Survey Variable: Keeping up with Bills

Figure 1. See also Table A1.

When thinking about people’s economic circumstances we need to consider not only their earnings and assets but also their liabilities, such as the bills and payments that they have to make. It is possible for someone with a high income or a great deal of wealth to nevertheless face financial difficulties if they have high outgoings. As such, the survey asked people how easy or difficult they find it to keep up with the bills and payments that they are required to make, and Figure 1 (above, using weighted data) presents their answers.

A tiny percentage of people (1.9%) have no debts or payments that they need to keep up with, whilst more than two fifths (44.4%, a plurality) have no problems keeping up with their bills and payments. A further third of people (33.2%) have occasional struggles, meaning that almost four fifths (79.5%) either do not have to worry, or only occasionally worry, about staying on top of their payments. However, one in six people (15.2%) say that they constantly struggle to keep up with their bills and payments, whilst a further one in twenty (5.3%) say that they are falling behind with their payments (3.3%) or already in financial difficulty (2.0%). This means that a fifth of people (20.5%) face constant or severe problems when trying to keep on top of their finances. Thus, whilst the financial picture is generally fine for most people, there is a sizeable minority whose day-to-day lives are seriously negatively affected by their financial circumstances.

Importantly, the question does not define what constitutes ease or difficulty in keeping up with bills and payments, so there is an element of perception in the answers provided. In other words, people may have different levels of risk aversion or predispositions that lend themselves to states of higher or lower stress or worry. Thus, different people might assess the same financial situation as more or less difficult, and we cannot know the precise monetary situation of respondents from their answers. This is not to say, however, that the stresses and strains of feeling that one is struggling to keep up financially are not real, regardless of what the precise financial situation of each person is.

Variable namesec_debts
Number of cases1,405
Number of categories8
Categories to code as missing7 (‘Don’t know’) and 8 (‘Skipped’)
Cases to code as missing40
Recoded variable nameec_debts_mv
Number of cases1,365
Number of categories6
New and old categoriesThe ‘Don’t know’ (7) and ‘Skipped’ (8)
categories were coded as missing in
the new variable. At the same time, the
opportunity was taken to recode the
‘No bills’ category from 6 (original
variable) to 0 (new variable).
Details of the original and recoded keeping up with bills variable.

Published by joegreenwoodhau

Joe Greenwood-Hau is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Government & Public Policy at the University of Strathclyde, where he works on the Capital, Privilege and Political Participation in Britain and Beyond project.

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