What is the British Population Survey (BPS)?
The British Population Survey (BPS) is a survey of household income and shopping habits collected by face-to-face interviews. But to describe it so briefly is to do it a disservice given the depth of valuable information it can provide to help understand demographic groups and, by extension, your customers or audience. Here, we take a look at the BPS in detail, what exactly it is made from and how its data can be usefully applied by businesses and public organisations.
The strengths of BPS data
The British Population Survey (BPS) has been run since 2008 by DataTalk Research Limited. It is built around a series of face-to-face interviews conducted on an ongoing basis. Typically between 6,000 and 8,000 surveys are conducted each month, collecting data from more than 80,000 individuals over the course of a year. The two key points to emphasise here are that:
- They are face-to-face interviews, making the results relevant for both on and offline activity, as opposed to online surveys that can only gather data from active web users.
- The survey is ongoing, setting it apart from snapshot data like the census, which only takes place around every 10 years. This also allows new questions to be fed into the survey as they become relevant.
As such, the BPS provides a perfect tool to keep your demographic data up-to-date and relevant across the whole spectrum of society.
The data collected by the BPS
As you’d expect from face-to-face interviews, the depth of data collected is impressive and at the time of writing (September 2020) includes the following variables (in the BPS’ own terms):
- Family: gender, age group, numeric age, lifestage, ethnic origin, marital status, parent of children, parental status, child maintenance, number in household, presence of children in household, number of children in household, age of children in household.
- Geography: country, standard region 4, standard region 11, urban/rural, postcode area, unit postcode.
- Economics: social grade, qualification level, working status of respondent, household income, chief income earner (CIE), working status of CIE, home tenure, main shopper, main supermarket, debit card/s, credit card/s.
- Media: daily newspaper, Sunday newspaper, TV station most watched.
- Durables: no. of cars in household, TV, satellite TV, cable TV, freeview, freesat, landline telephone, simple mobile phone, web mobile phone, video, DVD recorder, DVD player, personal computer, laptop PC, tablet PC, games console, MP3, DAB radio, DIG camera (ex phone).
- Internet access: internet access – frequency, internet access – method, cable broadband, ADSL broadband, other broadband, non broadband, internet access – history.
- Internet use: emails, info-requests, info-products, purchases – not groceries, grocery shopping, bank a/c & finances, job search, play games online, online gaming for money, download music, download movies, download/stream TV, online dating, VOIP, social networks/blogs, other.
Plus, as previously mentioned, new questions can be fed in so it doesn’t suffer from the data lag inherent in the census for major lifestyle shifts such as, for example, the growth of home working and online transactions and technology since the last census in 2010. All of this adds up to a very rich and relevant resource for anyone trying to understand all or a specific part of society.
The BPS and Beacon Dodsworth
Our own demographic data, P2 People & Places (P2), makes use of the British Population Survey to add depth to its core census data and to keep that data relevant as we get further from the last census.
To do this we send BPS the P2 branch for each output area (OA). They return us their survey answers anonymised by location but demographically coded with the P2 branch. We then incorporate the variables we want like supermarket, preferred newspaper and technology use to enhance the branch and tree descriptions and the comparison tables and graphs. This allows us to build a nationwide picture that offers real granular detail and understanding of groups living in any area or demographic group.
In addition to the many clients who benefit from the customer and audience understanding offered by P2, we also utilise BPS data for bespoke work and consultancy for our clients.
For example, we recently developed a custom profile for a client from the sports and leisure industry. BPS has data that accurately combines household income with numbers of children in a household. Using the P2 coded data we were able to model the likelihood of a given area having houses with the right combination of income and children to be interested in private sporting activities.
This is just one example of a specific use for BPS data. With the depth of data that the BPS offers, along with our own demographic data and location intelligence tools, we can harness BPS and similar data to help any organisation to understand their audience or customers. If you have any requirements in this area, please get in touch and we can talk through exactly what we could do to help you.
We've spent more than 25 years visualising complex data and making it easy to understand.
If you'd like to see if we can help you please get in touch.
online or call us on:
Our other blogs
What is geodemographic profiling?
More than 64 million people live in the UK, each with their own outlook, priorities, needs and way of life. Geodemographic profiling offers a way to group these individuals to try and identify the right audience for your product or service.
Who spends most on Fruit and Veg
National Vegetarian Week (#NationalVegetarianWeek) this year ran from 10th to 16th May. It gave us the opportunity to highlight how GIS mapping can be used to create marketing campaigns and raise awareness of the benefits of eating more fruit and veg.
Using geographic intelligence to grow the UK’s broadband network
Using geographic intelligence to sustainably grow the UK’s broadband network.
Data visualisation and colour blindness
John, our director talks about living and working with colour blindness in the mapping industry where colours are pivotal in adding dimensions to people's understanding.
How far is it to the beach
We use Beacon Dodsworth's scripting technology to answer that most important of questions when the sun finally does threaten an appearance.
All you need to know about postcodes but were afraid to ask
The humble postcode has been around for years. We look at how postcodes are used and what led to their introduction.
TimeTravel: the latest update
We look at the latest update to TimeTravel, our dataset of drive times and distances between any postcode sector or district. What has changed in the UK road and geographic network, plus new features to make it even more accurate.
British Population Survey (BPS)
The British Population Survey (BPS) is a survey of household income and shopping habits collected by face-to-face interviews. We take a look at the BPS in detail, what exactly it is made from and how its data can be usefully applied by businesses and public organisations.
Cycle to work day
Each year for #cycletoworkday we take a look at cycling statistics across the country and try to map that data and find interesting trends. This is mainly because we at Beacon Dodsworth are either a little bit obsessed about cycling, or we tend to worry about the environment.
As a Yorkshire-based company, we wanted to help celebrate Yorkshire Day, which takes place on 1st August. Naturally, we wanted to put a geographic spin on the celebration, so we took a look at drinking preferences within God’s own county.
Administrative geography is a way of dividing the country into smaller sub-divisions or areas that correspond with the area of responsibility of local authorities and government bodies. It provides an alternative to postcode geography but because it tends not to be used by consumers, it is often overlooked. We take a look at administrative geography, what it is and how to use it.
Mapping for local projects
Recently, we were contacted by a company responsible for organising charity door knockers. They needed more than 9,000 postcode sectors mapped at A4 size to pass to ground staff showing street level detail. This would enable them to use maps at a local level to plan fundraising routes and clearly define territories for each agent.
The foundations of geographical analysis
Displaying data on maps makes it easier to understand as well as giving a new perspective on a problem. Using a GIS to prepare and present data has become increasingly popular over the last 20 years, but graphical displays of data on maps were around long before computers came along.
Social change over 10 years
With the next census due to take place this year, we thought it was a good time to take stock of some of the changes and trends we noticed between the 2001 and the 2011 census. What difference does 10 years make to our society and the people that live within it?
How to back up your Prospex data
Keep your GIS projects safe by using the in-built Prospex back up process. Here is how.
The power of postcode sectors
Postcode sectors are aggregations of individual postcodes and they provide meaningful geographical reporting areas in any GIS. However, they aren't as easy to map as you might think. Here is how we do it.
Living Costs and Food Survey
The Living Costs and Food survey (LCF) is compiled every year and is used by the UK and European governments, Department for Transport (DfT), and Her Majesty’s Revenue and the Customs (HMRC). But what is it, and why should we care?
The new normal for the GIS world
Toby, our Account Manager, looks at the changes to working style and client needs in the geodata industry following the COVID-19 outbreak.
Where is the North
We've used the territory manager tool in Prospex GIS to split the UK into north, south and east and west with equal population counts.
What is GIS software?
A Geographical Information System (GIS), is a tool for analysing, visualising, managing and presenting data that is related to a physical, geographical location. That link to geography is the key difference between GIS and other data visualisation techniques.
Mapping GP prescription data
An article by Allan Brimicombe (Head of Centre for Geo-Information Studies at the University of East London) & Pat Mungroo on using GP prescription data to understand health needs.
Geodemographics and the University of East London
The University of East London explain how they have been using our P² People & Places geodemographic classification.
Postcode to postcode drive time and distance
What happens if we want a postcode to postcode drive time lookup table?
The census helps you to understand your customers
The UK Census 2021: what it is, how is it made, and how can it be used to help your organisation with demographic analysis.
Google Fusion Tables
After almost 10 years of service, Google retired their Fusion Tables product at the end of 2019. This tool was very useful at visualising and sharing large amounts of tabular data - particularly amongst small and mid-sized businesses. So what can we do to fill the gap left by this tool?
Your continued use of this site is taken as implied consent to receive cookies from us and our analytics partners.