The Office for National Statistics released their latest figures on Families and Households today. This tells us how many families, adults and children live in various different types of households, whether married, civil partners, cohabiting, lone mums or dads, etc.
There are no big surprises. But there is one big revision that shows why we need to keep looking at the longer term trends rather than worrying about the latest year’s blip here or there.
How these particular numbers work is that ONS conduct an enormous survey of about 44,000 households comprising just over 100,000 people every few months. It’s called the Labour Force Survey. People stay in the survey for five quarters. So the whole survey rotates with people being replaced every quarter.
The only way to find out if these 100,000 people who actually reply to the survey accurately represent the population as a whole is to compare them with the Census, conducted every ten years among every household in the country.
In other words, until ONS had the most recent 2011 Census data, all they had to go on was the 2001 Census. So in the latter years of the decade, the Labour Force Survey numbers become less and less reliable.
The latest comparison has just been done. So ONS can then ‘weight’ the numbers they get in the Labour Force Survey to look more like the whole population.
The graph below shows how big the revision has been for lone parent families, as an example. This new weighting conducted this year shows that there are about 76,000 more lone parents than previously thought last year.
That equates to an extra 4.0% of lone parent families. Quite a big increase, I think you’ll agree.
…all of which is to show that the odd 1% rise or fall of more or less anything compared to last year needs to be seen in context.
The good news is that, for the next five years or so, the Labour Force Survey has become reliable again!