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Wealth of the Average Household: Great Britain, 2008/10 This product is designated as National Statistics

Released: 18 March 2013 Download PDF

Key points

This story provides a snapshot of households in the middle of the wealth distribution. It focuses on both characteristics of the households and the individuals living within them.

The key points are:

  • In 2008/10, middle wealth households had total wealth of between £158,000 and £317,000.

  • Almost nine in ten middle wealth households owned their main residence.

  • Over three in five middle wealth households were headed by an employed or self employed individual.

Wealth of the Average Household: Great Britain, 2008/10

The median value of total wealth is the value at which half of all households would have a total wealth above this value, and half below. This mid point in the wealth distribution therefore provides a good indication of the “average” household in terms of wealth.

Middle wealth households are those 10% either side of the median household wealth, which in 2008/10 was estimated at £232,000. Belonging to the middle of the wealth distribution therefore required a household to have total wealth of between £158,000 and £317,000.

Figure 1: Middle Wealth Households: Great Britain, 2008/10


Source: Wealth and Assets Survey, Office for National Statistics

Wealth Composition

Just under half of the overall wealth held by middle wealth households comprised property wealth (net) (46.2%). Private pension wealth accounted for 30.3% of the wealth held by this group. The contribution of physical wealth to the total wealth of the middle group of households was 16.5% and financial wealth (net) accounted for the smallest percentage (6.9%).

Figure 2: Household Characteristics and Wealth: Great Britain, 2008/10

Source: Wealth and Assets Survey, Office for National Statistics

Notes:

1. Includes outright ownership; ownership through the means of a mortgage or loan and shared ownership.
2. Employed refers to both employed and self-employed individuals.

Household Tenure

Almost nine in ten (88.5%) middle wealth households owned their main residence (whether outright or with help from a mortgage or loan). Households in the middle of the distribution were over 11 times more likely to own their property than those living in the least wealthy fifth of households1 (88.5% compared with 8.0%). Of the wealthiest households2, 96.8% owned their main residence (Figure 3).

One in ten households (10.7%) in the middle of the wealth distribution reported renting their main residence. This compares with just 2.6% of the wealthiest households but 89.7% of the least wealthy households.

 

Figure 3: Tenure of Main Residence: Great Britain, 2008/10

Figure 3: Tenure of Main Residence: Great Britain, 2008/10
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey - Office for National Statistics

Notes:

  1. Home ownership includes outright ownership; ownership through the means of a mortgage or loan and shared ownership.
  2. Renting includes private and local authority or housing association.
  3. Graph excludes those who were living in main residence rent free or who were squatting.

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Household Composition

More than four in every five individuals living in middle wealth households were adults3 (82.2%). The equivalent figure for the least wealthy households was lower, at 72.5%. However, 86.8% of individuals living in the most wealthy households were adults; the highest of the three wealth groups.

Household Type

Just over a quarter (26.2%) of all ‘single person, over state pension age’ households lived in middle wealth households.  In contrast, just one in ten (10.9%) lone parent households with dependent children belonged to this middle wealth group.

Region

Nearly a quarter, or 23.6% of households in Wales had enough wealth to belong to the middle of the distribution, closely followed by the regions Yorkshire and the Humber (23.4%) and the East of England (23.2%). In comparison, only 15.3% of households in London fell within the middle wealth group (Figure 4).

The North East had the highest percentage of households with wealth below the middle wealth threshold (49.1%). Conversely, the South East had the lowest percentage of households with total wealth below the middle threshold (30.5%), but the highest percentage of households above the middle point (51.4%).


Figure 4: The Percentage of Households with Middle Wealth, by Region: Great Britain, 2008/10

Figure 4: The Percentage of Households with Middle Wealth, by Region: Great Britain, 2008/10
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey - Office for National Statistics

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Economic Status

Over three in five middle wealth households (61.9%) were headed4 by individuals in work (whether employed or self employed). The percentage of household heads in work was highest amongst the wealthiest fifth of households (66.1%), but markedly lower for the least wealthy fifth of households (41.6%).

Three out of every ten middle wealth households (30.8%) were headed by an individual who recorded their reason for not working as retired; a comparable percentage to that reported by household heads in the wealthiest group of households (30.7%). Just over one in five of the least wealthy households (21.5%) were headed by a retired individual.

Age

Half of all middle wealth households were headed by an individual aged 51 years or above. This median average age was older than household heads living in the bottom 20% of the wealth distribution (42 years), but younger than those living in the top 20% (57 years).

Figure 5: Household Characteristics and Wealth: Great Britain, 2008/10

Source: Wealth and Assets Survey, Office for National Statistics

Notes:

1. Includes households where one or more persons report a limiting disability or longstanding illness.
2. Includes households where one or more persons hold a degree level qualification or above.
3. Refers to households where at least one adult strongly agreed with the statement "My income is enough to meet the cost of my everyday outgoings."

Ethnicity

Nine in ten individuals (90.0%) who head households in the middle of the wealth distribution reported their ethnicity as White British. This compares with 92.6% of household heads in the wealthiest group of households but only 79.7% of household heads living in the least wealthy households.

Disability

Nearly a third (30.7%) of middle wealth households contained at least one individual reporting a limiting disability or longstanding illness. This is lower than the rate reported by those in the least wealthy fifth of households (41.0%) but higher than for the most wealthy households (23.0%).

Educational Qualification 

A quarter (25.6%) of middle wealth households contained at least one individual with a degree level qualification. In comparison, 55.1% of the wealthiest households but only 13.0% of bottom wealth households contained at least one individual qualified to degree level or above.

Everyday Outgoings

Under a quarter (23.4%) of middle wealth households contained at least one individual strongly agreeing with the statement “My income is enough to meet the cost of my everyday outgoings". This compared with 51.1% of the wealthiest households. The percentage was lowest for the least wealthy households, where just 11.2% contained at least one individual strongly agreeing with the statement.

Notes for Wealth of the Average Household: Great Britain, 2008/10

  1. Analysis herein is presented by total household wealth. To aide interpretation, the current story has sorted households into ascending order based upon their total household wealth and then divided them into five groups of equal size (quintiles).  The least wealthy households were those in the bottom 20% of the distribution with total household wealth of less than £39,900.
  2. The wealthiest households were those in the top 20% of the distribution with total household wealth greater than £610,600.
  3. Adults are all those over the age of 16 years, excluding those aged 16-18 and still in full time education.

  4. For some topics it is necessary to select one person in the household to indicate the characteristics of the household more generally. WAS uses the household head or household reference person (HRP) for this purpose. The HRP is defined as follows:

    • in households with a sole householder, that person is the HRP,

    • in households with joint householders the person with the highest income is taken as the HRP,

    • if both householders have exactly the same income, the older is taken as the HRP.

Background notes

  1. All analysis presented is on a cross-sectional basis using wave 2 data (2008-10) from the Wealth and Assets Survey (WAS).

  2. Information on wealth and liabilities is as reported; it has not been adjusted for inflation, nor have results been equivalised to reflect differences in household size and composition.

  3. The Wealth and Assets Survey (WAS) is a longitudinal survey conducted by the ONS which aims to address gaps identified in data about the economic well-being of households. It gathers information on, among others, level of assets, savings and debt; saving for retirement; how wealth is distributed among households or individuals; and factors that affect financial planning. The survey is currently in its fourth wave of interviewing and to date has released a number of major reports and short stories [please see the related statistics and publications tab].

  4. Within the current story only median values are presented. The median is the value of the middle item when data are arranged in ascending order. If the number of items is even the median is the average of the middle pair of values. Where the distribution of financial liabilities is unequal, the median gives a better measure for the whole population. The mean, which provides the arithmetic average, is likely to be influenced by high values so it does not reflect the experience of most individuals. The mean values are available within the background tables.

  5. No statistical significance testing was performed as part of the analysis for the present article.

  6. Copyright and reproduction

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