Researchers can now access six waves of Understanding Society data

Understanding Society has released its latest wave of rich longitudinal data (Wave 6), which also features an exciting boost sample for understanding the lives of immigrants in the UK.

Every year, Understanding Society collects multi-topic information about everyone in the household aged 10 years and older. The Study’s large sample size covers the whole of the UK and this is important because it builds a rich picture of what it’s like to live in the UK over time.

The longitudinal data at Wave 6 includes 41,000 interviews with adults and 3,600 interviews with children aged 10 to 15. These data are now available via the UK Data Service.

Dr Karon Gush, Survey Content Officer said, “Longitudinal data releases are very special. Any new data release creates additional research opportunities but the possibilities grow almost exponentially with each release of longitudinal data. This is because longitudinal studies track people over time.

“The new data links to all the previous waves of data meaning that each new wave can be analysed in conjunction with everything that has gone before it. This has obvious advantages. Rather than getting a one-off sense of what is going on at a particular point in time, longitudinal data can draw a moving picture of how things evolve over time.”

What features in the Wave 6 data release?

  • Returning Main Survey modules: Understanding Society collects data every wave in key research areas, e.g. education, family and health, so that changes in people’s circumstances can be explored and related to each other. However, there are also rotating modules which collect information on a wider range of topics. Some of these modules last appeared in Wave 3 so this new Wave 6 release means that longitudinal analysis can now be carried out on changes in things like neighbourhood conditions, social networks and groups /organisations and their impact on other aspects of people’s lives using Understanding Society data. All modules can be seen in the Long Term Content Plan.
  • Young adult questionnaire content: Every year, participants aged 16-21 years old answer additional questions in the Main Survey that are tailored for young adults. In this data release rotating modules on: happiness & self-esteem, future intentions / marriage and future intentions / children are repeated so that researchers can examine change from Waves 2 and 4. Read all of the young adult modules.
  • Youth questionnaire modules: Over 3,600 participants aged 10-15 years old complete a paper questionnaire every year which takes 30 minutes to complete. Modules that have returned for Wave 6 include binge drinking and self-esteem. For the full list please see the youth questionnaire topics.
  • Immigrant and Ethnic Minority Boost: Most excitingly at Wave 6, the main survey has introduced a sample of an additional 3,000 new households containing 8,500 adults and children from immigrant and ethnic minority groups.

What is the Immigrant and Ethnic Minority Boost (IEMB)?

The IEMB refreshes and expands the original Ethnic Minority Boost (EMB) recruited at Wave 1 of Understanding Society in 2009. Like the EMB, the IEMB oversampled five key ethnic minority groups in the UK; Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Black Caribbean, Black African; but it additionally oversampled immigrants.

When the IEMB is combined with the rest of the Understanding Society data it is representative of all immigrants in the UK and will allow researchers to conduct research into growing areas of interest related to immigration and immigrants. As well as covering additional members of groups in the original Ethnic Minority Boost, the new Wave 6 data covers larger numbers of the following groups:

  • 948 Western European (EEA) migrants
  • 728 Eastern European (EEA) migrants

Dr Alita Nandi, Research Fellow and co-lead on the IEMB commented, “This is a very exciting addition to Understanding Society. At a time when interest in immigration and in more recent immigrant groups is increasing, the IEMB enables researchers to analyse the experience of recent and longer term migrants, and those migrating to the UK from a much wider range of countries.”

Resources for researchers

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