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Background Notes

The Household Finance and Consumption Survey (HFCS) 2018 was published on 30 January 2020. Data within the publication were revised on 4th June 2020. These data revisions were due to the re-calibration of weights used in the estimation of HFCS statistics. Data within the publication were revised again on 16 May 2023. These data revisions were primarily due to the supplementing of survey data with the Central Credit Register, an administrative data source obtained by the CSO in 2021. All content relating to HFCS 2018, including the Electronic Publication text, graphs and tables, Infographic, Press Release and PxStat tables, now reflect the revised data.  Details as to the extent and impact of these revisions on previously published data can be found in the HFCS 2018 Revisions Information Note.

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The Household Finance and Consumption Survey (HFCS) was conducted under the auspices of the European Central Bank’s Household Financial and Consumption Network (HFCN).  This is a network of Eurosystem experts (drawn mainly from national central banks in the Eurozone) and was set up in December 2006 with all Euro area countries participating.  The HFCN is the guiding body in all matters relating to the HFCS.

The fieldwork for the first wave of HFCS surveys were carried out in most countries (except for Ireland and Estonia) in 2010 and 2011.  The second wave was carried out between 2013 and 2015 and the third was carried out in 2017 and 2018.  The results of the first two waves are available on the HFCN website above.


The Household Finance and Consumption Survey (HFCS) 2018 was published on 30 January 2020. Data within the publication were revised on 4th June 2020. These data revisions were due to the re-calibration of weights used in the estimation of HFCS statistics. Data within the publication were revised again on 16 May 2023. These data revisions were primarily due to the supplementing of survey data with the Central Credit Register, an administrative data source obtained by the CSO in 2021.

The Central Credit Register is a database that stores personal and credit information on loans of €500 or more. Examples of information stored are the amount borrowed, amount owed, monthly payments and interest rates. It is operated by the Central Bank of Ireland under the Credit Reporting Act 2013.

Other methodological changes made for the revision were the inclusion of the number of hectares owned by households as a calibration benchmark and the full alignment of the multiple imputation process with the 2020 methodology. 

Please see HFCS 2018 Revisions Information Note which compares published and revised results.

HFCS Details

The HFCS is a household survey which collects data on household consumption and finances.  It covers areas such as demographics, real and financial assets, liabilities, consumption and saving, income and employment, future pension entitlements, intergenerational transfers, gifts and attitudes to risk.  The main aim of the survey is to gather micro-level, structural information on households’ assets and liabilities in the Euro area.  In addition, in order to adequately capture and analyse economic decisions of households, it is necessary that some additional information is also collected (e.g. on income, consumption, etc.).

While participation in the HFCN is voluntary for respondents, all Eurozone countries contribute to the HFCN and conduct the survey in their respective countries.  A common Eurosystem blueprint questionnaire is the starting point for country questionnaires.

The common questionnaire is composed of a common set of core output variables, which all countries report to the ECB according to the agreed common standards and definitions.  In addition, there is a set of standardised non-core extensions that countries may voluntarily collect, and which therefore also provide comparable output for participating countries.

Questionnaire Design

The HFCN questionnaire was used in Ireland but it was amended slightly to include questions of national interest.  The HFCS questionnaire is split into nine sections, including:

  • Demographics – this section contains a basic set of information collected for all household members, namely age, gender, country of birth, and length of stay in the country (for the foreign born). Information on marital status and the highest level of education attained are only collected for household members aged 16+.
  • Real assets and their financing – this section collects information on ownership and current values of real estate assets (household main residence for homeowners, other real estate properties owned by the household), vehicles (cars, other types of vehicles such as motorbikes, boats, etc.), valuables (such as jewellery, works of art, antiques) and a residual item on other real assets.  Other characteristics are asked for the household main residence (method and year of acquisition, value at the time of acquisition, etc.).  Size of the household main residence and the length of stay in the current household main residence are asked of both owners and tenants. Tenants also provide information about the monthly amount paid as rent. For other real estate properties, type of property, its main use (for private use/for own business/for rent), percentage of the property owned by the household and its current value are asked in a loop for up to three main properties. After the questions on the household main residence, a set of questions is asked on the characteristics of each mortgage collateralised by the property.  The same approach is followed with other real estate properties, i.e. questions referring to each mortgage collateralised by other real estate properties are asked immediately after having collected information about the properties.  In this way, the risk of respondents forgetting to report on specific debts is reduced.
  • Selected details containing purpose of the loan, year when the loan was taken or last refinanced, initial amount borrowed, initial maturity, current interest rate, whether the interest rate is fixed or adjustable, current monthly payment made on the loan are asked in for up to three mortgages on the household main residence and up to three mortgages on other real estate properties.
  • Other liabilities and credit constraints – this section on other liabilities contains questions on non-mortgage debt instruments – leasing contracts, credit lines/overdrafts, credit cards and loans not collateralised by real estate.  A loop for up to three main loans collects individual details such as the purpose of the loan, the initial amount borrowed, initial maturity, current outstanding amount, current interest rate and current monthly payments.  The remaining part of the section targets questions on loan application (applied for credit in the last three years) and credit constraints (credit refusal experience, not applying for credit due to perceived credit constraint).
  • Private businesses and financial assets - the first part of this section covers self-employment private businesses (sector of activity [NACE], legal form, number of employees, household members working in the business, share of the business owned by the household and the current value of the household’s share in the business when not captured in earlier questions).  These are distinguished from other “passive” investments in non-publicly traded equity for which only questions on ownership and on total current value of the equity holdings are asked. The second part then covers financial assets: current accounts, saving accounts, mutual funds, bonds, publicly traded shares, additional assets in managed accounts, informal loans to relatives or friends and a residual question on other financial assets. Selected additional questions are asked for bonds (type of bonds owned – government/banks and financial corporations/non-financial corporations) and shares (ownership of foreign shares).  There is also includes a self-assessment question on risk attitudes.
  • Employment – these questions are asked of all household members aged 16 or more.  The first question asks for the self-reported current labour status of each person. A set of questions on main characteristics of employment are asked of persons in employment including status in employment (employee/self-employed/unpaid family worker), occupation (ISCO), sector of activity (NACE), permanent/temporary contract for employees, hours worked a week, question on secondary employment activities in addition to the main job, expected retirement age.  A question on previous work is asked of those currently not in employment.
  • Pension and life insurance policies – the element of the survey on public and occupational pension plans aims at collecting basic information on participation of household members aged 16+ in these types of pension plans and on collecting current value of plans with an account balance, if known to the respondent.
  • Income - The main target of the income section is the collection of main components for the construction of total gross household income, not including lower level details of each of these components (like, for example further decomposition of income from financial assets). This section combines personal level questions (employee income, self-employment income, income from private and occupational pensions,) and household level questions (, regular private transfers received, rental income, financial investments income, private business or partnership income, other residual sources of income). The concepts and definitions of the income section were designed along the lines of those of the Canberra UN expert group of household income statistics.  Imputed rents and income in kind are not covered by the HFCS core income section.  The target income aggregate is gross income, including taxes and social insurance contributions paid by employees.  The reference period is the 12 months preceding the interview.  In addition to the income questions, two qualitative supplementary questions are collected on the level of annual income as compared to normal and on income expectations for the following year.
  • Intergenerational transfers and gifts - this section collects information on received inheritances and substantial gifts, aimed to trace household wealth accumulation patterns.  These questions are asked for the up to three most important gifts/inheritances covering when they were received, what asset types they were, their value and from whom they were received.  The section also includes a question on expectations about expected substantial gifts and/or inheritances in the future.
  • Consumption and savings - this section focuses on selected aspects of household consumption and saving.  These include typical monthly amount spent on food at home and typical monthly amount spent on food outside the home over the previous 12 months, regular private transfers made outside the household (alimony, assistance, etc.).  There are also questions on saving motives, a comparison of last 12 months’ expenditure with their usual level (higher/normal/lower), balance of expenditures and income (expenses higher than/equal to/lower than income).

Survey Coverage

The HFCS data was collected directly from private households. Institutional households, (e.g. nursing homes, barracks, boarding schools, hotels etc.) were not covered by the survey.  A household was defined as a single person or group of people who regularly reside together in the same accommodation and who share the same catering arrangements.  The household members were not necessarily related by blood or marriage.  The HFCS had a further requirement that dwellings where members were financially independent of each other were to be considered separate households.

Sample Selection

The overall sample for the HFCS was 13,200 households.  The selection process for the survey was divided into two elements:

  • The first element involved the selection of 10,800 households (in 900 areas).  These households were selected proportionally from the entire population of private households (occupied private dwellings from the Census of Population 2016 data, a population of approximately 1,698,000 households), divided into strata defined by 26 counties and 5 bands of deprivation/affluence.  A two-stage sample design was used.  In the first stage the 900 areas were selected using Probability Proportional to Size (PPS) sampling.  In the second stage households were selected using Simple Random Sampling (SRS) and each interviewer was assigned 13 households to interview every month.
  • The second element involved the selection of 2,400 households (in 100 areas) from areas with relatively high home ownership rates and high average Local Property Tax (LPT) bands.  This oversampling is common in surveys of this nature and was recommended by the HFCN. Since wealth is highly unevenly distributed, a given level of precision would either require a rather large (and costly) sample or, if efficiently designed, a sample which should include a higher than proportional number of wealthy households.

This 82/18 split in the sample between those selected proportionally from the entire population and those selected as part of the oversampling process is common for countries when oversampling for the wealthy in HFCS and is recommended by the HFCN.

This process gave us a sampling distribution for the entire sample of 66% of all selected households in the bottom 80% of households (as measured by the affluence/deprivation index), and 34% of the sample for the top 20% of households as measured by the deprivation/affluence index.

In line with HFCN guidelines, household substitution was not used in the survey.  This ensured that the HFCS used probability sampling, i.e. every household in the target population had a non-zero probability of being included in the sample.  This probability could also be determined ex-ante, i.e. before selecting the units included in the initial sample.

Data Collection

The survey started in April 2018 and field work continued until early January 2019.  Data was collected for the main sample of 10,800 households by permanent CSO interviewers.  A temporary team of interviewers was hired and trained specifically to collect data from the 2,400 ‘oversample’ households.  Household interviewers, in as much as was possible resided within, or adjacent to, the areas they were responsible for.

Interviewers were provided with a map of each of their interview areas as well as a listing of the address of each of the selected households.  All interviewers were provided with specific HFCS training.  The permanent team of interviewers are very experienced, having previously worked on CSO surveys such as the Household Budget Survey, the Survey on Income and Living Conditions and the Labour Force Survey.

Interviewers received a manual with information such as detailed explanations about the questionnaire and definitions of the concepts involved.  There was also a thorough review of the questionnaire as it appeared on the laptop as well as a detailed examination of the more complex elements of the questionnaire.

The co-operation of sample households was mainly canvassed by interviewers on the basis of the importance of the survey and the usefulness of the results

Each participating household completed a detailed household questionnaire which covered general household-level questions while each household member aged 16 years and over also completed a personal questionnaire which covered income, education, work status and other demographic related questions.

The data was captured by means of CAPI (Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing) in face to face interviewing.  This enabled the use of extensive checks in the BLAISE interviewing software to make sure correct and coherent data was collected.  It also ensured that respondents were only asked relevant questions, that all applicable questions were answered (although it was possible for many questions to accept a “Don’t know” or “Refused to answer” reply) and specific answers were within valid ranges.  In many cases the BLAISE also made sure that the relationship between linked answers was within acceptable limits.  In certain cases, the BLAISE alerted the interviewer to the fact that an answer, while not incorrect, was implausible.  In these cases, the interviewer might have to probe further.

The field work ran for 39 weeks with 2 extra weeks at the end of the survey period to get outstanding returns.  The field work for the survey was fully completed by mid-January 2019.

Survey Response

The final status of the survey is as follows:

There were 4,793 respondent households and a response rate of 45.1% when vacant properties and properties that were not attempted are excluded.  No interview was attempted at 15% of properties due to resourcing issues.

Table 10.1 Summary of outcomes
StatusNumber of households
Complete Interviews4,759
Partial Interview59
No contact with anyone at sampled dwelling2,014
Contact made at sampled dwelling/household, but not with any responsible resident known to live at the address18
Refusal at introduction/before interview (either by desired respondent or by proxy)3,255
Away / at hospital during survey period124
Physically or mentally unavailable/incompetent/ Ill at home during survey period112
Language barrier33
Other non-response101
Not attempted1,927
Unknown whether address contains residential housing; other unknown eligibility41
Non-residential address/ business purpose / Communal establishment/institution12
Vacant /empty604
Address occupied, but no resident household (not the main residency – it is only used as a secondary home)25

The average interview length was around one hour, with the time varying according to the size of household and its circumstances.  Approximately 10 per cent of interviews lasted one hour and 20 minutes or longer.

Other Data Sources

As is usual for CSO household surveys, information other than survey data was used to construct HFCS variables.  This included data from the Department of Social Protection on state transfer payments, data from the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority (Teagasc) who provided the CSO with data on Standard Outputs (SOs) for farm animals and hectare of various crops, data from Revenue who provided income tax records, data from the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) who provided data on rental properties, data from local councils on HAP payments and data from SUSI on student grant payments

Further Processing

Once the data was back in the CSO it was checked and if necessary queried with the field force.  After the data collection phase was complete the field data was aggregated together with data from other sources.  In certain cases, text strings (used as an “other” category for some questions) were re-coded to the proper category while further validation checks were done.


This is a process to assign values to missing data. While unit non-response (i.e. the complete record is missing) was dealt with by the weighting procedure, item non-response (where the respondent has either refused to answer a question or doesn’t know the answer) had to be assigned a value.  Certain variables were defined by the HFCN as requiring a 100% response so where the answer could not be derived from other sources this nonresponse was corrected by imputation.

Multiple Imputation, based on Gibbs sampling was used to impute missing values. With this method, five imputed values based on different random draws are provided to the user for each missing value, resulting in five copies of the complete dataset. Gibbs sampling is an iterative Markov procedure of successive simulation of the distribution of variables conditioned on both observed data and distributions of variables previously simulated in the same iteration. The model imputes each missing observation using a maximal set of covariates (from the list determined by the user) from the appropriate subpopulation. For example, in the imputation of the value of bonds, only households that have bonds are considered.

The level of item non-response for certain variables was:

Table 10.2 Summary of response rates for selected variables
Variable DescriptionHFCN Code% of values imputed
Current value of the household main residence (HMR)HB090013.4
Amount still owed on the mortgage on HMRHB170119.5
Total value of carsHB44003.4
Amount of outstanding credit line/overdraft balanceHC022031.7
Amount outstanding on private loansHC03615.8
Value of self-employment businessHD080138.5
Value of deposit accountsHD111033.4
Value of savings accountsHD121027.5
Amount of outstanding credit card balanceHC032018.2

The highest imputation rates needed to be done to get the value of the self-employment business a household member had an interest in.  However, the difficulty in collecting accurate data from households for this variable has been noted in many of the national HFCS surveys carried out in the Eurozone previously.

Derivation of Results

In order to provide national results, the survey results were weighted to represent the entire population.  The process used was as follows:

  • Firstly, design weights were calculated for all units selected in the initial sample and are computed as the inverse of the selection probability of the unit.  The purpose of design weights is to eliminate the bias induced by unequal selection probabilities, which was relevant here as we oversampled wealthy areas.
  • Next these design weights were then adjusted for non-response.  This eliminated the bias introduced by discrepancies caused by non-response between the initial sample and the achieved sample, particularly critical when the non-responding households are different from the responding ones in respect to some survey variables as this may create substantial bias in the estimates.  Design weights are adjusted for non-response by calibrating to Census 2016, comparing the attributes of households that responded vs. attributes of households that did not respond.
  • To obtain the final weights for the results, after the previous steps were carried out, the distribution of households by deprivation, NUTS3 region, home ownership, household size, household type, sex, age, labour status was calibrated to the population of households in Q3 and Q4 2020 as derived from the Labour Force Survey. The distribution of households by number of farmed hectares owned was calibrated to the total number of farmed hectares in Ireland derived from the Census of Agriculture. The CALMAR2-macro, developed by INSEE and shared with the HFCN, was used for this purpose and both household and individual external information was used in a single-shot calibration at household level. The final weights are included in the HFCS data as core variables and are distributed to the external users as a part of the HFCN micro data.

Disclosure Control

All cells in the result tables with less than 25 observations are suppressed.



The regional classifications in this release are based on the NUTS 2 (Nomenclature of Territorial Units) classification used by Eurostat.  Changes made under the 2014 Local Government Act prompted a revision to the Irish NUTS 3 Regions.  Three Regional Assemblies were established (Northern & Western, Southern, Eastern & Midland).  The composition of the regions is set out below and here.

Table 10.3 NUTS2 Regions
Northern and WesternSouthernEastern and Midland
DonegalLimerick Kildare

Deprivation Index

The Pobal Haase-Pratschke Deprivation Index is based on Census of Population 2016 data.  There are three dimensions of affluence/disadvantage Demographic Profile, Social Class Composition and Labour Market Situation. Each Census Small Area (SA) has a deprivation score calculated, based on the following indicators:

1: Demographic Profile:

  • The percentage increase in population over the previous five years.
  • The percentage of population aged less than 15 or over 64 years of age.
  • The percentage of population with a primary school education only.
  • The percentage of population with a third level education.  The percentage of households with children aged less than 15 years and headed by a single parent.

2: Social Class Composition:

  • The percentage of population with a primary school education only.
  • The percentage of population with a third level education.
  • The percentage of households headed by professionals or managerial and technical employees, including farmers with 100 acres or more.
  • The percentage of households headed by semi-skilled or unskilled manual workers, including farmers with less than 30 acres.
  • The mean number of persons per room.

3: Labour Market Situation:

  • The percentage of households headed by semi-skilled or unskilled manual workers, including farmers with less than 30 acres.
  • The percentage of households with children aged less than 15 years and headed by a single parent.
  • The male unemployment rate.
  • The female unemployment rate.

The scores are combined and an overall score for the SA is calculated.  A relative score of over 30 implies extreme affluence while a score of 0 to 10 means the SA is marginally above average.  On the other hand, a relative score of -30 or less implies extreme disadvantage in the SA.


The highest level of education of a person is defined as the highest attainment of an educational programme the person has successfully completed.  The HFCS used the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED 2011) to code the data received in the survey.  The basic classifications used in this report are:

  • Primary education or below (No formal education or below and ISCED 1 Primary education).
  • Lower secondary (ISCED 2: Lower secondary).
  • Higher secondary (ISCED 3: Upper secondary).
  • Post Leaving cert (ISCED 4: Post-secondary non tertiary).
  • Third level non-degree (ISCED 5: Short cycle tertiary education)
  • Third level degree or above (ISCED 6: Bachelor or equivalent, ISCED 7: Master or equivalent, ISCED 8: Doctoral or equivalent).

Degree of Urbanisation

The degree of urbanisation indicates the character of the area where the household lives on the basis of population size and density.  It distinguishes three types of areas: densely, intermediate, and thinly populated areas.

The classification of local administrative units (LAU2) in densely, intermediate and thinly populated areas uses as a criterion the geographical contiguity in combination with the share of local population living in different type of clusters.  In a first step, clusters are defined by classifying grid cells of 1km2 to one of the three following clusters, according to their population size and density:

High-density cluster/urban centre: contiguous grid cells of 1km2 with a density of at least 1,500 inhabitants per km2 and a minimum population of 50,000;

Urban cluster: cluster of contiguous grid cells of 1km2 with a density of at least 300 inhabitants per km2 and a minimum population of 5,000;

Rural grid cell: grid cell outside high-density clusters and urban clusters.

Local administrative units (LAU2) are then classified to one of three types of area:

Densely populated area: at least 50% lives in high-density cluster in addition, each high-density cluster should have at least 75% of its population in densely-populated LAU2s; this also ensures that all high-density clusters are represented by at least one densely-populated LAU2, even when this cluster represents less than 50% of the population of that LAU2;

Intermediate density area: less than 50% of the population lives in rural grid cells and less than 50% live in high-density clusters;

Thinly-populated area: more than 50% of the population lives in rural grid cells

Concepts and definitions


This is a common concept used in this report.  The median value is the value below which 50 per cent of the observations lie.  Because financial and income data is often highly skewed, it is often preferred as a measure compared to the mean, which may be affected by a small number of very high values.  For example, in the dataset 1,4,10,20 and 100, the median value is 10 but the mean value is 27.


The wealth or income quintile groups are five equal-sized groups of households, each group containing 20% of households.  The income quintile “Less than 20” also referenced in this publication as ”First (or bottom) income quintile” contains the fifth of households with the lowest gross household income, group “20-39” contains the fifth of households with the next lowest gross household income etc.  The group “80-100” also referenced in this publication as “Fifth (or top) income quintile” contains the fifth of households with the highest gross household income.  Likewise, the wealth quintile “Less than 20” or “First (or bottom) net wealth quintile” contains the fifth of households with the lowest net household wealth (and so on).

Net Wealth Deciles

The net wealth decile groups are ten equal-sized groups of households, each group containing 10% of households.  The first (bottom) decile contains the tenth of households with the lowest net household wealth, whereas the tenth (top) decile contains the tenth of households with the highest net household wealth.

Equivalised Income and Wealth

When conducting joint distributional analysis differences in household composition and size should be accounted for.  As a household’s size increases then the potential sources of income increase as does the consumption needs of the household.  To account for differences in household size and composition an equivalised household size was calculated for each HFCS household.  The first adult in each household was attributed a weight of 1, each subsequent adult (aged 14+ living in the household) was attributed a weight of 0.66 and each child aged less than 14 was attributed a weight of 0.33.  The weights for the individuals in each household were then summed to calculate the equivalised household size.  Gross household income was then divided by the equivalised household size to calculate equivalised gross income for each person.  Likewise, household net wealth was divided by the equivalised household size to calculate equivalised net wealth for each person in the household.  Essentially these equivalised income and wealth values are approximate measures of how much of the household income and wealth can be attributed to each member of the household.  When considering wealth as an economic resource that may be used to support current consumption, the OECD in the ‘Framework for Statistics on the Distribution of Household Income, Consumption and Wealth’ publication advise that it is appropriate to equivalise wealth with the same equivalence scales used to equivalise income.

In the HFCS income information was only collected on gross household income.  Ideally net income should be used when conduction joint distributional analysis as net income supports consumption.  The SILC survey collects information on both gross and net income.  Analysis of 2018 SILC gross and net equivalised income shows that over 80% of individuals are in the same equivalised gross and net income quintiles. 86.5% of SILC individuals in the top net equivalised quintile were also in the top gross equivalised income quintile, the remainder (13.5%) were in the fourth gross equivalised income quintile.


A household is defined as a person living alone or a group of people who live together in the same private dwelling and share expenditures, including the joint provision of the essentials of living, such as catering arrangements.  The household members defined in this fashion are usually, but not necessarily, related by blood or by marriage.  Any other individual or group of people living in the same dwelling constitutes a separate household.

Persons usually resident, but temporarily absent from the dwelling for a period of less than six months (for reasons of holiday travel, work, education or similar) are included as household members.

Persons financially dependent and not having their private household somewhere else (like students studying away from home, persons away for work regularly returning and considering the sampled dwelling as their main place of residence) are included as household members even if their length of absence may exceed six months.

Persons with usual residence in the dwelling but not sharing expenditures (e.g. lodgers, tenants, etc.) are treated as separate households. Consequently, in some specific cases there can be more than one household in a dwelling.

Household Reference Person

This person is considered to be the person who is most knowledgeable about the financial situation of the household and provides the financial information for the whole household, since this information is collected together for the whole household instead of by individual members.  This is done to both minimise response burden and to avoid duplications (since many assets and liabilities are shared between household members).

No specific direction is given as to who is to be taken as the reference person of the household, but it has to be an adult member. It is left to individual households to determine who the appropriate person is.  There is no problem in normal family-type situations. In other cases (e.g. man, wife and a married child with family) decisions made depend on the circumstances and the approach followed is to take the person whom the household regards as its reference person.  This person was also known as the financially responsible person.

Household Main Residence

This is defined as the dwelling where the members of the household usually live, typically a house or an apartment. A household can only have one main residence at any given time, although they may share the residence with people not belonging to the household.

Gross Income

Household income includes all money receipts which accrue to the household regularly at annual or more frequent intervals.  The gross receipts, (i.e. before subtraction of income tax and social insurance deductions) of individual household members are combined to give the average income for the households.  The components of gross income are direct income and social transfers.

Direct income is composed of employee income and gross cash benefits or losses from self-employment.  It also includes pensions from individual private plans, income from rental of property or land, regular inter-household cash transfers received, interests, dividends and profit from capital investments in unincorporated business. Social transfers include Jobseekers payments, state pensions and family/children related allowances such as maternity/adoptive benefit, child benefit, one-parent family payments and carers’ payments).  It also includes housing allowances such as rent supplement, free phone/electricity etc, fuel allowances and exceptional needs payments.  Other social transfers include survivors’ payments, sickness payments, disability payments, education-related allowances and social exclusion not elsewhere classified.

Gross household income excludes certain receipts which are generally of an irregular and non-recurring nature.  The principal exclusions are receipts for sale of possessions, withdrawals from savings, loans obtained, loan repayments received, windfalls, prizes, retirement gratuities, maturing insurance policies etc.  Furthermore, transfers of money between household members (e.g. pocket money, housekeeping money etc.) are ignored since the household is treated as a single unit.

Most respondents aged 16 years and over supplied the CSO with their Personal Public Service Number (PPS No).  In these cases, the Department of Social Protection supplied the CSO with detailed information regarding state transfer payments received by the respondent in the interview week and in the 12-month period prior to the interview date.  Revenue supplied the CSO with detailed information regarding income received by the respondent in the 12-month period prior to the interview date.

Calculations for farming income was based on UAA (Utilised Agriculture Area) = The number of hectares of land owned + number of hectares rented in – the number of hectares let out – number of hectares in bog land – number of hectares in woodland – number of hectares in other areas e.g. lakes.  The Farm Accountancy Data Network (FADN code) for the farm was derived from the detailed questions asked regarding the hectares of farmland under different crop types and activity (i.e. stock on farm).

The Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority Teagasc provided the CSO with Standard Outputs (SOs) for each hectare of crop and for each type of animal.  Farms were then classified into groups, according to the proportion of total SO which came from each enterprise.  Farm income was then estimated by applying the relevant income co-efficient (supplied by Teagasc).  Coefficients were supplied for different farm classifications of different ‘Utilised Agriculture Area’ size.

Publicly Traded Shares

Publicly traded shares are shares that are listed on a stock exchange or other form of secondary market, i.e. they can be bought and sold there.


This includes items such as jewellery, works of art, antiques etc.

Self-employed Business

These are businesses in which somebody in the household is either self-employed in or has an active part in running the business.  Examples would include a self-employed plumber, partner in an accounting firm or the director and part-owner of a haulage company.


This includes items such as all types of deposit and savings accounts as well as positive balance on current accounts

Mutual Funds

Money market funds (MMF) are defined as those collective investment undertakings the shares/units of which are, in terms of liquidity, close substitutes for deposits.  They are funds primarily invested in money market instruments, MMF shares/units and in other transferable debt instruments with a residual maturity of up to and including one year.


These are bearer instruments, are usually negotiable but do not grant the holder any ownership rights to the institutional unit issuing them.  They provide the holder with the unconditional right to a fixed or contractually determined variable money income in the form of coupon payments (interest) and/or a stated fixed sum on a specified date or dates or starting from a date fixed at the time of issue.  The issuer owes the holders a debt and is obliged to repay the principal and interest (the coupon) at a later date, termed maturity.  A bond is generally transferrable from one person to another. For the purposes of HFCS, Post Office savings bonds and prize bonds are classified as ‘Bonds’.

Voluntary Pensions and Life Assurance

These are personal (voluntary) plans, access to which is not linked to an employment relationship.  Individuals independently purchase and select material aspects of the arrangements without intervention of their employers. Some personal plans may have restricted membership (e.g. to the self-employed, to members of a particular craft or trade association, to individuals who do not already belong to an occupational plan, etc).

Holders of life insurance policies, both with profit and without profit, make regular payments to an insurer (there may be just a single payment), in return for which the insurer guarantees to pay the policy holder an agreed minimum sum or an annuity, at a given date or at the death of the policy holder, if this occurs earlier.  Term life insurance, where benefits are provided in the case of death but in no other circumstances, is excluded here

Gross Wealth

This is defined as the sum of real and financial assets.

Only certain assets and liabilities are included. In particular, the present value of all future, expected defined benefit pensions is excluded, which can be a sizable portion of the wealth of many households. The present value of future, voluntary, expected defined contribution pensions is included. 

Net Wealth

This is defined as gross wealth less total debt.

Debt-asset Ratio

This is the ratio between total liabilities and total gross assets for indebted households.  It is expressed as the (weighted) median. Households with zero debt are excluded from the calculation.

Debt-income Ratio

This is the ratio between total liabilities and total gross income for indebted households.  It is expressed as the (weighted) median. Households with zero debt are excluded from the calculation.

Debt Service-income Ratio

This is the ratio between total monthly debt payments and household gross monthly income for indebted households.  Households with zero debt are excluded from the calculation.

Mortgage Debt Service-income Ratio

This is the ratio between the mortgage debt service repayments of a household to the income of that household, for households with mortgage debt.  Households with zero income are excluded from the calculation.

Loan-Value Ratio of HMR

This is the ratio between the remaining debt on the household main residence to the value of that main residence, for households with mortgage debt.

Net Liquid Assets to Income

Net liquid assets are calculated as the sum of value of deposits, mutual funds, bonds, non-self-employment business wealth, (publicly traded) shares and managed accounts net of overdraft debt, credit card debt and other non-mortgage debt. This is calculated for all households excluding those with zero income.