Report (C111)

The expenditure experience of older households

Date: 28 August 2009
DOI: 10.1920/co.ifs.2009.0111

This Commentary examines detailed trends in expenditure patterns between 1995 and 2007, with a particular focus on the pensioner population. Pensioners are not a homogeneous group, but differ widely in both their levels and patterns of spending, and so we look not just at pensioners as a whole but also at pensioners according to age, income, household composition and so on. Spending may tell us something about household welfare that other, often-used measures like incomes do not. In particular, it may be that spending is informative about long-run well-being whereas income is more about current, short-run living standards.

Using data from the Family Expenditure Survey/Expenditure and Food Survey, an annual, cross-sectional study of the spending patterns of 6,000-7,000 households, we look in depth at changes in the level of real expenditures and how spending patterns have changed over time. Then, using data from two waves of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, we examine household fuel expenditures in detail. Fuel is clearly of great current policy concern given recent large increases in the price of domestic fuel that may impact particularly severely on poorer and older households.