%).

Table 1.6: Individuals by economic activity

Economic Activity Frequency Percentage (%)
Economically Active    
   Employee 17,513 46
   Self Employed 2,859 8
   Unemployed 1,256 3
Economically Inactive    
   Student 748 2
   Looking after family/home 1,554 4
   Sick/Disabled2 1,699 5
   Retired 11,556 31
   Other Inactive 493 1
All Persons 37,678 100

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. Includes only eligible adults who provided sufficient information in order to derive their economic activity
  2. Data for temporarily sick or disabled has been combined with long term sick or disabled

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Socio-economic Group

For those individuals that were in work, the highest percentage were in the higher professionals classification (18%).

Table 1.7: Individuals by socio-economic classification: Great Britain, 2010/12

Socio-economic Classification Frequency Percentage (%)
Large employers and higher managerial 3,670 10
Higher professional 6,772 18
Lower managerial and professional 3,388 9
Intermediate occupations 2,340 6
Small employers and own account workers 1,799 5
Lower supervisory and technical 3,771 10
Semi-routine occupations 2,750 7
Routine occupations 817 2
Never worked/long term unemployed 12,344 33
All Persons 37,651 100

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. Includes only eligible adults who gave sufficient information to determine socio-economic group

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Background notes

  1. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting or from the Media Relations Office email:

    These National Statistics are produced to high professional standards and released according to the arrangements approved by the UK Statistics Authority.

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