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The Living Costs and Food Survey (LCF) began in 2008, replacing the Expenditure and Food Survey (EFS). The LCF, conducted by the Office for National Statistics, collects information on spending patterns and the cost of living that reflects household budgets across the country. A household expenditure survey has been conducted each year in the United Kingdom since 1957; from 1957-2001, the Family Expenditure Survey (FES) and National Food Survey (NFS) provided information on household expenditure patterns and food consumption. In April 2001 these surveys were combined to form the Expenditure and Food Survey (EFS), which completely replaced both series. From January 2008, the EFS became known as the Living Costs and Food (LCF) module of the Integrated Household Survey (IHS).
GN 33334 | Living Costs and Food Survey, 2001-
GN 33451 | Living Costs and Food Survey, 2006-: Secure Access
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The Living Costs and Food Survey (LCF) replaced the Expenditure and Food Survey in 2008. It collects information on spending patterns and the cost of living. It is conducted by the Office for National Statistics and achieves a sample of around 6,000 households a year.
A household expenditure survey has been conducted each year in the United Kingdom since 1957. From 1957 to March 2001, the Family Expenditure Survey (FES) and National Food Survey (NFS) provided information on household expenditure patterns and food consumption. In April 2001 these surveys were combined to form the Expenditure and Food Survey (EFS), which completely replaced both series. From January 2008, the EFS became known as the Living Costs and Food (LCF) module of the Integrated Household Survey (IHS).
As with the FES and NFS, the LCF continues to be primarily used to provide information for the Retail Prices Index, National Accounts estimates of household expenditure, analysis of the effect of taxes and benefits, and trends in nutrition. The results are multi-purpose, however, providing an invaluable supply of economic and social data. The merger of the two surveys also brings benefits for users, as a single survey on food expenditure removes the difficulties of reconciling data from two sources.
LCF data are available annually from 2008 and, except for a few minor changes, also for the period 2001-2007 via the EFS. Prior to 2001, information about consumption is available in the Family Expenditure Survey and the National Food Survey.
The transition from the EFS to the LCF was caused by the introduction of a number of changes in the EFS questionnaire in 2008, carried out in order to bring it under the umbrella of the Integrated Household Survey (IHS). The goal was to be able to use some of the data collected during the LCF fieldwork in the IHS datasets. In most cases these did not affect the LCF data itself: the new variables added to the questionnaires are not made available in the LCF datasets but instead in the IHS. A few variables names changed, and in a small number of cases, mostly related to summary income indicators, variables were deleted. More information is available in Volume G of the documentation for the 2008 data.
LCF/EFS data are available at the person level. Information in the LCF/EFS is also available at the levels of the household, the expenditure item as well as the benefit unit. However, the LCF/EFS is predominantly designed to be used as a household level survey both in its sample design and in the topics it seeks to address. Household level analysis can often be more suitable for analysing expenditure, particularly where items are shared between household members.
The LCF covers the private household population aged over 16 in the UK. Since 1998/9 the survey has included some information on children aged between 7 and 15.
Variable lists and PDF user guides (including questionnaires) are freely available on the catalogue page of each dataset. To find a dataset’s catalogue page, follow the link to the dataset from this page under DATA ACCESS or from the results pages in our database search engine Discover.
The LCF/EFS is complex to use compared to many large-scale datasets and so it is important to study the documentation carefully. All documentation is freely available on the catalogue page of each dataset, which you can access from this page under DATA ACCESS or from the results pages in our database search engine Discover.
There is some variation in the format of documentation between years; however, in general, the following guides are available in each edition:
Volume A – User guide
Volume B – Household questionnaire
Volume C – Income questionnaire
Volume D – Expenditure questionnaire
Volume E – The Raw Database
Volume F – The Derived Database
Volume G – Database Changes
Please note that in 2008, the documentation is different due to the necessity of explaining the changes between the LCS and the EFS.
The documentation provides this information - see Volume A of the User Guide.
The raw databases contain the data as received from the survey questionnaires. The names of the raw databases begin with the prefix ‘raw’, for example, ‘rawhh’. The derived databases contain data that have adjusted in some way after they were received. These adjusted variables are clustered into data files with ‘DV’ in the name, for example, ‘DVHH’.
For most users, the derived data files are most relevant and user friendly, particularly as much of the data that is contained in the raw datasets are also represented in the derived datasets. If the raw data are used then great care should be exercised as the structure of these files is very complex.
Yes, the food diary database contains calculated information on the nutritional values of food and drink in households. Unlike the other databases, this is presented in Microsoft Access (single file) or Tab format (multiple files).
Depending on which level of analysis you are interested in (i.e. at the person or household level), you will need to use one or several of the following variables:
Yes, as a repeated cross-sectional survey the LCF/EFS can be used to monitor patterns of aggregate change. However, the survey cannot be used to assess individual changes as we do not have repeated measures for individuals. Although the EFS replaced the Family Expenditure Survey and the National Food Survey in 2001 there are issues with comparing data from the LCF/EFS with these other sources. For example, the most significant change in terms of reporting expenditure, however, is the introduction of the European Standard Classification of Individual Consumption by Purpose, or COICOP, in place of the codes used in the FES and NFS, which were unique to the two surveys.
No, there is no panel element to this survey.
Yes, the LCF/EFS is weighted to adjust for non-response and to gross to population estimates. Weighting is necessary because the LCF/EFS has a clustered design which makes estimates produced without weights likely to be biased. There are two weights in the LCF/EFS: WEIGHTA and WEIGHTQ. WEIGHTA is an annual weight and WEIGHTQ is a quarterly weight. The quarterly weight was introduced because sample sizes vary from quarter to quarter as a result of re-issuing addresses where there had been a non-contact or refusal to a new interviewer after an interval of a few months, so that there are more interviews in the later quarters of the year than in the first quarter. Spending patterns are seasonal and quarterly grossing counteracts any bias from the uneven spread of interviews through the year.
Using the Living Costs and Food Survey for teaching
Teaching datasets are cut-down versions of the original datasets. They give students the opportunity to use real life large-scale survey data but are designed to be easier for students and other learners to use than the full datasets as they contain fewer variables and have a short user guide with variable lists and codebooks. Teaching datasets are to be used for teaching purposes only as some of the variables have been recoded or otherwise simplified.
There are two LCF/EFS teaching datasets:
See our teaching pages for practical information, exemplars, and tips for using UK Data Service data in teaching, including: