Scottish Household Survey 2021: methodology and fieldwork outcomes

Methodology of the 2021 Scottish Household Survey and information on fieldwork targets and outcomes.

Survey overview

The Scottish Household Survey (SHS) is an annual survey based on a sample of the general population in private residences in Scotland.

It is designed to provide reliable and up-to-date information on the characteristics, attitudes and behaviour of Scottish households and individuals, both nationally and at a sub-national level, and to examine the physical condition of Scotland's homes. It covers a wide range of topics. The specific aims of the survey are:

  • Produce high quality data, in accordance with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics, that is suitable for the production of National Statistics publications.
  • Meet central and local Government needs for policy relevant data across a broad range of topics.
  • Enable detection of trends over time, and continue monitoring of trends from previous sweeps of the survey.
  • Be flexible enough to respond to different data needs regarding geography and frequency (e.g. to provide some data annually at local authority level, and some biennially at a national level).
  • Enable disaggregation of data both geographically (e.g. by local authority) and in terms of population subgroups (e.g. equality groups), combining data across survey sweeps where necessary to achieve an adequate sample.
  • Align with other surveys and data vehicles (in particular in relation to the Scottish Surveys Core Questions, which are also included in the Scottish Health Survey and the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey).

The survey is funded by the Scottish Government and run through a consortium led by Ipsos.

The survey started in 1999, and up to 2011 followed a fairly consistent survey design. The data was collected over two years and the local authority level data was available only after the two-year cycle was completed.

From 2012 onwards, the survey was substantially redesigned to include elements of the Scottish House Condition Survey (SHCS) including the follow-up physical survey component. The new SHS went in to the field with a substantially restructured sample design, integrating the previous SHCS. The new survey uses a fully unclustered core and modular structure with some questions asked of the full sample and others of a one-third sub-sample.

The overall sample size has reduced from around 14,000 household interviews to about 10,000 though improvements in efficiency of the survey design mean it is possible to obtain local authority estimates on an annual basis where sample sizes produce robust estimates. This also means that any set of years can be combined to create larger samples, where necessary. While the overall sample size of the survey has reduced, the survey design improvements have meant that the precision of estimates has not been affected significantly.

In March 2020, fieldwork was suspended in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Only a small proportion of the 2020 survey had been completed. The approach was adapted and the remainder of the 2020 social survey fieldwork was carried out using remote (telephone or video) interviewing, instead of the usual face-to-face interviewing. The 2021 SHS continued to use remote interviewing.

Following the suspension of face-to-face interviewing in March 2020, there was no further physical survey data collection in 2020. The 2021 physical survey was carried out by an external-only inspection.



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