Definition: European Community Household Panel
The European Community Household Panel (ECHP) is a survey based on a standardised questionnaire that involves annual interviewing of a representative panel of households and individuals in each country, covering a wide range of topics: income, health, education, housing, demographicss and employment characteristic, etc. The total duration of the ECHP was 8 years, running from 1994 to 2001. In the first wave, i.e. in 1994, a sample of some 60,500 nationally represented households - i.e. approximately 130,000 adults aged 16 years and over - were interviewed in the then 12 Member States.
Three characteristics make the ECHP a unique source of information. These are (i) its multi-dimensional coverage of a range of topics simultaneously; (ii) a standardised methodology and procedures yielding comparable information across countries; and (iii) a longitudinal or panel design in which information on the same set of households and persons is gathered to study changes over time at the micro level.
A. Multi-dimensional coverage.
Two major areas covered in considerable detail in the ECHP concern the economic activity and personal income of the individuals concerned. In addition, a wide range of other topics are covered, such as the individual's social relations and responsibilities, health, pensions and insurance, degree of satisfaction with various aspects of work and life, education and training, and biographic information. Hence compared to other social surveys in the EU, the ECHP has a much broader and integrative character: it aims to provide comparable and inter-related information on, for instance, earnings and social protection benefits and employment and working conditions and housing and family structures and social relations and attitudes. Information on some of these topics may be less detailed or less precise than that in single-topic sources, but in ECHP it forms a part of a single micro-data source on the basis of which inter-relationships between different fields and the relevance of specific factors for the individuals' living conditions can be analysed.
B. Cross-national comparability.
Furthermore, these inter-relationships can be studied and compared across countries. Comparability is achieved through a standardised design and common technical and implementation procedures, with centralised support and co-ordination of the national surveys by Eurostat. The ECHP design has a number of features introduced to enhance cross-national comparability.
- A common survey structure and procedures, in this case annual interviewing of a representative panel using specified follow-up rules etc.
- Common standards, and where possible common arrangements as well, for data processing and statistical analysis, including editing, variable construction, weighting, data adjustment, variance computation etc.
- Common sampling requirements and standards (concerning sample size, probability selection procedures, respondent and call-back rules etc.), coupled with flexibility in the actual designs to suit national conditions.
- A central feature of the project is the use of a common "blue-print" questionnaire which is to serve as the point of departure for all national surveys.
C. Longitudinal or panel design.
The truly unique feature of ECHP is of course its panel design. Within each country, the original sample of households and persons is followed over time at annual intervals. In addition to providing longitudinal data, ECHP is also designed to provide representative cross-sectional pictures over time by constant renewal of the sample through appropriate follow-up rules. Persons who move or otherwise form or join new households are followed up at their new location. Children in the original sample become eligible for the detailed personal interview as they achieve the age of 16, and children born to sample women are automatically included as a part of the survey population. In this manner, the sample reflects demographic changes in the population and continues to remain representative of the population over time, except for losses due to sample attrition and households formed purely of new immigrants into the population. Furthermore, at any time the detailed survey covers all persons cohabiting with any of the original sample person in the same household. This is so that the sample persons can be studied in the context of their total household.
The ECHP expired in 2001 and is currently being replaced by the EU statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC), which is expected to become the reference source of data on poverty and social exclusion in the EU. The EU-SILC is based on the European Parliament and Council Regulation (EC) No 1177/2003 of 13 June 2003.
ECHP Web page maintained by Eurostat