Pensioner income

Published

1. Main facts and figures

  • in the period from 2015/16 to 2017/18, pensioner families received an average of £533 a week in total income before deductions – in this data, a ‘pensioner family’ is a single pensioner or a married or cohabiting pensioner couple
  • pensioner families from the Other ethnic group had the highest average income, followed by White British pensioner families
  • Black pensioner families had the lowest average income
  • White British pensioner families were the most likely out of all ethnic groups to receive income from investments, occupational pensions and personal pensions, and the least likely to receive income from income-related benefits
  • Black pensioner families received the lowest income from occupational pensions in the period studied
Things you need to know

Because the data varies from year to year, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) takes 3 years’ worth of data and works out the average for that period. For example, the published data for the period from 2015/16 to 2017/18 is an average of the data for the three years 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18. DWP works out a new 3-year average every year.

While this increases the reliability of the data, it means that some statistical tests have not been carried out. The commentary on this page is for differences between ethnic groups that are reasonably reliable.

These statistics are estimates based on a sample of around 7,000 pensioner families per year. They may not reflect the whole population and you should use caution when interpreting them.

The data does not take into account any differences in household size and composition. For this reason, you should not compare it with data that does take these factors into account.

The Family Resources Survey under-reports the number of benefit recipients, compared with DWP administrative data. For this reason, the percentages given here may be lower than the actual percentage of claimants in the population.

Some pensioner families contain people from different ethnic backgrounds. The ethnicity assigned to the pensioner family is that of the head of the pensioner family (usually the person with the highest income).

Percentages are given to the nearest whole percentage point, and income is rounded to the nearest pound. Due to this rounding, some figures may not add up.

What the data measures

The data measures the sources and amounts of gross income for pensioner families in the UK. Gross income is the amount of income from all sources before taxes and other deductions. All income estimates are adjusted for inflation and are in 2017/18 prices.

A pensioner family can be either:

  • a single person over State Pension age living alone
  • a couple (married or living together) where at least one person is over State Pension age

The data does not include income from others in a household. For example, if a pensioner lives with their adult non-dependent children, or any non-related adults or children, the others’ income is not included.

Income-related benefits are means-tested and dependent on level of income and savings. They include Housing Benefit, Pension Credit, Universal Credit and Council Tax Reduction. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) administers most benefits. Local authorities administer Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction.

The ethnic categories used in this data

For this data, the number of people surveyed was too small to make reliable generalisations about specific ethnic groups.

Therefore, the data is broken down into the following 6 broad categories:

  • Asian
  • Black
  • Mixed
  • White British
  • White Other (White ethnic minorities)
  • Other ethnic groups

2. Pensioners' income sources by ethnicity

Percentage of pensioner households receiving different income sources by ethnicity
Measure_type All White British White Other Black Asian Mixed Other
% % % % % % %
Receiving income from State Pension 97 98 87 94 85 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Receiving income from benefits (including State Pension) 100 100 99 99 99 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Receiving income from disability benefits 20 20 19 21 19 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Receiving income from earnings 17 16 22 21 15 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Receiving income from income-related benefits 24 24 31 40 36 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Receiving investment income 62 63 53 28 32 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Receiving occupational pension income 61 62 42 42 31 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Receiving other income 47 47 42 48 41 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Receiving personal pension income 18 18 13 8 9 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable

Download table data for ‘Pensioners' income sources by ethnicity’ (CSV) Source data for ‘Pensioners' income sources by ethnicity’ (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • 97% of pensioner families received income from the State Pension, making it the most common income source
  • other common sources were investments (received by 62% of pensioner families) and occupational pensions (61%)
  • the least common income sources were earnings (received by 17% of pensioner families), personal pensions (18%) and disability benefits (20%)
  • Black pensioner families were the most likely out of all ethnic groups to get income-related benefits (with 40% doing so)
  • White British pensioner families were the least likely to get income-related benefits (with 24% doing so)
  • White British pensioner families were the most likely out of all ethnic groups to receive income from investments, occupational pensions and personal pensions (with 63%, 62% and 18% doing so respectively)
  • Asian pensioner families were the least likely out of all ethnic groups to get income from an occupational pension (with 31% doing so)
  • Black pensioner families were least likely to get income from a personal pension (with 8% doing so) and investments (28%)

3. Total income by ethnicity and source of income

Pensioner families' gross weekly income by ethnicity and source of income
Measure Type All Asian Black Mixed White British White other Other
£ £ £ £ £ £ £
Gross income 533 387 371 485 541 478 578
Benefit income 228 198 208 214 230 205 211
Benefit Income of which State Pension 182 131 136 156 185 145 140
Benefit Income of which Income-related benefits 22 39 50 38 20 36 45
Benefit Income of which Disability benefits 17 17 15 16 17 15 17
Occupational pension income 154 69 62 81 160 97 131
Personal pension income 20 9 5 13 21 16 6
Investment income 40 25 3 15 41 32 70
Earnings income 86 80 88 158 85 123 158
Other income 4 6 4 3 4 5 3

Download table data for ‘Total income by ethnicity and source of income’ (CSV) Source data for ‘Total income by ethnicity and source of income’ (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • pensioner families received an average of £533 a week in total income before deductions
  • pensioner families from the Other ethnic group had the highest total weekly average income (£578), followed by White British pensioner families (£541)
  • Black pensioner families had the lowest weekly average income (£371)
  • weekly average income from the State Pension was highest for White British pensioner families (£185) and lowest for Asian pensioner families (£131)
  • out of all ethnic groups, White British pensioner families had the highest weekly average income from occupational pensions (£160) and personal pensions (£21)
  • pensioner families in the White British, Asian, and Other ethnic groups received the highest weekly average income from disability benefits (£17 in each group)
  • pensioner families from the Other ethnic group had the highest weekly average income from investments (£70)
  • Black pensioner families received the highest weekly average income from income-related benefits (£50)

4. Total income by ethnicity over time

Pensioner families' total gross weekly income, by ethnicity over time
Ethnicity 2008/09 to 2010/11 2009/10 to 2011/12 2010/11 to 2012/13 2011/12 to 2013/14 2012/13 to 2014/15 2013/14 to 2015/16 2014/15 to 2016/17 2015/16 to 2017/18
£ £ £ £ £ £ £ £
All 510 516 511 509 519 525 534 533
Asian 429 445 447 465 435 410 408 387
Black 403 403 377 369 382 384 387 371
Mixed 448 517 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 455 493 509 485
White British 513 519 515 513 523 532 540 541
White other 502 507 488 479 474 477 486 478
Other 491 496 547 554 628 591 628 578

Download table data for ‘Total income by ethnicity over time’ (CSV) Source data for ‘Total income by ethnicity over time’ (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • the average total weekly income for all pensioner families increased from £510 to £533 over the period studied
  • however, the average total weekly income decreased in the same period for Black pensioner families (from £403 to £371), Other White pensioner families (from £502 to £478), and Asian pensioner families (from £429 to £387)
  • there were increases in average total weekly income for White British pensioner families (from £513 to £541), Mixed pensioner families (from £448 to £485), and pensioner families in the Other ethnic group (from £491 to £578)

5. State Pension income by ethnicity over time

Pensioner families’ gross weekly income from the State Pension, by ethnicity over time
Ethnicity 2008/09 to 2010/11 2009/10 to 2011/12 2010/11 to 2012/13 2011/12 to 2013/14 2012/13 to 2014/15 2013/14 to 2015/16 2014/15 to 2016/17 2015/16 to 2017/18
£ £ £ £ £ £ £ £
All 162 166 168 170 173 176 180 182
Asian 135 132 124 124 127 131 132 131
Black 129 137 133 132 130 135 132 136
Mixed 133 138 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 152 150 146 156
White British 164 168 170 173 176 179 183 185
White other 150 145 143 143 150 147 145 145
Other 143 146 132 130 133 148 140 140

Download table data for ‘State Pension income by ethnicity over time’ (CSV) Source data for ‘State Pension income by ethnicity over time’ (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • overall, the average weekly income from the State Pension for all pensioner families increased from £162 to £182 in the period studied
  • however, the average weekly income from the State Pension decreased in the same period for Asian pensioner families (from £135 to £131), White Other pensioner families (from £150 to £145), and pensioner families from the Other ethnic group (from £143 to £140)
  • there were increases in the average weekly income from the State Pension for White British pensioner families (from £164 to £185), Black pensioner families (from £129 to £136) and pensioner families in the Mixed ethnic group category (from £133 to £156)

6. Income from occupational pensions by ethnicity over time

Pensioner families’ gross weekly income from occupational pensions, by ethnicity over time
Ethnicity 2008/09 to 2010/11 2009/10 to 2011/12 2010/11 to 2012/13 2011/12 to 2013/14 2012/13 to 2014/15 2013/14 to 2015/16 2014/15 to 2016/17 2015/16 to 2017/18
£ £ £ £ £ £ £ £
All 127 134 136 141 145 150 155 154
Asian 76 72 78 92 89 81 73 69
Black 71 70 65 67 76 76 69 62
Mixed 113 148 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 146 116 93 81
White British 129 136 139 144 149 154 160 160
White other 116 121 110 100 103 106 104 97
Other 116 128 135 148 151 141 125 131

Download table data for ‘Income from occupational pensions by ethnicity over time’ (CSV) Source data for ‘Income from occupational pensions by ethnicity over time’ (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • overall, the average weekly income from occupational pensions for all pensioner families increased from £127 to £154 in the period studied
  • however, the average weekly income from occupational pensions decreased in the same period for Black pensioner families (from £71 to £62), Asian pensioner families (from £76 to £69), White Other pensioner families (from £116 to £97), and pensioner families in the Mixed ethnic group category (from £113 to £81)
  • there were increases in the average weekly income from occupational pensions for White British pensioner families (from £129 to £160) and pensioner families in the Other ethnic group category (from £116 to £131)

7. Methodology

The Family Resources Survey (FRS) is a continuous household survey which collects information on a representative sample of private households in the UK. Detailed information is recorded on respondents’ income from all sources:

  • housing tenure
  • caring needs and responsibilities
  • disability
  • expenditure on housing
  • education
  • pension scheme participation
  • childcare
  • family circumstances
  • child maintenance

The survey is conducted in respondents’ homes.

In the latest three-year period, 2015/16 to 2017/18, the FRS sample consisted of almost 60,000 households in the UK.

It has a financial-year survey period with surveys conducted throughout the year and is cross-sectional (a ‘snapshot’ of households over the year). Individuals are not followed up for later surveys. Since responses reflect only a sample of the total population, they are weighted on the basis of subnational population totals by age and sex to give estimates for the entire UK household population.

Estimates are subject to sampling error and non-sampling bias. The FRS only covers private households. Therefore, individuals who live in communal accommodation (for example, care homes) or have no fixed address (for example, who are homeless) are not included in these results.

The data has not been recalculated to take into account any differences in household size and composition (known as ‘equivalisation’). Equivalisation adjusts incomes for household size and composition, taking an adult couple with no children as the reference point. For example, the process of equivalisation would adjust the income of a single person upwards, so their income can be compared directly to the standard of living for a couple.

In the pensioners’ incomes series, income is usually shown for single pensioners and pensioner couples separately. The benefit income of dependent children is included in estimates, but this was only relevant for 1% of pensioner families.

This measure does not include any commentary on living standards or net income. You can find data on income before and after housing costs have been deducted in the data tables in the Pensioners’ income series for 2017 to 2018.

Suppression rules and disclosure control

Any percentages based on fewer than 100 responses have been suppressed. Any average income amounts based on fewer than 50 responses have been suppressed.

Rounding

Percentages are rounded to the nearest whole percentage point and value figures are rounded to the nearest £1. Due to this rounding, some figures may not add up.

Related publications

Households Below Average Income

Family Resources Survey

Quality and methodology information

8. Data sources

Source

Type of data

Survey data

Type of statistic

National Statistics

Publisher

Department for Work and Pensions

Publication frequency

Yearly

Purpose of data source

The Pensioners’ incomes series is based on data from the Family Resources Survey (FRS). The main purpose of the FRS is to give the Department for Work and Pensions data to develop, monitor and evaluate social welfare policy.

The survey is also used by other government departments, including for tax and benefit policy modelling by HM Treasury and HM Revenue and Customs. The FRS is also used extensively by academics and research institutes for social and economic research.

9. Download the data

Pensioner income - Spreadsheet (csv) 194 KB

This file contains data for the period 2008/09 to 2017/18. This is the data used in the charts, tables and commentary shown on this page. The file contains: Measure, Time, Time_type, Ethnicity, Ethnicity_type, Measure_type, Value, Value_type, Note