Pensioner income

The main facts and figures show that:

  • in the period from 2014/15 to 2016/17, the average pensioner household received £520 a week in total income before deductions
  • pensioner households from the Other ethnic group had the highest average income, and Black pensioner households had the lowest
  • White British pensioner households were the most likely out of all ethnic groups to receive income from investments, occupational pensions and personal pensions, and least likely to receive income from income-related benefits
  • Black pensioner households received the lowest income from occupational pensions throughout the period studied
Things you need to know

Because of variations in the data 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 2014/15 to 2016/17 is an average of the data for the three years 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17. A new 3-year average is worked out every year.

While this type of survey methodology increases the reliability of the data, it means that tests for significant differences between ethnic groups have not been carried out. However, commentary has been supplied for those findings where differences between ethnic groups are reasonably reliable.

These statistics are estimates based on the sample of people who took part in the survey (around 7,000 pensioner households per year) and may not reflect the whole population. You should therefore use caution when interpreting them.

The data has not been recalculated to take into account any differences in household size and composition (known as ‘equivalisation’). For this reason, the data isn’t comparable with data on income that has been equivalised.

The Family Resources Survey has been shown to under-report the number of people receiving benefits compared to administrative records held by DWP. For this reason, the percentages given here are likely to be slightly lower than the actual percentage of claimants in the population.

The ethnicity assigned to the household is that of the household reference person (usually the person with the highest income). Some households contain people from different ethnic backgrounds. In these circumstances, we have used the ethnic background of the household reference person to define the ethnic background of the household.

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 households in the UK. Gross income is the amount of income from all sources before taxes and other deductions.

A pensioner household 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. Types of income-related benefit include Housing Benefit, Pension Credit, local Council Tax support, and Social Fund payments (like Budgeting Loans). Most benefits are administered by the DWP. Housing Benefit and local Council Tax support are administered by local authorities.

The ethnic categories used in this data

For this data, the number of people surveyed (the ‘sample size’) was too small to draw any firm conclusions about detailed ethnic categories.

Therefore, the data is broken down into the following 5 broad groups:

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

Ethnic groups and how data on ethnicity is collected

Pensioners' income sources by ethnicity

Percentage of pensioner households receiving different income sources by ethnicity

Measure Type All Asian Black White British White other Other inc Mixed
% % % % % %
Receiving income from benefits (including State Pension) 100 99 100 100 99 99
Receiving income from State Pension 97 88 93 98 88 87
Receiving income from income-related benefits 25 33 46 24 31 31
Receiving income from disability benefits 20 17 19 20 19 18
Receiving occupational pension income 62 34 43 64 47 48
Receiving personal pension income 19 10 8 19 13 13
Receiving investment income 63 35 29 65 57 45
Receiving income from earnings 17 18 18 17 18 23
Receiving other income 47 38 48 47 44 36

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • overall, in the period from 2014/15 to 2016/17, 97% of pensioner households received income from the State Pension on average; other common sources of income were investments (at 63% of all households) and occupational pensions (at 62%)
  • an average of 17% of pensioner households received income from earnings, making it the least common source of income, followed by income from personal pensions (at 19%) and disability benefits (at 20%)
  • Black pensioner households were the most likely out of all ethnic groups to receive income-related benefit (at 46%), and White British pensioner households were the least likely (24%)
  • White British pensioner households were the most likely out of all ethnic groups to receive income from investments, occupational pensions and personal pensions (at 65%, 64% and 19% respectively)
  • Asian pensioner households were the least likely out of all ethnic groups to get income from an occupational pension (at 34%); Black households were least likely to get income from a personal pension (at 8%) or investments (29%)

Pensioner households' total income by ethnicity and source of income

Pensioner households' gross weekly income by ethnicity and source of income

Measure Type All Asian Black White British White other Other inc Mixed
£ £ £ £ £ £
Gross income value 520 397 377 526 473 550
Income from State Pension 175 128 129 178 142 140
Income from income-related benefits 22 40 59 20 35 46
Income from disability benefits 17 15 14 17 15 16
Income from occupational pension 151 71 67 156 102 105
Personal pension income 21 10 4 21 19 13
Investment income 40 20 3 41 43 42
Income from earnings 84 99 91 83 107 176
Income from other sources 4 6 3 4 6 6

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • in the period from 2014/15 to 2016/17, the average pensioner household received £520 a week in total income before deductions
  • pensioner households from the Other (including Mixed) ethnic group had the highest total average weekly income (at £550), and Black pensioner households had the lowest (at £377)
  • weekly income from the State Pension was highest for White British pensioner households (at £178) and lowest for Asian pensioner households (at £128)
  • out of all ethnic groups, White British pensioner households had the highest weekly average income from occupational pensions (at £156) and personal pensions (at £21)
  • White British pensioner households received the highest weekly average income from disability benefits (at £17) out of all ethnic groups; pensioner households from the Other White ethnic group had the highest income from investments (£43)
  • Black pensioner households received the highest weekly average income from income-related benefit (£59), compared with all other ethnic groups

Pensioner households' total income by ethnicity over time

Pensioner households' 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
£ £ £ £ £ £ £
All 496 502 497 496 505 511 520
Asian 417 433 436 452 424 399 397
Black 392 393 367 360 372 374 377
White
White British 500 505 501 500 510 518 526
White other 489 494 475 466 462 465 473
Other inc Mixed 465 484 515 523 567 525 550

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • overall, the average total weekly income for all pensioner households increased from £496 to £520 over the period studied
  • however, the average total weekly income decreased in the same period for Black pensioner households (from £392 to £377), Other White pensioner households (from £489 to £473), and Asian pensioner households (from £417 to £397)
  • there were increases in average total weekly income for White British pensioner households (from £500 to £526), and for pensioner households from the Other (including Mixed) ethnic group (from £465 to £550)

Pensioner households' income from the State Pension by ethnicity over time

Pensioner households' 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
£ £ £ £ £ £ £
All 158 162 163 166 169 171 175
Asian 131 128 120 120 124 127 128
Black 126 134 129 129 126 131 129
White
White British 159 164 166 168 171 174 178
White other 146 141 140 139 146 143 142
Other inc Mixed 136 139 130 132 136 145 140

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • overall, the average weekly income from the State Pension for all pensioner households increased from £158 to £175 in the period studied
  • however, the average weekly income from the State Pension decreased in the same period for Asian pensioner households (from £131 to £128) and White Other pensioner households (from £146 to £142)
  • there were increases in the average weekly income from the State Pension for White British pensioner households (from £159 to £178), Black pensioner households (from £126 to £129) and pensioner households from the Other (including Mixed) ethnic group (from £136 to £140)

Pensioner households' income from occupational pensions by ethnicity over time

Pensioner households' 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
£ £ £ £ £ £ £
All 124 130 133 137 141 146 151
Asian 74 71 76 90 87 79 71
Black 69 68 63 66 74 74 67
White
White British 126 133 136 140 145 150 156
White other 113 118 107 98 100 103 102
Other inc Mixed 113 129 134 145 141 125 105

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • overall, the average weekly income from occupational pensions for all pensioner households increased from £124 to £151 in the period studied
  • however, the average weekly income from occupational pensions decreased in the same period for Black pensioner households (from £69 to £67), Asian pensioner households (from £74 to £71), White Other pensioner households (from £113 to £102) and pensioner households from the Other (including Mixed) ethnic group (from £113 to £105)
  • the average weekly income from occupational pensions for White British pensioner households increased from £126 to £156

Methodology

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 face to face with an interviewer.

In the latest three year period, 2014/15 to 2016/17, 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 one per cent of pensioner households.

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’ incomes series.

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 also been suppressed.

Rounding

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

Related publications

Households Below Average Income

Family Resources Survey

Quality and methodology information

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 primary purpose of the Family Resources Survey (FRS) is to provide the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) with data to inform the development, monitoring and evaluation of social welfare policy.

The survey is used by many other government departments, as well as 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.

The pensioners’ incomes series contains estimates of the levels, sources and distribution of pensioners’ incomes. It also compares pensioners’ incomes with those of the population as a whole.

Download the data

Pensioner income - Spreadsheet (csv) 337 KB

This file contains data for the year 2016/17 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, Geography, Value, Value Type , Upper bound, Lower bound, Note