Portuguese Household Finance and Consumption Survey
Banco de Portugal and Statistics Portugal conduct the Portuguese Household Finance and Consumption Survey (ISFF, the Portuguese acronym for Inquérito à Situação Financeira das Famílias), the only source of information in Portugal that makes it possible to detail the distribution of wealth and liabilities of resident households.
Some questions that ISFF allows to answer
The Portuguese Household Finance and Consumption Survey (ISFF) collects detailed information on the wealth, debt and income of households living in Portugal, on the basis of a representative sample. This survey also collects information on demographic and social aspects, consumption and saving as well as households’ behaviour, most notably their attitudes and expectations.
The ISFF is conducted by Banco de Portugal and Statistics Portugal. The first wave of the survey took place in 2010, the second in 2013 and the third in 2017. The fourth wave will be conducted in 2020.
The ISFF is part of the European project Household Finance and Consumption Survey (HFCS) which produces comparable information across euro area countries. The HFCS is developed by the Household Finance and Consumption Network (HFCN), which is coordinated by the European Central Bank.
The HFCS arose from the Eurosystem central banks’ need to obtain economic microdata on households, with the purpose of conducting relevant studies for the conduct of monetary policy and the maintenance of financial stability in the euro area. Although a number of countries, including Portugal, already collected this type of data, differences in content, methodology and frequency of country-based surveys rendered comparisons very difficult and made it nearly impossible to obtain aggregate variables for the euro area.
The ISFF is the only source of information in Portugal that makes it possible to detail the distribution of real assets, financial assets and liabilities of households, broken down by characteristics such as age, education, labour status and income. These data are useful to assess the impact of changes in the determinants of consumption, savings, investment and indebtedness. In particular, the analysis of the behaviour of different population subgroups is key to better understanding these phenomena.
The ISFF’s results are co-released, first hand, by Banco de Portugal and Statistics Portugal. Each wave is released along with a press release and an Excel file featuring its main results, on the distribution of wealth and liabilities of resident households.
The main results of the ISFF are analysed in greater detail in the following papers:
- Costa, S. , Farinha L., Martins, L. and Mesquita, R. (2020). "Portuguese Household Finance and Consumption Survey: results for 2017 and comparison with the previous waves", Banco de Portugal, Economic Studies, Vol. VI, No 1.
- Costa, S. (2016). “Financial situation of the households in Portugal: an analysis based on the HFCS 2013”, Banco de Portugal, Economic Studies, Vol. II, No 4.
- Costa, S. and Farinha, L. (2012). “Inquérito à Situação Financeira das Famílias: Metodologia e Principais Resultados”. Banco de Portugal, Occasional Papers, 1 (only in Portuguese).
The results for the countries that are part of the Household Finance and Consumption Survey (HFCS) are released on the Household Finance and Consumption SurveyECB's website. With each wave, a report with the analysis of the results for the euro area is published, along with a methodological report and a set of tables with the main results for all countries.
Banco de Portugal publishes other studies and others analyses of diverse nature based on the ISFF. In particular, ISFF data have been used in analysis that help to better understand individual economic behaviour and developments in aggregate variables, most notably in terms of consumption, savings, investment and financing. These data are key to assessing the impact of shocks, policies and institutional changes on these variables. Information on the behaviour of population subgroups is crucial to improve this assessment.
- Martins, L. (2020). "Imputation of the Portuguese Household Finance and Consumption Survey", Banco de Portugal, Occasional Papers, 2.
- Banco de Portugal (2018)."Distribution of Portuguese households’ debt and income", Box 4 in the May issue of the Economic Bulletin.
- Banco de Portugal (2017). "The financial vulnerability of Portuguese households", Box 4 in the December issue of the Financial Stability Report.
- Banco de Portugal (2017). "Effect of an interest rate rise on household income: heterogeneity by age class and income quartiles", Box 3 in the December issue of the Economic Bulletin.
- Banco de Portugal (2017). "Distribution mechanisms of monetary policy in the Portuguese economy", Special issue in the May issue of the Economic Bulletin.
- Banco de Portugal (2016). “An interpretation of household saving rate developments in Portugal”, Special issue in the May issue of the Economic Bulletin.
- Costa, S. (2012). “Households’ default probability: an analysis based on the results of the HFCS”, Banco de Portugal, Financial Stability Report, November.
- Costa, S. and Farinha, L. (2012). “Households’ indebtedness: a microeconomic analysis based on the results of the Households’ Financial and Consumption Survey”, Banco de Portugal, Financial Stability Report, May.
The research published by the European Central Bank is available on the HFCN website, under the item publications.
A list of other research using the HFCS survey data from the various countries is available here.
The ISFF questionnaire is based on a model agreed by the Household Finance and Consumption Network (HFCN).
In line with the harmonised model, the ISFF questionnaire includes a main interview on the household’s financial situation and three additional sets of questions. Before the main interview, a set of questions is asked with the main purpose of checking whether the selected dwelling is the household main residence, establishing who the household members are and selecting the main respondent, i.e. the most financially knowledgeable person. After the interview, the questionnaire includes a number of questions aimed at assessing the respondent’s perception of the survey, as well as a set of questions aimed at collecting feedback from the interviewer on the respondent’s attitude and the general characteristics of the dwelling.
The ISFF’s main reference unit is the household. Therefore, most questions asked during the main interview refer to the household as a whole and must be answered by the most financially knowledgeable person. Other questions specifically refer to individual members within the household which should preferably be answered by them if they are aged 16 and over.
The reference period for questions on assets and liabilities is the time of the interview; in the case of income, the calendar year preceding the interview; and in the case of consumption, a typical month in the 12 months before the interview.
The following diagram outlines the sequence of the main interview and the content of the various thematic sections:
Other methodological aspects
The survey conducted across the various countries follows a set of methodological principles, which are based on international best practices and agreed on by the HFCN. The purpose is to obtain high quality, harmonised across countries data. The methodological principles followed in the ISFF cover several aspects of the survey’s implementation, more specifically the sample selection, the filed work and the treatment of the data ex post.
When selecting the sample, oversampling wealthy households is one of the objectives. Given the very unequal distribution of household wealth, which means that the largest share of wealth is held by a very small percentage of the population, the correct characterisation of household wealth cannot be based on a sample built solely on geographical criteria, as is the case of other household surveys.
In the ISFF, the selected sample comprises 8,000 dwellings. Final data on achieved interviews covered 4,404 households (11,126 persons), 6,207 households (16,513 persons) and 5,924 households (15,079 persons) in the first, second and third waves respectively.
The complexity of the questionnaire requires face-to-face interviews administered by qualified interviewers. Most interviewers work on a regular basis with Statistics Portugal in other household surveys and attend training sessions on the ISFF. The interview is computer-assisted, using software specifically designed for the ISFF. The software includes coherence and plausibility checks to prevent errors in the course of the interview.
After the fieldwork is concluded, data are treated ex post. At a first stage, editing, information is checked for coherence and plausibility. Then, missing answers (mostly due to the respondents replying “Don’t know” or “No answer”) are imputed. At this imputation stage, the missing answers to most ISFF variables are filled out with estimated values based on collected information, using a stochastic multiple imputation method. The imputation procedure applied in the ISFF is detailed in Martins (2020).
Finally, the ISFF data are anonymised to guarantee that no household or individual can be identified from their answers. In this process, variables which may present extreme values less frequent, such as age, are top- or bottom-coded (. Another example is the random rounding of continuous monetary variables. As regards categorical variables, some less frequent categories are aggregated.
More details on the different methodological aspects of the ISFF are available here.
The anonymised databases of the ISFF for Portugal and of the Household Finance and Consumption Survey (HFCS) for all participating countries, including Portugal, can be made available to researchers attached to a university or a research centre. In any case, data are made available free of charge, provided that certain conditions are met, chiefly aimed at guaranteeing that data are exclusively used for scientific purposes in such a way that confidentiality is maintained.
All researchers interested in data on Portugal:
- Should contact Statistics Portugal and initiate the process by presenting a request for researcher accreditation to access statistical data for scientific research purposes addressed to Direção-Geral de Estatísticas da Educação e Ciência. The process is detailed on the Statistics Portugal’s website.
All researchers interested in data on all participating countries, including Portugal:
- Should contact the European Central Bank and initiate the process by sending by en email with a filled-out form together with their CV. The form and the detailed process are available on the European Central Bank’s website.
Features of the database
The ISFF database is composed of the following types of variables: survey variables, shadow variables (so-called flag variables), final sample weight and replicate weights.
Survey variables include variables which refer to the household as a whole and variables which refer to its individual members. These variables may be broken down into three types: core variables, non-core variables and national variables. Core variables are harmonised with the HFCS variables and also exist for other countries that are part of the project. Non-core variables are also harmonised with the HFCS variables, but are optional, and therefore existing only for countries that have opted for their inclusion. National variables are defined at national level. Core and non-core ISFF variables are available in the database provided by Statistics Portugal and the database provided by the European Central Bank. The national ISFF variables are available only in the database provided by Statistics Portugal. Most variables in the ISFF database, most notably those that comprise household balance sheet (assets and liabilities) and the flow of funds (income and consumption), are core variables. The list of variables of the various ISFF waves is available here: 2010, 2013 and 2017.
In the ISFF database, there are no missing values for most survey variables, particularly those used to calculate wealth, income or consumption. In the case of non-response, these variables are imputed using a method that provides five implicates for each missing value, which must be combined to account for the level of uncertainty underlying the imputation procedure.
Survey variables are associated with shadow variables (so-called flag variables), which indicate the origin of the information (for instance, whether it is recorded as collected, imputed, or not answered for being inapplicable). The codes for the flag variables are available here: 2010, 2013 and 2017.
The final sample weight gives for each household included in the database, the corresponding number of households residing in Portugal with similar characteristics. This variable reflects the different probabilities of households being included in the database and must be used to calculate statistics for all households residing in Portugal (e.g. totals, averages, proportions).
Replicate weights correspond to 1,000 sets of alternative final sample weights which make it possible to account for the uncertainty underlying sample selection, when estimating total variance of a given statistic.
More details on the organisation of the ISFF database and how data are used are available here.
The Portuguese Household Finance and Consumption Survey (ISFF, the Portuguese acronym for Inquérito à Situação Financeira das Famílias) is the Portuguese version of a survey carried out simultaneously across all euro area countries. This survey has already had three editions, carried out in 2010, 2013 and 2017. In the second edition, the last available for all countries, about 75,000 households resident in 18 euro area countries (all except Lithuania) responded to the survey, of which about 6,200 were households resident in Portugal.
In Portugal, participating households are randomly selected on the basis of census data, using a strict scientific procedure. Each household in the sample represents a set of households with similar characteristics in the population. As such, the participation of each selected household and the accuracy of their answers are crucial to piecing together an authentic portrait of the financial situation of all types of household in Portugal.
Data are collected using a computer during face-to-face interviews by interviewers working with Statistics Portugal.
Before the interview, the households that have been selected to participate in the ISFF receive by post a letter and an information leaflet on the survey. The information leaflet on the ISFF for 2017 is available here (in Portuguese only).
The data collected are anonymised to prevent households and their individual members from being directly or indirectly identified based on the answers given. These data are exclusively used to calculate aggregate statistical indicators and to produce economic research to better understand the various factors that influence the everyday life of households, most notably their decisions and responses to shocks impacting on their financial situation. These data are also used to draw comparisons between euro area countries.
At this time, there are no ongoing ISFF interviews.