ELSA PDF Print E-mail

The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, known as ELSA, is a large, nationally representative dataset.  By staistically analysing this dataset, we will be able to tell many things about the financial situation of older couples in England.  To prepare this dataset, 8,000 households with someone over 50 in them were visited, and interviews often lasting several hours, undertaken.  The dataset is run and managed by University College London, the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the National Centre for Social Research, and it has a number of different funders.  As academic users, we have been able to access the dataset for research purposes through the Data Archive

After they have been interviewed once, the same people are then interviewed again about two years later and, if they agree, periodically for the rest of their lives.  Every two years, new households with someone aged 50 in them are also added to the study, and then followed for the rest of their lives.  It is therefore a long term study of signficant scientific importance which will give us insights and understanding of the ageing process for many years to come.  ELSA is a very complex dataset to work with, becasuse it contains a very large amount of very detailed data.

Our analysis has shown that the financial contributions of men and women within older couples are very unequal, especially state pensions, private pensions, and earnings from paid work.  Older couples are poorer, but at all ages median income of women in couples is about 38% of men’s.  However, within couples the differentials are higher, with women in couples contributing about 30% of joint income at all ages, with a quarter of women contributing between 0% and 20%.  Social class, education and marital status all play a small part in explaining income inequality, but age, health and income quintiles have little impact.  There is no evidence to suggest that these differentials are changing for younger cohorts of older people; gender inequality within the household would appear to be a lifelong condition which couples must accommodate if they remain together.

These tables show some of our basic results from studying the ELSA survey, and are representative of all couples where one of the couple is over 50, living in England.   

Living arrangments of couples over 50, England
 Marital Status of Couples over 50, England
 Table showing the marital status of couple where one person is over 50 in England and Wales
Who has the final say in big financial decisions?  Couples over 50, England.
 table showing who has the final say in financial decisions
 table showing all sources of income, for men and women


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You can use the tabs in red above the title on this page to go to the different sections that relate to our research findings, or you can click on each of these highlighted words: Research FindingsSummary, Timetable, ELSA, Discussion Groups, Interviews, Policy and Presentations.