European Central Bank - eurosystem
Search Options
Home Media Explainers Research & Publications Statistics Monetary Policy The €uro Payments & Markets Careers
Sort by

Household Finance and Consumption Survey (HFCS)

About the survey

The HFCS collects household-level data on households’ finances and consumption. The fieldwork took place for most countries in 2010 and 2011 for the first (2010) wave, between 2013 and the first half of 2015 for the second (2014) wave and in 2017 for the third (2017) wave. Anonymised microdata from the first, second and third waves were made available to researchers in April 2013, December 2016 and March 2020 respectively.

Household Finance and Consumption Network

Results and FAQ

HFCS dashboard (Oesterreichische Nationalbank)

The HFCS datasets are available to researchers for research purposes.

Please add the following information to your access request:

  • completed access request form
  • a copy of your government-issued photo identification document (saved as: ID_surname.pdf)
  • a Resume or Curriculum Vitae in English (in PDF or simple text formats saved as: CV_surname.pdf)


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. 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.

National central banks and national statistical institutes participating in the HFCS

Purpose of the data

Overall aim of the data

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

The following questions in the field of household finance may be of particular interest to researchers and policymakers.

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
Background documents
Other international initiatives

Feedback on the HFCS

Users of the HFCS data are invited to provide feedback about the survey and the survey data to 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

Find out more about related content





All pages in this section