7 March 2011

Understanding society

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Understanding Society
Understanding Society is a major £15.5 million research study designed to provide valuable new evidence about the people of the UK, their lives, experiences, behaviours and beliefs.

Understanding Society follows 100,000 people in 40,000 households year by year and asks them questions about a wide spectrum of areas relating to their working and personal lives. The study focuses on:
* Peoples’ state of health
* Our experiences of crime
* Personal finances
* Bringing up children
* How involved we are in our local community
* Our working lives
* Our views and outlook, including about the political system

The focus is on the household, looking at how different members of a family relate to each other.

The power of the survey lies in the links that can be made about different aspects of peoples lives. These links will allow the researchers to understand the life journey that people take, whether it be why some people get to university whilst others ended up in poverty in old age. The study will catch major trends and have an understanding of why major changes in the way that we all live and work take place.

An earlier study – the British Household Panel Survey – helped decision makers to evaluate the impact of key policies designed to help the low paid and encourage mothers return to employment. Understanding Society has continuing potential to influence decisions that affect all our lives, whether we are parents, savers or users of public services.

The scale of the survey will allow the researchers to focus in on key sections of the community, such as older people, parents, people from ethnic minorities or people with low incomes.

With an initial budget of £15.5 million, Understanding Society is the largest single investment in academic social research resources ever launched in the UK. The study is based at, and led by, the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Essex, together with colleagues from the University of Warwick and the Institute of Education. The survey work will be delivered by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen). Understanding Society both replaces and incorporates the successful, but much smaller, British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), which has been running since 1991.

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