Household Finance and Consumption Network (HFCN)

About the network

The Household Finance and Consumption Network (HFCN), which was established in December 2006, consists of survey specialists, statisticians and economists from the ECB, the national central banks of the Eurosystem and a number of national statistical institutes. The HFCN conducts the Eurosystem's Household Finance and Consumption Survey (HFCS), which collects household-level data on households' finances and consumption. The dataset for the first wave of the survey was released in April 2013.

Mandate

The HFCN has been tasked by the Governing Council of the ECB with:

  • implementing the HFCS;
  • acting as a forum for research that uses survey data;
  • further developing the HFCS.

Chair/secretariat

The HFCN is chaired by Carlos Sánchez Muñoz and Oreste Tristani (both ECB). Its secretaries are Sébastien Pérez-Duarte and Jiri Slacalek (both ECB).

Contact

You can get in touch with us by writing to hfcs@ecb.europa.eu. We also maintain a mailing list and discussion group on HFCS matters, where users and producers of the HFCS can interact.

Access to the Data

The first wave of the HFCS dataset was released to researchers for research purposes in April 2013. You can apply for access to these data by filling in the form and sending it to: hfcs@ecb.europa.eu.

Feedback on the HFCS

Users of the HFCS data are invited to provide feedback about the survey and the survey data to hfcs@ecb.europa.eu. This feedback may include, for example:

  • Views on the usefulness of the contents and the user-friendliness of the structure of the micro data
  • Comments and suggestions on the documentation of the HFCS
  • Suggestions on how to improve the contents of the survey
  • Specific questions on the data, such as clarification needs for individual observations or variables
  • Information about possible inconsistencies or pitfalls detected in the micro data

About the survey

The HFCS collects household-level data on households' finances and consumption. The fieldwork for the first survey took place in late 2010/early 2011 in most countries. Anonymised microdata from the first wave were made available to the researchers in April 2013.

Implementation

The HFCS is conducted at the national level. In view of the considerable cultural and institutional differences between euro area countries, there needs to be some flexibility in the formulation of the questions for the individual countries in order to obtain comparable data. The participating institutions produce harmonised output (i.e. survey data) for their respective country, but do not necessarily use identical questionnaires. However, a common template questionnaire serves as a benchmark for the country questionnaires, as well as for establishing the output desired.

Common set of output variables

The participating institutions report a set of commonly agreed output variables for their respective country. "Core" output variables are to be delivered for all participating countries. A set of non-core variables has also been defined, with the participating institutions being free to decide which of these non-core variables they collect and report for their respective country. The collection of standardised variables will ensure cross-country comparability.

Contents of the survey

The HFCS questionnaire consists of two main parts:

  1. questions relating to the household as a whole, including questions on real assets and their financing, other liabilities/credit constraints, private businesses, financial assets, intergenerational transfers and gifts, and consumption and saving;
  2. questions relating to individual household members, covering demographics (for all household members), employment, future pension entitlements and income (for household members aged 16 and over).

In addition, there are standardised questions to determine the respondent who should answer the questions on the household as a whole (the "financially knowledgeable person"), as well as questions to be answered by the interviewer relating to the appearance and location of the house/flat and the interviewees' behaviour during the interview. These provided "paradata", which were particularly useful when editing and imputing data after the fieldwork was completed.

FAQ on the survey

Results from the first wave

Stylised facts about household assets, liabilities, wealth, income and indicators of consumption are available in the HFCS Report on the Results from the First Wave . The HFCS Methodological Report of the First Wave provides complementary information about the main methodological features of the survey. A set of statistical tables with key indicators is also available online.

Purpose of the data

Overall aim of the data

The main aim of the HFCS is to gather micro-level structural information on euro area households' assets and liabilities. The survey also collects other information in order to analyse the economic decisions taken by households.

Survey data are key to:

  • understanding both individual behaviour and developments in aggregate variables;
  • evaluating the impact of shocks, policies and institutional changes, both for households and for different institutional structures;
  • better understanding the implications of shocks for macroeconomic variables;
  • building and calibrating realistic economic models incorporating heterogeneous agents;
  • gaining important insights into issues such as monetary policy transmission and financial stability.

Importance of household sub-populations

Gathering information on the behaviour of sub-populations of households is essential. For instance, the financial crisis has demonstrated that a relatively small percentage of households – those who are highly indebted – can have a major impact on market outcomes. Another example of an influential sub-group is the top wealthiest households. Though small in number, these have a highly disproportionate effect on aggregate statistics.

Areas of research

More specifically, the following questions in the field of household finance may be of particular interest to researchers and policy-makers.

Debt and financial pressures

  • What is the cross-sectional distribution of debt (e.g. for different levels of income and net worth), and how does this change over time?
  • Are there mismatches between the assets and liabilities of individual households in terms of their size, volatility, interest-rate sensitivity or liquidity?
  • Which types of debt are taken on by households (home equity withdrawal, credit card debt, interest rate modalities, etc.), and what, for instance, is the relationship between debt and collateral?
  • What drives households' indebtedness?
  • How do macroeconomic and financial shocks affect indebtedness at the household level?
  • How do highly indebted households cope with risk and mitigate shocks? Is their consumption more volatile? How does their labour supply respond?
  • Counterfactual simulations of the effects that adverse shocks have on individual households

Portfolio choice and demand for assets

  • How unevenly is wealth distributed?
  • Measuring portfolio diversification and home bias
  • What determines demand for assets (e.g. stock market participation)?
  • What determines the share of riskier assets?
  • What drives entrepreneurship?
  • What determines home ownership/demand for housing? To what extent are houses/flats purchased for investment purposes (e.g. second homes)?
  • Do households that are subject to larger economic risks accumulate more assets?
  • What effect did the economic and financial crisis have on households' balance sheets?

Saving, liquidity constraints and the smoothing of consumption

  • What is the extent (and cross-sectional distribution) of liquidity constraints?
  • What is the extent of precautionary saving? What determines the extent of saving for retirement?
  • Do households have enough savings to maintain their consumption after retirement?
  • How well do different households mitigate adverse income and wealth shocks?

Computational finance

  • How well do standard models of consumption choices and labour supply in the presence of uncertainty match wealth distribution/inequality, the structure of balance sheets, home ownership, etc.?
  • Using structural models to estimate relevant "deep" parameters
  • Using structural models to carry out counterfactual simulations of policy-relevant experiments

Documents and links

Access to the HFCS data

Implementation documents

Other implementation documents

Background documents

  • "Survey data on household finance and consumption – research summary and policy use" (ECB Occasional Paper No 100), Download
  • "The Euro-area Household Finance and Consumption Survey – survey mode, oversampling wealthy households and other methods to reduce non-response bias" (UNECE Conference of European Statisticians, 2011), Download
  • "Re-weighting to reduce unit non-response bias in household wealth surveys: a cross-country comparative perspective illustrated by a case study" (European Conference on Quality in Official Statistics, 2010), Download
  • "Integrating Micro and Macro Accounts – The Linkages between Euro Area Household Wealth Survey and Aggregate Balance Sheets for Households" (General Conference of the International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, 2010), Download
  • "Micro and Macro Analysis on Household Income, Wealth and Saving in the Euro Area" (General Conference of the International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, 2012), Download
  • "Decentralised multi-country imputation: the case of the euro area Household Finance and Consumption Survey (HFCS)" (Supporting Paper 25, UNECE Conference of European Statisticians, 2009), Download
  • "Challenges of international surveys: plans for a Eurosystem survey on household finance and consumption" (IFC Bulletin No 30, 2009), Download
  • "Developing the questionnaire for the Eurosystem Survey on Household Finance and Consumption" (European Conference on Quality in Official Statistics, 2008), Download

National central banks and national statistical institutes participating in the HFCS: useful links to national surveys and other related initiatives

Austria:
Oesterreichische Nationalbank; Household Finance and Consumption Survey
Belgium:
Nationale Bank van België/Banque Nationale de Belgique ; NBB Economic Review HFCS article
Cyprus:
Central Bank of Cyprus
Estonia:
Eesti Pank
Finland:
Suomen Pankki - Finlands Bank/ Statistics Finland; Household Finance and Consumption Survey
France:
Banque de France/INSEE; Enquête Patrimoine
Germany:
Deutsche Bundesbank; Panel on Household Finances
Greece:
Bank of Greece
Ireland:
Central Bank of Ireland , Central Statistics Office; Household Finance Consumption Survey
Italy:
Banca d'Italia;Survey on Household Income and Wealth (SHIW)
Latvia:
Latvijas Banka
Luxembourg:
Banque centrale du Luxembourg
Malta:
Central Bank of Malta; Household Finance and Consumption Survey
Netherlands:
De Nederlandsche Bank/CentERdata; DNB Household Survey
Portugal:
Banco de Portugal ; Instituto Nacional de Estatística (Inquérito à Situação Financeira das Famílias) (in Portuguese)
Slovakia:
Národná banka Slovenska ; HFCS (in Slovak)
Slovenia:
Banka Slovenije
Spain:
Banco de España; Encuesta Financiera de las Familias (EFF)

Other international initiatives

HFCS conferences

Publications

Publications and results

Household Finance and Consumption Network publications

No. 1817
25 Jun 2015
Wealth effects on consumption across the wealth distribution: empirical evidence
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No. 1790
19 May 2015
Household saving behaviour and credit constraints in the euro area
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No. 1762
10 Mar 2015
Wealth shocks, unemployment shocks and consumption in the wake of the Great Recession Published in: Journal of Monetary Economics
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No. 1737
22 Oct 2014
Financial fragility of euro area households
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No. 1722
20 Aug 2014
How do households allocate their assets? Stylised facts from the Eurosystem household finance and consumption survey
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No. 1718
18 Aug 2014
The impact of housing non-cash income on the unconditional distribution of household income in Austria
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No. 1709
06 Aug 2014
Wealth and income in the euro area: Heterogeneity in households' behaviours?
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No. 1705
04 Aug 2014
Household heterogeneity in the euro area since the onset of the great recession
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No. 1692
14 Jul 2014
How fat is the top tail of the wealth distribution?
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No. 1690
11 Jul 2014
Household wealth in the euro area: the importance of intergenerational transfers, homeownership and house price dynamics
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No. 1673
13 May 2014
Micro and macro data: a comparison of the Household Finance and Consumption Survey with financial accounts in Austria
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No. 1672
07 May 2014
Wealth differences across borders and the effect of real estate price dynamics: evidence from two household surveys
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No. 1664
02 Apr 2014
Tax deferral and mutual fund inflows - evidence from a quasi-natural experiment
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No. 1663
01 Apr 2014
Net wealth across the euro area - why household structure matters and how to control for it
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No. 1662
01 Apr 2014
Wealth shocks, credit-supply shocks, and asset allocation: evidence from household and firm portfolios
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No. 1661
31 Mar 2014
Cross-border commuting and consuming: an empirical investigation
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No. 1660
27 Mar 2014
U.S. consumer demand for cash in the era of low interest rates and electronic payments
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No. 1657
17 Mar 2014
The costs and beliefs impliedby direct stock ownership
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No. 1656
14 Mar 2014
Consumption inequality and family labor supply
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No. 1655
14 Mar 2014
The distribution of wealth and the marginal propensity to consume
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No. 1652
12 Mar 2014
Macroeconomic experiences and risk taking of euro area households
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No. 1648
10 Mar 2014
The Distribution of wealth and the MPC: implications of new European data
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No. 1639
20 Feb 2014
The distribution of debt across euro area countries: the role of individual characteristics, institutions and credit conditions
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No. 1631
29 Jan 2014
Household risk management and actual mortgage choice in the euro area
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No. 1619
27 Nov 2013
Micro and macro analysis on household income, wealth and saving in the euro area Published in: Journal of Economic and Social Policy, Vol 15, 2013, Iss. 2, Article 3,
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