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.
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.
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%).
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey, Office for National Statistics
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.
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.
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.
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.
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%).
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.
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).
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey, Office for National Statistics
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."
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.
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%).
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.
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.
Adults are all those over the age of 16 years, excluding those aged 16-18 and still in full time education.
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.
An article analysing the key trends affecting middle income households between 1977 and 2010/11, and comparing these with changes in GDP per person for both the UK and the USA has been published to coincide with the Wealth of the Average Household release.
To date, the Wealth and Assets Survey has released major reports and short stories for the first two waves:
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