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More Years, Better Lives

The Potential and Challenges of Demographic Change

Living Costs and Food Survey (LCF or LCFS)
Living Costs and Food Survey (LCF or LCFS)

Social Systems and Welfare
Relevance for this Topic
Country United Kingdom
More Topics


Contact information

Office for National Statistics
Customer Contact Centre
Government Buildings, Cardiff Road
NP10 8XG Newport, South Wales
United Kingdom
Phone: +44 (0) 1633 455678.
Email: socialsurveys(at)

Timeliness, transparency

Data are available about 12 months after the end of fieldwork

Type of data


Type of Study

Cross-section, regular

Data gathering method

Face-to-face interview (CAPI, PAPI)

Face-to-face interview; Diaries (Only derived variables from the diary are included in the dataset, as the raw diary data are not released to the public for confidentiality reasons.)

Access to data

Data are available from the UK Data Service (previously the Economic and Social Data Service, ESDS): The website contains detailed information on conditions of access, and it is also possible to contact the UK Data Service by phone: +44 (0)1206 872143, or by email:

Conditions of access

Registration is required and standard UK Data Service conditions of use apply. The depositor may be informed about usage. All users are required to agree to the terms and conditions pertaining to the use of data. These are described in the End User Licence (EUL) and agreed to when registering with the UK Data Service. Researchers based at a UK institution of higher or further education (UK HE/FE) can access the UK Data Service through their library. If you are outside the UK you will need to apply for a UK Data Archive username and password, and then register with the UK Data Service. In general, data required for non-commercial purposes can be downloaded at no cost. If data are requested on portable media, e.g. CD, handling and postage and packing fees will apply. See:
A Secure Access version of the survey (Living Costs and Food Survey, 2006-2010) is also available to UK HE/FE applicants. Secure Access requirements and conditions apply. The Service is required to request explicit permission from the data owner prior to providing the researcher with access to the data. Since these data are more sensitive and/or pose a higher risk of disclosure than data made available under the standard End User Licence or under a Special Licence, they are not available for download but may be accessed through the Secure Access. Access requires accreditation by the UK Statistics Authority as an Approved Researcher, completion of face-to-face training, and agreement to the Service's User Agreement and Breaches Penalties Policy. This is to ensure that the guarantee of confidentiality given to survey respondents is protected. Applications are screened by the UK Data Archive and the Office for National Statistics, and access is only granted to those researchers requiring data for statistical research purposes and who can justify their need for the data. Users who obtain access to these data are required to read and follow the Microdata Handling and Security: Guide to Good Practice. For more information, see:

This depends upon the user and conditions of use.

Anonymised microdata

Survey data from the UK Data Service are usually available to download in SPSS, Stata and tab-delimited (suitable for use in MS Excel) formats.



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 a consequence of this change, the EFS questionnaire was altered to accommodate the insertion of a core set of questions, common to all of the separate modules which together comprise the IHS. Some of these core questions are simply questions which were previously asked in the same or a similar format on all of the IHS component surveys (including the EFS). Number of units in 2010: 5,116 households in Great Britain, and 147 in Northern Ireland [Note: Older people are represented in this data source (approximately) according to their proportion in the population. In 2011, over one third of the total UK population (and approximately 40 per cent of the adult population 16+) was aged 50 and over.]

2001 (1957 for certain aspects)

The data includes a variety of demographic variables, including age and sex. The sample is stratified.

Multi-stage stratified random sample [Due to funding constraints, from January 2010 the Northern Ireland (NI) sample used for the LCF will be reduced to a sample proportionate to the NI population relative to the UK.]

Countries (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland) Government Office Regions (NUTS1) More detailed spatial data may be available under Special License.

All ages

Representative of the (private) household population in the UK The data include weighting variables

The Living Costs and Food Survey (LCF) is a continuous household survey conducted within the UK, examining household expenditure and income. The LCF began in 2001 as the result of bringing together the Family Expenditure Survey (FES) and National Food Survey (NFS). Both surveys were well established and important sources of information for government and the wider community, charting changes and patterns in Britain's spending and food consumption since the 1950s. The survey continues to be primarily used to provide information for the Retail and Consumer Prices Indices, National Accounts estimates of household consumption expenditure, the analysis of the effect of taxes and benefits and trends in nutrition. The EFS was the result of more than two years' development work to bring together the FES and NFS; both survey series were well-established and important sources of information for government and the wider community, and had charted changes and patterns in spending and food consumption since the 1950s. Whilst the NFS and FES series are now finished, users should note that previous data from both series are still available from the UK Data Archive. The design of the LCF is based on the FES. The LCF includes all FES questions, as well as a selection from the NFS. Each individual aged 16 or over in the visited household is asked to keep diary records of daily expenditure for two weeks. Information about regular expenditure, such as rent and mortgage payment, is obtained during a household interview along with retrospective information on certain large, infrequent expenditures, such as those on vehicles. Detailed questions are asked about the income of each adult member of the household (aged 16 or over). Personal information such as age, sex and marital status are also recorded for each household member. The LCF interviews are spread evenly over the year to ensure that seasonal effects are accounted for.

The ONS (Office for National Statistics) and DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) reports for the LCF/EFS are available from their respective web sites, as listed below: • DEFRA. “Family food in 2001/2.” DEFRA, London, 2003. • DEFRA. “Family food in 2002/3.” DEFRA, London, 2004. • DEFRA. “Family food in 2003/4.” DEFRA, London, 2005. • ONS. “Family spending: a report on the 2001-2002 Expenditure and Food Survey.” ONS, London, 2003. • ONS. “Family spending: a report on the 2002-2003 Expenditure and Food Survey.” ONS, London, 2004. • ONS. “Family spending: a report on the 2003-2004 Expenditure and Food Survey.” ONS, London, 2005. • ONS. “Family spending: a report on the 2004-2005 Expenditure and Food Survey.” ONS, London, 2006. • ONS. “Family spending: 2007 edition.” ONS, London, 2007.


There is an ongoing cross-governmental programme of work in the UK which aims to develop and improve standardised inputs and outputs for use in official statistics. This is known as harmonisation, and is led by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). While this work primarily affects government-run surveys, the results have an impact on most national UK data sources. Furthermore, harmonisation has important benefits for all researchers using these surveys, and not just government statisticians. For more information, see:
This survey uses a number of harmonised measures, including the European Standard Classification of Individual Consumption by Purpose (COICOP)

Data are anonymised

Data quality

In addition to unit non-response, the data include item non-response and may be subject to other errors that are typical of surveys and censuses. This data source is used to prepare official statistics, which are required to meet quality standards. These standards are monitored by the UK Statistics Authority, according to the statutory authority provided by the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007.
For more information on data quality, see the survey documentation on the UK Data Service website.

Apart from the variations in design (see Coverage), there are no major breaks for this data source.

In general, the consistency of this data source is good. For more information on data quality, see the survey documentation on the UK Data Service website.


Main Topics Household questionnaire: • The first part of the LCF/EFS questionnaire collects information about households; the majority of the questions are asked at a household-level, with the household reference person typically responding on behalf of the household as a whole. The household questionnaire includes questions on a range of subjects including family relationships, ethnicity, employment details and the ownership of household durables. It is also the source of all expenditure information not recorded in the LCF/EFS diary; principally that which concerns regular payments typically made by all households and large, infrequently purchased items such as vehicles, package holidays and home improvements. Individual questionnaire: • The income questionnaire follows on immediately from the household questionnaire and collects the key person-level variables used on the survey. The principal components of the LCF income questionnaire are the sections covering income from employment, benefits and assets. These together form an overview of the total income received by each household, as well as each household member individually. LCF/EFS Diary: • In addition to the two questionnaires, each individual aged 16 years and over in the household is asked to keep diary records of daily expenditure for two weeks. The raw diary data is held in a separate file, but is not made publicly available for confidentiality reasons. Therefore, users should be aware that the LCF/EFS dataset available from the Archive includes only derived variables from the expenditure diary.

  • The information about this dataset was compiled by the author:
  • Mike Murphy
  • (see Partners)