A Scottish Government Official Statistics publication

Published on 18 February 2022

Personal wealth is a key component of people’s standard of living. People use their wealth for a range of purposes, for example:

  • as a source of finance to improve current or future living standards
  • to invest in opportunities such as education or entrepreneurial activities
  • to provide a buffer for emergencies such as unemployment or illness.

Many people will build wealth throughout their working lives in preparation for retirement. Yet, households with low income and low starting wealth will find this more difficult.

This report shows how wealthy Scottish households are. It also shows which kinds of households are a lot wealthier than others. And it shows which kinds of households have little savings for emergencies, or even unmanageable debt.

The latest data for this report is from April 2018 to March 2020. This was before the first UK-wide lockdown due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. So these statistics do not yet tell us anything about the impact of the pandemic on wealth and debt.

Key points

Pre-pandemic wealth inequality remained high

According to the latest data from just before the pandemic, a typical household in Scotland had £214,000 in total wealth, similar to previous years. A typical household in the wealthiest 10% of households had £1.7 million in total wealth, whereas a typical household in the least wealthy 10% of households had £7,600. The least wealthy households rarely own property or have any private pension savings. Their wealth is mainly made up of the value of their possessions such as cars, furniture and clothing.

Wealth inequality was more severe than income inequality: the 2% of households with the highest incomes had 9% of all income, while the wealthiest 2% of households had 18% of all wealth.

Households that tend to be wealthier than others are higher income households, pensioner couples, and home owners. In contrast, households with below average wealth tend to be low income households, lone parent and single working-age adult households, and those who lived in rented housing.

Three out of ten households had insufficient savings to keep them above the poverty line for a month should they lose their income. Four per cent of households were in unmanageable debt. A third of households did not own any property, and a third of adults had no private pension savings.

What you need to know

Household wealth

Household wealth (total wealth) is made up of physical wealth, financial wealth, property wealth and pension wealth of all household members. In short, physical wealth is the value of your belongings, financial wealth is savings, investments, and debt, property wealth is the self-reported value of your owned home and other property, and pension wealth is an estimate of the value of your private pensions, such as occupational and personal pensions.

We adjusted all wealth estimates for inflation.

Survey data

The analysis in this report is based on data from the Wealth and Assets Survey (WAS). This survey measures the economic well-being of households in Great Britain. WAS is managed by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

WAS is a sample survey and any numbers shown here are estimates only and could be slightly higher or lower if we interviewed a different sample of the population. Therefore, small changes over time, or differences between groups may not be real in the population. Differences or trends are more likely to be real if they are consistent over time.

The survey has a large sample size and almost complete coverage of Great Britain. The sample of private households in Scotland however excludes households north of the Caledonian Canal and the Scottish islands. Any estimates may therefore not necessarily be representative of households in these areas.

We do not produce estimates of numbers of people or households in Scotland, who, for example, own a home. Instead, we provide likelihoods (for example, of owning a home) and average amounts (of property wealth, for example).

Total wealth

This section gives an overview over how much personal wealth households have, how that has changed over time, what types of wealth there are and how their importance changes over people’s life courses.

Median wealth broadly stable

Figure 1 shows median household wealth over time. In 2018-2020, a typical household had £214,000 of total wealth. Median wealth had not changed much since 2006-2008, when data collection began.

Figure 1: Median wealth broadly stable
Table 1a: Median (inflation-adjusted) household wealth, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
All £193,100 £189,000 £190,000 £202,900 £250,700 £242,700 £214,000
Table 1b: Sample sizes, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
All 1,599 1,995 2,069 1,890 1,696 1,607 1,514

Types of wealth

Total household wealth is made up of physical wealth, financial wealth, property wealth and pension wealth of all household members.

Wealth types

The average household's wealth is mainly held in property and pensions

Figure 2 shows how much wealth a typical household had in the latest period for each type of wealth. Typical pension wealth was £56,900, property wealth £67,000, physical wealth £38,300, and financial wealth £6,700.

Note that this analysis includes all households, even those that had no property or pension wealth. If we exclude those households, a typical household with (some) property had £125,000 in property wealth, and a typical household with (some) pension wealth had £105,600 in pension wealth in the latest period.

Figure 2: The average household's wealth is mainly held in property and pensions
Table 2a: Median household wealth by type of wealth, Scotland 2018-2020
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Type Median
Financial £6,700
Physical £38,300
Property £67,000
Pension £56,900
Table 2b: Sample sizes, Scotland 2018-2020
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Type Sample
Financial 1,514
Physical 1,514
Property 1,514
Pension 1,514

Life stages

It is important to note that wealth amounts vary a lot by age. Younger households are less likely to have much or even any pension or property wealth, and most of their wealth is made up of the value of their belongings (physical wealth).

In general, people start building up wealth once they start receiving a salary, buy some goods, maybe save some money, and pay into a private pension scheme such as a workplace pension. Many buy a home, and through paying off their mortgage they build property wealth. On retirement, pension wealth gets drawn upon and used up, while some people also downsize their homes and reduce their property wealth.

Wealth grows over the course of people's working life and then declines

Figure 4 shows how much wealth of each type a typical household had for different age groups. A typical young household (household head aged 16-34) has mostly physical wealth, and no or only little financial, property and pension wealth. While financial and physical wealth differ little for different ages, property and pension wealth differ a lot and make up most of the wealth of households with heads aged 35 and older.

This reflects what happens over people's life time, with many young households who have little wealth today expected to turn into wealthy households in the future as they age and accumulate wealth.

Figure 4: Wealth grows over the course of people's working life and then declines
Table 4a: Median household wealth by type of wealth and age of household head, Scotland 2018-2020
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Age Financial Physical Property Pension Total
16-34 £400 £22,700 £5,000 £5,700 £45,400
35-44 £5,700 £44,600 £55,000 £28,100 £160,000
45-54 £3,200 £44,000 £57,200 £103,200 £282,500
55-64 £13,800 £47,000 £100,000 £157,500 £432,200
65-74 £19,200 £45,200 £130,000 £179,200 £450,600
75+ £20,000 £35,000 £120,000 £54,500 £268,000
Table 4b: Sample sizes, Scotland 2018-2020
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Age Financial Physical Property Pension Total
16-34 108 108 108 108 108
35-44 172 172 172 172 172
45-54 259 259 259 259 259
55-64 317 317 317 317 317
65-74 357 357 357 357 357
75+ 301 301 301 301 301

Wealth inequality

This chapter shows how wealth is distributed within the population overall, and between different groups. The first section looks at how much more the wealthiest households have compared to the least wealthy. Using a range of summary measures, we look at how wealth inequality differs for the four different components of total wealth, and how this has changed over the years. The second section compares average wealth across different types of people and households to show which groups typically have more or less wealth than others.

Wealth inequality in Scotland is also monitored within Scotland’s National Performance Framework using the Gini coefficient of wealth inequality.

Within the population

When looking at wealth inequality within the population, we typically use inequality measures such as the Gini coefficient or the Palma ratio. These compare all households by how much wealth they have.

Distribution

Wealth is more unequally distributed than income

Discussion on inequality often focuses on income, but wealth is even more unequally distributed than income.

Figure 5 splits Scotland’s households into fifty equal-sized groups, which are sorted by income and wealth on the horizontal axis, with each bar representing 2% of households. Lower income / less wealthy households are on the left, and richer / wealthier households are on the right. The height of the bars shows each group’s share of total income / wealth.

The 2% top income households in Scotland had 9% of all income, but the wealthiest 2% of all households in Scotland had 18% of all wealth. On the other end, the bottom 2% households had 1% of all income, and practically none of the wealth.

Figure 5: Wealth is more unequally distributed than income
Table 5a: Share of total wealth (negative wealth set to zero) and of total household income in each 2% wealth / income band, Scotland 2018-2020
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey and Family Resources Survey
Vigintile (2% band) Income Wealth
1 0.5% 0.0%
2 0.5% 0.0%
3 0.7% 0.0%
4 0.8% 0.1%
5 0.8% 0.1%
6 0.9% 0.1%
7 1.0% 0.1%
8 1.0% 0.1%
9 1.0% 0.1%
10 1.1% 0.2%
11 1.2% 0.2%
12 1.2% 0.2%
13 1.2% 0.2%
14 1.3% 0.2%
15 1.3% 0.3%
16 1.3% 0.4%
17 1.4% 0.4%
18 1.4% 0.4%
19 1.5% 0.5%
20 1.5% 0.6%
21 1.6% 0.6%
22 1.6% 0.7%
23 1.5% 0.7%
24 1.8% 0.8%
25 1.8% 0.9%
26 1.8% 1.0%
27 1.8% 1.1%
28 1.9% 1.2%
29 1.9% 1.2%
30 1.9% 1.4%
31 2.0% 1.3%
32 2.1% 1.7%
33 2.1% 1.7%
34 2.2% 1.8%
35 2.2% 2.0%
36 2.3% 2.2%
37 2.5% 2.3%
38 2.3% 2.4%
39 2.5% 2.7%
40 2.5% 3.0%
41 2.5% 3.2%
42 2.9% 3.7%
43 2.8% 3.9%
44 2.9% 4.3%
45 3.0% 5.1%
46 3.3% 5.2%
47 3.6% 6.0%
48 3.8% 7.5%
49 4.4% 8.4%
50 8.9% 17.8%
Table 5b: Sample sizes, Scotland 2018-2020
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey and Family Resources Survey
Group Income Wealth
All 6,239 1,514

How much wealth?
The wealthiest households had on average £1.7 million in total wealth and the least wealthy £7,600

Figure 6, the wealth distribution, splits all households in Scotland into ten equal-sized groups (called deciles), sorted by household wealth, from the least wealthy on the left, to the wealthiest on the right. The chart shows the wealth of a typical household in each decile group, or the decile medians.

A typical household in the top decile of the household population had £1.7 million, whereas a typical household in the bottom decile had £7,600 in total wealth.

Note that the least wealthy households are unlikely to own property or have any pension savings. Most of their wealth is also not cash or savings, but rather physical wealth, the value of possessions such as clothing or furniture.

Figure 6: The wealthiest households had on average £1.7 million in total wealth and the least wealthy £7,600
Table 6a: Median household wealth by wealth decile, Scotland 2018-2020
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Period 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
2018-2020 £7,600 £25,600 £51,000 £105,600 £170,400 £269,500 £386,300 £584,800 £923,400 £1,651,700
Table 6b: Median age of household head, Scotland 2018-2020
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Period 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
2018-2020 47 48 47 50 46 53 56 60 59 61
Table 6c: Sample sizes, Scotland 2018-2020
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Period 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
2018-2020 100 96 108 123 121 153 172 186 204 251

Life stages

Younger households often amongst the less wealthy

Note again that people's wealth generally increases over their lifetime. Figure 8 shows the age breakdown of each wealth decile. Younger households are more often found in the lower wealth deciles, whereas middle-aged and older households are often found in the higher wealth deciles.

Figure 8: Younger households often amongst the less wealthy
Table 8a: Share of age groups (age of household head) in each wealth decile, Scotland 2018-2020
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Age 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
16-34 25% 30% 34% 19% 24% 6% 5% 1% 1% 0%
35-44 20% 16% 14% 24% 26% 27% 18% 11% 10% 3%
45-54 21% 21% 20% 12% 12% 20% 24% 24% 25% 21%
55-64 14% 13% 11% 13% 15% 11% 20% 24% 28% 36%
65-74 11% 9% 8% 19% 12% 10% 15% 22% 25% 32%
75+ 10% 11% 14% 12% 11% 26% 18% 17% 11% 9%
Table 8b: Sample sizes, Scotland 2018-2020
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
All 100 96 108 123 121 153 172 186 204 251

Types of wealth

Here, we use the Gini coefficient for comparing inequality across different types of wealth.

Financial wealth least equally distributed type of wealth

While the Gini coefficient of wealth inequality for total wealth overall was 64%, there are differences for different types of wealth. Figure 13 shows the Gini coefficient for each of the four components of personal wealth.

Inequality was highest for financial wealth (86%), followed by pension wealth (75%) and property wealth (65%), and lowest for physical wealth (45%). For context, wealth inequality for all types of wealth was higher than income inequality: the Gini coefficient of income inequality (before housing costs) in Scotland was 32% in 2017-20, see Poverty in Scotland report.

Note that the Gini coefficient as calculated here includes all households, whether or not they have each type of wealth.

Figure 13: Financial wealth least equally distributed type of wealth
Table 13a: Gini coefficient of wealth inequality by type of wealth, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Type 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Financial 90% 88% 92% 89% 88% 88% 86%
Pension 79% 77% 74% 74% 71% 71% 75%
Property 65% 64% 64% 65% 65% 66% 65%
Physical 47% 48% 45% 48% 45% 46% 45%
Total 65% 63% 61% 62% 60% 62% 64%
Table 13b: Sample sizes, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Type 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Financial 2,833 1,995 2,069 1,890 1,696 1,607 1,514
Pension 2,833 1,995 2,069 1,890 1,696 1,607 1,514
Property 2,833 1,995 2,069 1,890 1,696 1,607 1,514
Physical 1,599 1,995 2,069 1,890 1,696 1,607 1,514
Total 1,599 1,995 2,069 1,890 1,696 1,607 1,514

Between groups

Some people are more likely to be wealthy than others - for example, most adults nearing retirement have accumulated a considerable amount of wealth over their working lives, and are getting ready to use it up, whereas many younger adults are only starting to save.

While this growth of wealth over time and with age is very common, some groups of the population are excluded from it. They may not have any income to spare for saving up, or they cannot afford to get on the property ladder, or they are not enrolled in any private pension scheme.

This section compares average wealth across different types of people and households to show which groups typically have more or less wealth than others. For context, we also provide age information, as age often explains at least part of the difference between groups.

We also include time series to show whether differences between groups are consistent over time. Where this is the case, we can be more confident that differences are real in the whole population and not just in this particular sample. Note that any drastic changes from one period to the next are likely due to random variation, and do not reflect real change in the population.

The ONS report on individual wealth looks in more detail at wealth by a range of (interacting) characteristics.

Individual characteristics

Some of the breakdowns below may not be based on the full Scottish sample. This is because we excluded a small number of individuals where the breakdown characteristic was unknown.

We created an individual wealth measure to show average wealth differences for individuals with different characteristics. In this measure, any commonly owned wealth is split out among the household members, see the individual wealth definition for more details. Individual wealth estimates are available from 2010-2012.

Age, economic status, and (formal) qualification are the most important characteristics linked to wealth differences between individuals. Of these, age is key, as people build wealth over their lifetimes.

Other individual characteristics show smaller, less obvious, or no wealth differences. They are included here to demonstrate which characteristics influence wealth less, or less clearly. While we tried to include all protected characteristics, data on gender reassignment and trans status is not available.

A typical adult had £100,900 of total wealth in 2018-2020.

Age
Youngest people the least wealthy, those near retirement age wealthiest

Figure 14 shows median wealth by age.

The youngest people were the least wealthy, and those recently retired, or about to retire, the wealthiest. For example, a typical person in the 65-74 year-old group had £268,700 in total wealth in 2018-2020, whereas a typical 16-34 year-old had only £23,200.

Figure 14: Youngest people the least wealthy, those near retirement age wealthiest
Table 14a: Median (inflation-adjusted) individual wealth by age, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
0-15 £300 £300 £400 £500 £500
16-34 £20,100 £18,700 £22,200 £20,300 £23,200
35-44 £77,200 £78,800 £86,800 £88,400 £102,700
45-54 £164,000 £176,900 £153,800 £156,000 £140,300
55-64 £207,800 £241,400 £280,300 £274,700 £249,300
65-74 £163,500 £197,700 £232,800 £270,400 £268,700
75+ £124,600 £140,300 £148,100 £178,200 £183,000
All £49,700 £52,200 £60,900 £59,400 £56,200
Table 14b: Median age, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
0-15 7 7 7 7 7
16-34 26 26 25 25 26
35-44 40 40 40 40 39
45-54 50 50 50 49 50
55-64 60 60 59 59 59
65-74 69 69 69 69 69
75+ 80 80 80 80 80
All 42 43 45 42 43
Table 14c: Sample sizes, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
0-15 733 617 514 476 423
16-34 848 674 582 576 475
35-44 559 440 379 375 298
45-54 667 602 551 507 441
55-64 711 645 562 556 509
65-74 612 643 594 541 574
75+ 410 436 424 405 405
All 4,540 4,057 3,606 3,436 3,125

Employment
Retired adults wealthiest, other inactive and unemployed the least wealthy

Figure 15 shows median wealth by economic status.

Retired adults were the wealthiest, while other inactive and unemployed adults were the least wealthy. In 2018-2020, a typical retiree had £249,800 in total wealth, compared to employed or self-employed adults, who had £95,300 and £105,700, respectively, which was a lot more than what inactive (but not retired) and unemployed adults had (inactive - other £22,700, inactive - student £21,400, inactive - disabled £18,100, and unemployed £13,500).

Economic status data was available from 2014-2016.

Figure 15: Retired adults wealthiest, other inactive and unemployed the least wealthy
Table 15a: Median (inflation-adjusted) individual wealth of adults by economic status, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Retired £190,400 £259,100 £249,800
Self-employed £109,400 £119,600 £105,700
Employed £105,300 £98,800 £95,300
Inactive - other £24,100 £18,000 £22,700
Inactive - student £19,000 £15,000 £21,400
Inactive - disabled £15,800 £15,600 £18,100
Unemployed £12,500 £13,300 £13,500
All £103,700 £106,800 £101,200
Table 15b: Median age, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Retired 72 72 72
Self-employed 48 48 50
Employed 43 41 41
Inactive - other 40 42 44
Inactive - student 20 20 22
Inactive - disabled 52 51 52
Unemployed 39 31 28
All 50 49 50
Table 15c: Sample sizes, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Retired 1,074 997 977
Self-employed 185 206 191
Employed 1,347 1,282 1,147
Inactive - other 144 143 119
Inactive - student 68 45 45
Inactive - disabled 142 142 131
Unemployed 55 60 43
All 3,015 2,875 2,653

Education
Highly qualified adults wealthier

Figure 16 shows median wealth by formal qualification.

Highly qualified adults were wealthier than adults with qualifications below degree-level or with no formal qualification at all. In 2018-2020, a typical adult with a degree-level or higher qualification had £207,100 in total wealth, compared to £76,900 for adults with another type of qualification, and £36,000 for adults with no formal qualification.

Table 16b shows that a typical adult with no formal qualification was in their early sixties, an age group where adults tend to be the wealthiest in their lives, and yet these non-qualified adults are not very wealthy. This underlines how important education and having formal qualifications were for being able to build wealth.

Figure 16: Highly qualified adults wealthier
Table 16a: Median (inflation-adjusted) individual wealth of adults by qualification, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Degree-level or above £147,100 £214,100 £243,700 £209,600 £207,100
Other qualification £86,500 £85,100 £93,600 £96,300 £76,900
No qualification £65,800 £44,200 £45,900 £34,100 £36,000
All £83,900 £96,100 £106,400 £109,600 £102,000
Table 16b: Median age, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Degree-level or above 39 46 45 43 44
Other qualification 46 48 48 48 49
No qualification 61 64 65 61 64
All 48 50 50 49 50
Table 16c: Sample sizes, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Degree-level or above 771 811 816 794 861
Other qualification 1,860 1,750 1,504 1,498 1,405
No qualification 1,004 737 652 541 358
All 3,635 3,298 2,972 2,833 2,624

Marital
Married adults wealthiest, singles least wealthy

Figure 17 shows median wealth by marital status.

Married and widowed adults were the wealthiest, whereas single (and never married) adults were the least wealthy. Note that we include adults in Civil Partnerships in the 'Married' category, and we include separated married adults and those who dissolved their Civil Partnership in the 'Divorced' category.

In 2018-2020, a typical married adult had £178,700 and a typical widowed adult £175,000 in total wealth. A divorced adult had £107,000, and cohabiting and single adults had £32,500, and £25,100, respectively. The typical single adult was quite young, see table 17b, which can at least partly explain the lower wealth. This is similar for cohabiting adults, who also tended to be slightly younger than married, divorced and widowed adults.

Figure 17: Married adults wealthiest, singles least wealthy
Table 17a: Median (inflation-adjusted) individual wealth of adults by marital status, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Married £138,700 £147,800 £163,700 £180,000 £178,700
Widowed £124,600 £141,000 £132,600 £162,800 £175,000
Divorced £54,000 £68,300 £95,800 £129,700 £107,000
Cohabiting £38,200 £44,600 £71,500 £38,200 £32,500
Single £19,900 £19,000 £24,400 £21,900 £25,100
All £82,100 £93,500 £103,700 £106,800 £100,900
Table 17b: Median age, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Married 52 54 53 52 53
Widowed 77 77 77 78 75
Divorced 54 56 59 59 58
Cohabiting 36 38 41 35 34
Single 26 27 28 29 28
All 47 50 50 49 50
Table 17c: Sample sizes, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Married 2,108 1,905 1,686 1,600 1,500
Widowed 294 298 250 227 251
Divorced 299 275 255 254 233
Cohabiting 294 286 254 258 203
Single 713 583 570 538 472
All 3,708 3,347 3,015 2,877 2,659

Orientation
No consistent wealth difference for adults of different sexual orientations

Only adults who responded to the survey in person were included in the sexual orientation breakdown. No proxy-responses are included. This reduced the sample size.

Figure 18 shows median wealth by sexual orientation.

While in the latest period, straight (or heterosexual) adults had less total wealth than adults who were gay, lesbian, bisexual, or other, this had been the opposite in previous periods. In 2018-2020, a typical adult who was gay, lesbian, bisexual or other had £159,300 in total wealth, compared to £126,500 for straight adults.

Figure 18: No consistent wealth difference for adults of different sexual orientations
Table 18a: Median (inflation-adjusted) individual wealth of adults by sexual orientation, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Hetero / straight £118,700 £136,800 £126,500
Other £76,300 £95,400 £159,300
All £116,800 £136,000 £126,800
Table 18b: Median age, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Hetero / straight 52 52 53
Other 48 42 47
All 52 52 53
Table 18c: Sample sizes, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Hetero / straight 2,487 2,283 2,082
Other 35 31 42
All 2,522 2,314 2,124

Religion
Christian adults wealthiest (and oldest)

Only adults who responded to the survey in person were included in the religion breakdown. No proxy-responses are included. This reduced the sample size.

Figure 19 shows median wealth by religion.

Christian adults continued to be wealthier on average than adults with other religions or no religion. In 2018-2020, a typical Christian adult had £154,900 in total wealth, compared to £92,500 for adults with no religion and £59,800 for adults with another religion.

Note that Christian adults were also on average older and nearer their wealth peak around retirement compared to adults with another or no religion, see table 19b.

Figure 19: Christian adults wealthiest (and oldest)
Table 19a: Median (inflation-adjusted) individual wealth of adults by religion, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Christian £108,100 £121,700 £127,700 £159,200 £154,900
Other religion £87,100 £64,000 £107,100 £89,800 £59,800
No religion £69,700 £80,900 £103,000 £101,500 £92,500
All £94,600 £107,700 £116,900 £133,500 £125,200
Table 19b: Median age, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Christian 54 57 57 59 60
Other religion 47 52 48 49 52
No religion 42 46 46 46 46
All 50 52 52 52 53
Table 19c: Sample sizes, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Christian 1,731 1,820 1,599 1,316 1,192
Other religion 36 51 70 90 78
No religion 978 985 910 915 872
All 2,745 2,856 2,579 2,321 2,142

Ethnicity
Minority ethnic adults younger and less wealthy

Only adults who responded to the survey in person were included in the ethnicity breakdown. No proxy-responses are included. This reduced the sample size.

Figure 20 shows median wealth by ethnicity.

In order to be able to produce an ethnicity breakdown, we combined all minority ethnic adults, including white ethnic minorities such as EU citizens and gypsy/travellers, into a single group.

Minority ethnic adults were on average less wealthy than white British adults. In 2018-2020, a typical minority ethnic adult had £57,000 in total wealth, compared to £132,700 for a typical white British adult. Note that the minority ethnic adults were also younger on average than white British adults, see table 20b.

Figure 20: Minority ethnic adults younger and less wealthy
Table 20a: Median (inflation-adjusted) individual wealth of adults by ethnicity, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
White British £100,200 £114,100 £128,100 £142,300 £132,700
Minority ethnic £16,500 £27,500 £24,400 £36,600 £57,000
All £94,500 £107,700 £116,900 £133,200 £125,200
Table 20b: Median age, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
White British 51 53 54 53 54
Minority ethnic 33 35 35 36 39
All 50 52 52 52 53
Table 20c: Sample sizes, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
White British 2,993 2,742 2,456 2,205 2,032
Minority ethnic 145 115 123 117 110
All 3,138 2,857 2,579 2,322 2,142

Disability
Disabled people slightly less wealthy despite being older

Figure 21 shows median wealth for disabled adults and adults who were not disabled.

While disabled adults had consistently had lower wealth compared to adults who were not disabled, the difference was small. In 2018-2020, a typical disabled adult had £71,700 in total wealth, compared to £109,800 for adults who were not disabled.

However, disabled adults were on average older and closer to retirement, see table 21b. We would therefore have expected them to be wealthier, and yet they are not. This suggests that disabled adults had been less able to build wealth compared to adults who were not disabled.

Figure 21: Disabled people slightly less wealthy despite being older
Table 21a: Median (inflation-adjusted) individual wealth for adults by whether they are disabled, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Not disabled £83,800 £99,800 £113,400 £109,100 £109,800
Disabled £72,800 £71,600 £75,500 £98,300 £71,700
All £82,100 £93,500 £103,700 £106,800 £100,900
Table 21b: Median age, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Not disabled 44 47 47 46 46
Disabled 61 63 63 61 61
All 47 50 50 49 50
Table 21c: Sample sizes, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Not disabled 2,987 2,640 2,382 2,227 2,054
Disabled 721 707 633 650 605
All 3,708 3,347 3,015 2,877 2,659

Sex
Men and women similarly wealthy overall

Figure 22 shows median wealth for men and women.

Men and women had on average similar wealth. In 2018-2020, a typical man had £97,500 in total wealth, compared to £101,900 for a typical woman.

Figure 22: Men and women similarly wealthy overall
Table 22a: Median (inflation-adjusted) individual wealth of adults by sex, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Men £85,700 £105,400 £115,400 £116,600 £97,500
Women £80,700 £83,900 £93,600 £102,000 £101,900
All £82,100 £93,500 £103,700 £106,800 £100,900
Table 22b: Median age, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Men 46 49 49 47 49
Women 49 50 51 50 51
All 47 50 50 49 50
Table 22c: Sample sizes, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Men 1,768 1,578 1,435 1,387 1,290
Women 1,940 1,769 1,580 1,490 1,369
All 3,708 3,347 3,015 2,877 2,659

Household characteristics

Some of the breakdowns below may not be based on the full Scottish sample. This is because we excluded a small number of households where the breakdown characteristic was unknown.

In this section, we compare average household wealth by household characteristics. Household wealth is the combined wealth of all household members. We see the biggest differences when comparing households by income, household type, and housing tenure. We also show wealth differences in urban and rural areas. Data on area deprivation was not available.

A typical household had £214,000 of total wealth in 2018-2020.

Income
Highest income households the wealthiest

Figure 23 shows median household wealth by household income quintile (or 20%-band).

The higher the household income, the wealthier the households were. In 2018-2020, a typical household in the top income quintile had £658,400 in total wealth, compared to £432,000, £198,900, and £96,800, in the middle income quintiles, and £84,500 in the lowest income quintile.

Figure 23: Highest income households the wealthiest
Table 23a: Median (inflation-adjusted) household wealth by household income quintile (or 20%-band), Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
5th (highest) household income quintile £811,000 £786,800 £658,400
4th £414,000 £411,900 £432,000
3rd £210,200 £242,700 £198,900
2nd £103,700 £99,300 £96,800
1st (lowest) household income quintile £46,800 £64,700 £84,500
All £250,700 £242,700 £214,000
Table 23b: Median age of household head, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
5th (highest) household income quintile 53 53 53
4th 53 52 52
3rd 51 53 52
2nd 56 54 57
1st (lowest) household income quintile 62 54 58
All 54 53 54
Table 23c: Sample sizes, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
5th (highest) household income quintile 391 378 356
4th 349 290 291
3rd 315 328 293
2nd 316 299 293
1st (lowest) household income quintile 325 312 281
All 1,696 1,607 1,514

Household
Lone parents the least wealthy, pensioner couples wealthiest

Figure 24 shows median household wealth by household type.

Pensioner couple households had more than twice as much wealth as single pensioner households, and working-age couple households had more than twice as much wealth as working-age single households.

In 2018-2020, a typical pensioner couple household had £607,000 in total wealth, compared to £213,100 for a single pensioner. A typical working-age couple with no dependent children had £300,800, and a typical childless working-age single £50,300. A typical couple with children had £244,900 and a typical lone parent had £36,500 in total wealth.

The main reason why couples had more than twice the wealth of single adults was that couples have on average lower living costs as they pool their resources. This enables them to use a larger share of their income to create additional wealth, for example by buying a home, or paying into a private pension scheme.

The 'Other' group contains households with additional adults such as non-dependent (grown-up) children or lodgers.

Figure 24: Lone parents the least wealthy, pensioner couples wealthiest
Table 24a: Median (inflation-adjusted) household wealth by household type, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Pensioner couple £396,500 £435,100 £444,500 £547,100 £600,500 £709,800 £607,000
Working-age couple £299,400 £269,100 £288,800 £323,000 £366,900 £370,700 £300,800
Couple with children £264,200 £251,600 £210,100 £201,600 £257,600 £264,400 £244,900
Other £203,500 £191,700 £201,600 £232,500 £257,600 £256,900 £293,900
Single pensioner £135,500 £154,300 £144,700 £144,400 £164,700 £214,700 £213,100
Single working-age £61,200 £52,000 £50,000 £55,100 £82,900 £93,300 £50,300
Lone parent £35,000 £42,500 £42,200 £33,200 £32,200 £36,700 £36,500
All £193,100 £189,000 £190,000 £202,900 £250,700 £242,700 £214,000
Table 24b: Median age of household head, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Pensioner couple 69 70 70 69 71 71 72
Working-age couple 48 43 45 49 51 50 49
Couple with children 41 41 40 40 41 41 41
Other 51 52 54 54 54 56 56
Single pensioner 75 74 75 76 77 78 76
Single working-age 46 43 45 48 48 48 51
Lone parent 39 40 39 40 39 39 41
All 51 51 53 55 54 53 54
Table 24c: Sample sizes, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Pensioner couple 244 363 401 423 360 322 320
Working-age couple 260 280 263 206 207 222 198
Couple with children 270 370 370 314 263 253 217
Other 188 233 279 242 235 227 193
Single pensioner 275 342 366 391 349 295 302
Single working-age 253 287 284 226 209 222 231
Lone parent 109 120 106 88 73 66 53
All 1,599 1,995 2,069 1,890 1,696 1,607 1,514

Tenure
Home-owners wealthiest, renters least wealthy

Figure 25 shows median household wealth by housing tenure.

Households who owned their homes outright were the wealthiest, whereas households in the social rented sector were the least wealthy. In 2018-2020, a typical household who owned their home outright had £562,500 in total wealth, compared to £270,500 for households who were buying their home with a mortgage, £45,400 for households in the private rented sector, and £32,500 of households in the social rented sector.

Figure 25: Home-owners wealthiest, renters least wealthy
Table 25a: Median (inflation-adjusted) household wealth by tenure, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Owning outright £428,100 £470,000 £444,500 £515,100 £542,600 £589,800 £562,500
Buying with mortgage £287,500 £236,300 £258,300 £262,400 £327,800 £304,100 £270,500
Private renting £43,200 £30,100 £39,000 £40,500 £54,100 £46,400 £45,400
Social renting £21,500 £22,900 £27,400 £23,700 £33,100 £35,400 £32,500
All £193,100 £189,000 £190,100 £202,900 £250,700 £242,700 £214,000
Table 25b: Median age of household head, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Owning outright 67 66 66 66 68 68 68
Buying with mortgage 44 43 44 44 45 44 43
Private renting 38 35 35 42 39 38 38
Social renting 53 54 56 59 58 55 55
All 51 51 53 55 54 53 54
Table 25c: Sample sizes, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Owning outright 510 713 791 793 758 722 728
Buying with mortgage 549 677 634 537 446 428 373
Private renting 158 153 194 156 143 148 118
Social renting 382 452 449 404 349 309 295
All 1,599 1,995 2,068 1,890 1,696 1,607 1,514

Rural
Wealthier in rural areas

Note that the Wealth and Assets Survey is not representative of areas north of the Caledonian Canal and the Scottish islands. Therefore, some of the most remote areas in Scotland are not included. Urban/rural breakdowns therefore require careful interpretation.

Figure 26 shows median wealth for households in urban and in rural areas.

Rural households had consistently been wealthier compared to urban households. In 2018-2020, a typical rural household had £298,700 in total wealth, compared to £195,500 for urban households.

Figure 26: Wealthier in rural areas
Table 26a: Median (inflation-adjusted) household wealth in urban and rural areas, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Rural £272,400 £314,100 £332,200 £372,400 £346,700 £486,900 £298,700
Urban £171,000 £177,000 £181,500 £184,000 £216,700 £206,100 £195,500
All £193,100 £188,400 £190,000 £202,900 £248,900 £242,700 £213,100
Table 26b: Median age of household head, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Rural 54 55 56 57 62 57 55
Urban 50 50 52 54 54 52 54
All 51 51 52 55 54 53 54
Table 26c: Sample sizes, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Rural 467 294 316 334 299 290 293
Urban 1,130 1,695 1,751 1,555 1,393 1,317 1,219
All 1,597 1,989 2,067 1,889 1,692 1,607 1,512

Financial wealth & debt

Financial wealth (net financial wealth) is calculated as the sum of all financial assets (such as bank accounts, savings accounts, stocks and shares) minus all liabilities (such as overdrafts, loans, credit card debt, and arrears on household bills). Assets also include informal assets, such as money held at home, or borrowing from friends and family.

This chapter describes how financial wealth is distributed across households in Scotland. A section on financial vulnerability identifies the kind of households with little financial wealth, who might struggle in a crisis. And a section on unmanageable debt looks at those households in Scotland at the very bottom end of the financial wealth spectrum.

We report on financial wealth on a household level.

How much?

Distribution

The wealthiest households had on average £242,200 in financial wealth, whereas the least wealthy were in debt.

Figure 27 shows how net financial wealth was distributed.

The bar chart splits all households into ten equal-sized groups (called deciles), sorted by financial wealth amount from the least wealthy on the left, to the wealthiest on the right. The height of the bars shows the typical financial wealth amount of each group, or the decile medians.

The households with the highest financial wealth had a lot more compared to those with the least financial wealth, who were actually in debt. A typical household in the top decile had £242,200 in financial wealth, whereas a typical household in the bottom decile was in debt (they had -£10,800).

Table 27b also shows that the financially wealthiest households tended to have older household heads than the least wealthy.

Figure 27: The wealthiest households had on average £242,200 in financial wealth, whereas the least wealthy were in debt.
Table 27a: Median net financial wealth by financial wealth decile, Scotland 2018-2020
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Period 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
2018-2020 -£10,800 -£1,500 £100 £1,200 £4,700 £10,000 £20,800 £43,200 £95,800 £242,200
Table 27b: Median age of household head, Scotland 2018-2020
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Period 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
2018-2020 41 47 53 54 58 53 57 57 62 62
Table 27c: Sample sizes, Scotland 2018-2020
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Period 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
2018-2020 97 116 115 121 134 144 163 168 209 247

Financial vulnerability

Financial vulnerability measures look at whether households have enough savings to cope with a financial shock.

Various measures exist. Here, we look at how long a household’s savings would keep them above the poverty line, had they no income. In our previous reports, we compared household savings to a measure of essential living costs.

All measures make assumptions. Our measures assume households lose all income at once and then need to use their savings to replace it. This is an extreme and unlikely scenario for many households. Often, households have many income sources, such as earnings and benefits. Note also that there are many reasons why households may not have access to a lot of cash. Some people with spare cash decide to increase their mortgage payments, or they invest into a private pension. This means that they might be more resilient than what our measure suggests.

With this in mind, our chosen measure is useful for looking at what sort of households are more or less likely to have some emergency cash, and how this has changed over time.

More households becoming financially resilient

Figure 29 shows that in recent years, 36% of households, were they to lose all income, had enough savings to keep them above the poverty line for longer than a year. This had slightly increased from previous periods.

This estimate compares well with how people perceive their financial resilience. When asked directly, 37% of adults responded that they would be able to make ends meet for over a year should they lose their main source of income (see table 29c below).

On the other hand, 30% of households did not have enough savings to keep them above the poverty line for one month.

Figure 29: More households becoming financially resilient
Table 29a: Share of households whose savings, if replacing all income, would keep them above the poverty line for different lengths of time, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Period of time 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
> 12 months 30% 30% 29% 30% 33% 35% 36%
6-12 months 11% 12% 11% 11% 8% 11% 11%
3-5 months 10% 11% 10% 10% 10% 8% 9%
1-2 months 12% 13% 15% 13% 13% 14% 14%
< 1 month 26% 24% 23% 24% 26% 24% 22%
In debt already 11% 11% 12% 12% 9% 7% 8%
Table 29b: Sample sizes (households), Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
All 2,833 1,995 2,069 1,890 1,696 1,607 1,514
Table 29c: Share of adults who report they would be able to make ends meet for different lengths of time should they lose their main source of income, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Period of time 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Twelve months or more 28% 32% 35% 37%
Six months or more, but less than 12 months 10% 11% 11% 10%
Three months or more, but less than six months 14% 13% 12% 12%
One month or more, but less than three months 21% 19% 17% 16%
One week or more, but less than one month 16% 15% 14% 14%
Less than one week 10% 10% 11% 10%
Table 29d: Sample sizes (adults), Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Period 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
All 2,808 2,544 2,289 2,121

In this section, financially vulnerable households are households with savings which would cover less than one month of income at the poverty line (the bottom two categories in Figure 29).

Note this is a household-level measure, so breakdowns are for household characteristics such as household type and tenure, and individual characteristics of the household head (the person with the highest income).

We include a range of breakdowns below. We see the biggest differences between groups for household type, economic status of the household head, housing tenure, household income and (formal) qualification of the household head. Other breakdowns show smaller, but yet in many cases consistent differences between groups.

Data on religion, sexual orientation, or area deprivation is not available for this analysis.

Some of the breakdowns below may not be based on the full Scottish sample. This is because we excluded a small number of households where the breakdown characteristic was unknown.

Household

Lone parents most likely to be financially vulnerable

Figure 30 shows the proportion of households that were financially vulnerable, broken down by household type.

Lone parent households were the most likely to be financially vulnerable, whereas pensioner couple households were the least likely to be financially vulnerable. 64% of lone parent households were financially vulnerable in 2018-2020, compared to only 9% of pensioner couple households. Over time, the risk of financial vulnerability had decreased for all groups, and most for lone parent households, couples with children, and single pensioner households.

The 'Other' group contains households with additional adults such as non-dependent (grown-up) children or lodgers.

Figure 30: Lone parents most likely to be financially vulnerable
Table 30a: Proportion of households who are financially vulnerable by household type, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Lone parent 79% 71% 71% 73% 78% 71% 64%
Single working-age 50% 52% 55% 50% 46% 40% 46%
Couple with children 41% 36% 41% 44% 42% 37% 30%
Other 41% 38% 30% 40% 41% 39% 39%
Single pensioner 31% 28% 26% 29% 26% 17% 18%
Working-age couple 25% 23% 25% 29% 28% 27% 20%
Pensioner couple 17% 11% 16% 12% 14% 9% 9%
All 38% 35% 35% 36% 36% 32% 30%
Table 30b: Composition of financially vulnerable households, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Lone parent 14% 13% 10% 10% 12% 11% 10%
Single working-age 22% 25% 24% 19% 19% 22% 29%
Couple with children 20% 20% 24% 24% 22% 23% 19%
Other 15% 15% 15% 17% 18% 21% 21%
Single pensioner 13% 13% 12% 14% 13% 7% 9%
Working-age couple 11% 10% 10% 10% 10% 12% 10%
Pensioner couple 6% 4% 6% 6% 6% 4% 4%
All 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Table 30c: Median age of household head, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Lone parent 38 39 37 39 39 37 39
Single working-age 45 42 45 48 50 45 51
Couple with children 40 40 38 39 40 40 39
Other 48 53 57 50 54 55 54
Single pensioner 73 71 71 73 73 73 72
Working-age couple 43 41 42 45 42 44 32
Pensioner couple 68 67 69 70 72 68 70
All 45 45 47 48 49 47 49
Table 30d: Sample sizes, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Lone parent 199 120 106 88 73 66 53
Single working-age 443 287 284 226 209 222 231
Couple with children 493 370 370 314 263 253 217
Other 336 233 279 242 235 227 193
Single pensioner 450 342 366 391 349 295 302
Working-age couple 460 280 263 206 207 222 198
Pensioner couple 452 363 401 423 360 322 320
All 2,833 1,995 2,069 1,890 1,696 1,607 1,514

Employment

Unemployed and inactive (but not retired) households most likely to be financially vulnerable

Figure 31 shows the proportion of households that were financially vulnerable, broken down by the economic status of the household head.

Households with an inactive (but not retired) or unemployed household head were twice as likely to be financially vulnerable compared to households with an employed household head. 67% of households with an inactive/unemployed head were financially vulnerable in 2018-2020, compared to only 32% of households with an employed head, 17% of households with a retired head, and 15% of households with a self-employed household head. Over time, the risk of financial vulnerability had decreased for all groups, and most for households with an inactive or unemployed household head.

Economic status data was available from 2014-2016.

Figure 31: Unemployed and inactive (but not retired) households most likely to be financially vulnerable
Table 31a: Proportion of households who are financially vulnerable by economic status of the household head, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Inactive/Unemployed 81% 81% 70% 67%
Employed 35% 35% 32% 32%
Self-employed 27% 24% 27% 15%
Retired 25% 24% 17% 17%
All 36% 36% 32% 30%
Table 31b: Composition of financially vulnerable households, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Inactive/Unemployed 25% 25% 27% 25%
Employed 47% 48% 52% 55%
Self-employed 5% 3% 5% 3%
Retired 23% 23% 16% 16%
All 100% 100% 100% 100%
Table 31c: Median age of household head, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Inactive/Unemployed 48 51 47 53
Employed 42 42 42 41
Self-employed 47 42 47 50
Retired 71 72 72 72
All 48 49 47 49
Table 31d: Sample sizes, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Inactive/Unemployed 177 156 163 136
Employed 816 728 689 630
Self-employed 131 103 114 109
Retired 766 709 641 639
All 1,890 1,696 1,607 1,514

Tenure

Renters most likely to be financially vulnerable

Figure 32 shows the proportion of households that were financially vulnerable, broken down by housing tenure.

Social renters were the most likely to be financially vulnerable, whereas those who owned their homes outright were the least likely to be financially vulnerable. 63% of households in the social rented sector were financially vulnerable in 2018-2020, compared to 40% of private renters, 24% of those who were buying their home with a mortgage, and 9% of those who owned their home outright. Over time, the risk of financial vulnerability had decreased for all groups, and most for social renters.

Figure 32: Renters most likely to be financially vulnerable
Table 32a: Proportion of households who are financially vulnerable by housing tenure, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Social renting 71% 73% 71% 73% 71% 68% 63%
Private renting 46% 40% 41% 48% 50% 41% 40%
Buying with mortgage 31% 27% 28% 31% 31% 27% 24%
Owning outright 14% 9% 12% 10% 11% 9% 9%
All 38% 35% 35% 36% 36% 32% 30%
Table 32b: Composition of financially vulnerable households, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Social renting 46% 52% 48% 48% 45% 45% 50%
Private renting 13% 12% 14% 16% 17% 18% 15%
Buying with mortgage 30% 29% 27% 27% 27% 28% 24%
Owning outright 10% 7% 10% 9% 11% 9% 10%
All 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Table 32c: Median age of household head, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Social renting 48 49 49 54 54 52 53
Private renting 34 35 34 32 37 36 37
Buying with mortgage 43 42 43 43 44 44 42
Owning outright 65 66 66 66 67 60 66
All 45 45 47 48 49 47 49
Table 32d: Sample sizes, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Social renting 675 452 449 404 349 309 295
Private renting 271 153 194 156 143 148 118
Buying with mortgage 988 677 634 537 446 428 373
Owning outright 899 713 791 793 758 722 728
All 2,833 1,995 2,068 1,890 1,696 1,607 1,514

Income

Lowest income households most likely to be financially vulnerable

Figure 33 shows the proportion of households that were financially vulnerable, broken down by household income quintile (or 20%-band).

Lower income households are less likely to have any spare cash to save for an emergency. But there are also some high-income households with little savings. They may have very high living costs, or they choose to invest their spare cash into a private pension, or they might use it to pay off their mortgage.

50% of households in the bottom income quintile were financially vulnerable in 2018-2020, compared to 45% of households in the second income quintile, 30% of households in the third quintile, 19% of households in the fourth quintile, and 8% of households in the top income quintile.

Over time, the risk of financial vulnerability had decreased for all groups, and most for the lowest income households.

Income data was available from 2014-2016.

Figure 33: Lowest income households most likely to be financially vulnerable
Table 33a: Proportion of households who are financially vulnerable by household income quintile (20%-band), Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
1st (lowest) household income quintile 62% 48% 50%
2nd 49% 48% 45%
3rd 34% 30% 30%
4th 24% 20% 19%
5th (highest) household income quintile 9% 11% 8%
All 36% 32% 30%
Table 33b: Composition of financially vulnerable households, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
1st (lowest) household income quintile 35% 31% 33%
2nd 28% 30% 29%
3rd 19% 19% 20%
4th 13% 13% 13%
5th (highest) household income quintile 5% 7% 5%
All 100% 100% 100%
Table 33c: Median age of household head, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
1st (lowest) household income quintile 56 46 52
2nd 48 47 51
3rd 45 49 47
4th 47 44 50
5th (highest) household income quintile 47 48 38
All 49 47 49
Table 33d: Sample sizes, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
1st (lowest) household income quintile 325 312 281
2nd 316 299 293
3rd 315 328 293
4th 349 290 291
5th (highest) household income quintile 391 378 356
All 1,696 1,607 1,514

Education

Lowest formally qualified households most likely to be financially vulnerable

Figure 34 shows the proportion of households that were financially vulnerable, broken down by (formal) qualification of the household head.

Households with the lowest qualified household heads were the most likely to be financially vulnerable. 47% of households where the household head had no formal qualification were financially vulnerable in 2018-2020, compared to only 16% of households with highly qualified (degree-level or above) household heads. Over time, the risk of financial vulnerability had decreased for all groups, but most for the least qualified.

Figure 34: Lowest formally qualified households most likely to be financially vulnerable
Table 34a: Proportion of households who are financially vulnerable by qualification of the household head, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
No qualification 55% 49% 45% 51% 54% 44% 47%
Other qualification 37% 37% 37% 38% 37% 36% 35%
Degree-level or above 20% 14% 18% 17% 20% 16% 16%
All 38% 35% 35% 36% 36% 32% 30%
Table 34b: Composition of financially vulnerable households, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
No qualification 35% 33% 38% 34% 33% 26% 23%
Other qualification 54% 58% 50% 54% 52% 59% 59%
Degree-level or above 11% 9% 12% 12% 15% 16% 18%
All 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Table 34c: Median age of household head, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
No qualification 57 58 57 62 64 59 61
Other qualification 42 42 44 44 47 45 47
Degree-level or above 37 37 38 43 40 42 41
All 45 45 47 48 49 47 49
Table 34d: Sample sizes, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
No qualification 676 458 594 449 385 308 220
Other qualification 1,558 1,085 1,001 951 827 811 775
Degree-level or above 595 451 471 489 484 488 519
All 2,829 1,994 2,066 1,889 1,696 1,607 1,514

Age

Younger households more likely to be financially vulnerable

Figure 35 shows the proportion of households that were financially vulnerable, broken down by age of the household head.

Younger households tended to be more likely to be financially vulnerable. 41% of households with 16-34 year-old household heads were financially vulnerable in 2018-2020, similar to the 35-44 and 45-54 year-olds (38% and 39%, respectively). In contrast, 27% of households with heads aged 55-64, 22% of households with heads aged 65-74, and only 11% of households with heads aged 75 and over were financially vulnerable. Over time, the risk of financial vulnerability had decreased for all groups.

Figure 35: Younger households more likely to be financially vulnerable
Table 35a: Proportion of households who are financially vulnerable by age of the household head, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
16-34 49% 44% 48% 55% 54% 45% 41%
35-44 45% 44% 47% 47% 47% 40% 38%
45-54 40% 37% 32% 41% 40% 39% 39%
55-64 33% 31% 34% 27% 28% 27% 27%
65-74 26% 22% 24% 26% 29% 21% 22%
75+ 24% 21% 21% 21% 20% 13% 11%
All 38% 35% 35% 36% 36% 32% 30%
Table 35b: Composition of financially vulnerable households, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
16-34 24% 23% 23% 22% 19% 22% 19%
35-44 25% 25% 23% 21% 20% 21% 21%
45-54 19% 20% 18% 22% 24% 27% 26%
55-64 15% 16% 17% 14% 13% 16% 17%
65-74 9% 9% 10% 12% 14% 10% 12%
75+ 8% 8% 8% 9% 9% 6% 5%
All 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Table 35c: Median age of household head, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
16-34 27 29 29 29 28 27 28
35-44 40 40 40 41 41 40 40
45-54 49 49 49 49 50 49 50
55-64 59 60 59 59 59 59 59
65-74 69 68 68 69 69 70 69
75+ 79 80 80 82 78 78 79
All 45 45 47 48 49 47 49
Table 35d: Sample sizes, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
16-34 432 235 239 176 131 129 108
35-44 545 359 313 240 206 202 172
45-54 507 386 393 340 333 301 259
55-64 544 391 423 398 324 332 317
65-74 444 355 397 403 377 342 357
75+ 361 269 304 333 325 301 301
All 2,833 1,995 2,069 1,890 1,696 1,607 1,514

Marital

Married (or Civil Partnered) and widowed least likely to be financially vulnerable

Figure 36 shows the proportion of households that were financially vulnerable, broken down by marital status of the household head.

Households with married (or Civil Partnered) or widowed household heads were the least likely to be financially vulnerable. 19% of households with married or Civil Partnered household heads and 21% of households with widowed household heads were financially vulnerable in 2018-2020. Households with single (and never married), divorced (including separated), and cohabiting household heads were more likely to be financially vulnerable (48%, 45%, and 41%, respectively). Over time, the risk of financial vulnerability had decreased for all groups.

Figure 36: Married (or Civil Partnered) and widowed least likely to be financially vulnerable
Table 36a: Proportion of households who are financially vulnerable by marital status of the household head, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Divorced 56% 58% 51% 51% 51% 39% 45%
Single 53% 50% 48% 51% 46% 46% 48%
Cohabiting 43% 40% 48% 41% 41% 51% 41%
Widowed 32% 27% 27% 30% 27% 22% 21%
Married 27% 23% 26% 28% 29% 22% 19%
All 38% 35% 35% 36% 36% 32% 30%
Table 36b: Composition of financially vulnerable households, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Divorced 20% 23% 20% 19% 20% 17% 21%
Single 27% 27% 22% 21% 23% 27% 29%
Cohabiting 9% 9% 10% 10% 9% 15% 13%
Widowed 11% 10% 10% 12% 10% 8% 9%
Married 34% 32% 38% 38% 38% 33% 28%
All 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Table 36c: Median age of household head, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Divorced 50 50 53 52 57 58 56
Single 35 36 37 40 40 38 43
Cohabiting 32 33 33 35 37 32 35
Widowed 75 77 74 74 75 67 72
Married 47 46 47 47 47 49 47
All 45 45 47 48 49 47 49
Table 36d: Sample sizes, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Divorced 378 277 282 262 239 238 215
Single 501 318 312 253 251 226 206
Cohabiting 195 127 142 140 125 127 99
Widowed 374 253 282 286 243 220 245
Married 1,385 1,020 1,051 949 838 796 749
All 2,833 1,995 2,069 1,890 1,696 1,607 1,514

Children

Households with children more likely to be financially vulnerable

Figure 37 shows the proportion of households that were financially vulnerable, broken down by whether there were any dependent children living in the household.

Households with children were more likely to be financially vulnerable compared to those without. 37% of households with dependent children were financially vulnerable in 2018-2020, compared to 28% of households without any dependent children. Over time, the risk of financial vulnerability had decreased for both groups, but more so for households with children.

Figure 37: Households with children more likely to be financially vulnerable
Table 37a: Proportion of households who are financially vulnerable by whether there are dependent children living in the household, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
With children 51% 45% 47% 50% 52% 44% 37%
No children 33% 31% 31% 31% 30% 27% 28%
All 38% 35% 35% 36% 36% 32% 30%
Table 37b: Composition of financially vulnerable households, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
With children 35% 35% 35% 37% 37% 36% 30%
No children 65% 65% 65% 63% 63% 64% 70%
All 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Table 37c: Median age of household head, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
With children 40 40 37 39 40 40 41
No children 53 53 56 57 57 52 53
All 45 45 47 48 49 47 49
Table 37d: Sample sizes, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
With children 721 513 496 430 361 338 287
No children 2,112 1,482 1,573 1,460 1,335 1,269 1,227
All 2,833 1,995 2,069 1,890 1,696 1,607 1,514

Disability

Households with disabled members more likely to be financially vulnerable

Figure 38 shows the proportion of households that were financially vulnerable, broken down by whether there were any disabled household members.

Households with disabled household members were more likely to be financially vulnerable compared to those with no disabled household members. 40% of households with disabled members were financially vulnerable in 2018-2020, compared to 25% of households with no disabled members. Over time, the risk of financial vulnerability had decreased for both groups.

Figure 38: Households with disabled members more likely to be financially vulnerable
Table 38a: Proportion of households who are financially vulnerable by whether there are disabled household members, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Someone disabled 47% 46% 44% 45% 45% 37% 40%
No-one disabled 33% 30% 31% 32% 31% 29% 25%
All 38% 35% 35% 36% 36% 32% 30%
Table 38b: Composition of financially vulnerable households, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Someone disabled 38% 39% 39% 40% 43% 40% 46%
No-one disabled 62% 61% 61% 60% 57% 60% 54%
All 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Table 38c: Median age of household head, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Someone disabled 54 55 56 55 57 54 54
No-one disabled 41 42 43 44 44 42 44
All 45 45 47 48 49 47 49
Table 38d: Sample sizes, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Someone disabled 861 613 645 626 562 574 538
No-one disabled 1,972 1,382 1,424 1,264 1,134 1,033 976
All 2,833 1,995 2,069 1,890 1,696 1,607 1,514

Sex

Female-headed households more likely to be financially vulnerable

Figure 39 shows the proportion of households that were financially vulnerable, broken down by sex of the household head.

Female-headed households were more likely to be financially vulnerable compared to households with male household heads. 35% of female-headed households were financially vulnerable in 2018-2020, compared to 27% of male-headed households. Over time, the risk of financial vulnerability had decreased for both groups, but more so for female-headed households.

Note that some of the difference can be explained by lone parent households. Lone parent households have a high risk of being financially vulnerable, and most lone parent households are female-headed. However, excluding lone parent households from this analysis reduces the gap, but a gap remains.

Figure 39: Female-headed households more likely to be financially vulnerable
Table 39a: Proportion of households who are financially vulnerable by sex of the household head, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Female 47% 41% 40% 42% 43% 37% 35%
Male 31% 30% 31% 32% 30% 28% 27%
All 38% 35% 35% 36% 36% 32% 30%
Table 39b: Composition of financially vulnerable households, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Female 50% 47% 46% 48% 52% 49% 48%
Male 50% 53% 54% 52% 48% 51% 52%
All 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Table 39c: Median age of household head, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Female 45 46 46 48 49 46 52
Male 46 45 47 47 50 47 47
All 45 45 47 48 49 47 49
Table 39d: Sample sizes, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Female 1,109 786 814 781 702 672 609
Male 1,724 1,209 1,255 1,109 994 935 905
All 2,833 1,995 2,069 1,890 1,696 1,607 1,514

Rural

Urban households more likely to be financially vulnerable

Note that the Wealth and Assets Survey is not representative of areas north of the Caledonian Canal and the Scottish islands. Therefore, some of the most remote areas in Scotland are not included. Urban/rural breakdowns therefore require careful interpretation.

Figure 40 shows the proportion of households that were financially vulnerable, broken down by urban and rural areas.

Households in urban areas were more likely to be financially vulnerable compared to households in rural areas. 33% of urban households were financially vulnerable in 2018-2020, compared to 20% of rural households. Over time, the risk of financial vulnerability had decreased for both groups, but more so for rural households.

Figure 40: Urban households more likely to be financially vulnerable
Table 40a: Proportion of households who are financially vulnerable in urban and rural areas, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Urban 39% 36% 36% 38% 37% 33% 33%
Rural 34% 25% 30% 25% 25% 24% 20%
All 38% 35% 35% 36% 36% 32% 30%
Table 40b: Composition of financially vulnerable households, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Urban 76% 91% 89% 89% 90% 88% 89%
Rural 24% 9% 11% 11% 10% 12% 11%
All 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Table 40c: Median age of household head, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Urban 45 45 46 48 48 46 49
Rural 47 47 48 48 52 52 48
All 45 45 47 48 49 47 49
Table 40d: Sample sizes, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Urban 2,029 1,695 1,751 1,555 1,393 1,317 1,219
Rural 800 294 316 334 299 290 293
All 2,829 1,989 2,067 1,889 1,692 1,607 1,512

Ethnicity

Minority ethnic households similarly likely to be financially vulnerable compared to white British households

Figure 41 shows the proportion of households that were financially vulnerable, broken down by ethnicity of the household head.

Minority ethnic households and white British households had a similar risk of being financially vulnerable. 39% of minority ethnic households were financially vulnerable in 2018-2020, compared to 30% of white British households.

The risk for the two groups is described as similar, because the difference was not consistent over time. The financial vulnerability risk had fluctuated for the minority ethnic group, and decreased for the white British group. The fluctuations were likely caused by variability in the small minority ethnic sample, and they also reflect the larger measurement uncertainty for smaller subgroups of the population.

Note that minority ethnic households include white ethnic minorities such as EU citizens and gypsy/travellers.

Figure 41: Minority ethnic households similarly likely to be financially vulnerable compared to white British households
Table 41a: Proportion of households who are financially vulnerable by ethnicity of the household head, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Minority ethnic 38% 47% 38% 45% 26% 23% 39%
White British 38% 34% 34% 35% 37% 32% 30%
All 38% 35% 35% 36% 36% 31% 31%
Table 41b: Composition of financially vulnerable households, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Minority ethnic 7% 7% 6% 7% 4% 5% 10%
White British 93% 93% 94% 93% 96% 95% 90%
All 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Table 41c: Median age of household head, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Minority ethnic 37 35 40 31 34 36 43
White British 46 46 47 48 51 48 50
All 45 45 47 48 50 47 49
Table 41d: Sample sizes, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey; Family Resources Survey
Group 2006-2008 2008-2010 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Minority ethnic 186 88 86 71 61 67 76
White British 2,647 1,907 1,926 1,767 1,542 1,367 1,338
All 2,833 1,995 2,012 1,838 1,603 1,434 1,414

Unmanageable debt

Some households not only have no financial wealth, but they are in debt, or even in unmanageable debt. The definition of unmanageable debt in this report is identical to the Office for National Statistics’ problem debt, see their Household debt in Great Britain report.

In short, a household is in unmanageable debt if they have liquidity problems or solvency problems, or both. Liquidity problems mean people struggle with their debt repayments and are falling behind with bills. Solvency problems mean people have a large amount of debt and feel heavily burdened by it.

Unmanageable debt in Scotland is monitored within Scotland’s National Performance Framework.

Few households have unmanageable debt

Figure 42 shows the proportion of households with unmanageable debt over time.

Very few households in Scotland had unmanageable debt, just 4.1% in 2018-2020. This figure had changed little since 2010-2012, when data on unmanageable debt was first collected.

Figure 42: Few households have unmanageable debt
Table 42a: Proportion of households with unmanageable debt, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
All 5.6% 4.0% 2.8% 2.9% 4.1%
Table 42b: Median age of household head, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
All 44 43 41 40 43
Table 42c: Sample sizes, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
All 2,069 1,890 1,696 1,607 1,514

Note that unmanageable debt is a household-level measure, so breakdowns are for household characteristics such as household type and tenure, and individual characteristics of the household head (the person with the highest income).

We include a range of breakdowns below. Differences between groups are generally small, and estimates tend to fluctuate over time due to the variability of the small samples of those in unmanageable debt. Therefore, we are limited in interpreting changes over time, or identifying clear differences between groups.

We see the clearest differences between groups for economic status of the household head, household type and whether there are children in the household, housing tenure, and household income.

Data on religion, sexual orientation, or area deprivation is not available for this analysis.

Some of the breakdowns below may not be based on the full Scottish sample. This is because we excluded a small number of households where the breakdown characteristic was unknown.

Employment

Unemployed and inactive (but not retired) households most likely to have unmanageable debt

Figure 43 shows the proportion of households that had unmanageable debt, broken down by economic status of the household head.

Households where the household head was economically inactive (but not retired) or unemployed were the most likely to have unmanageable debt. 11.1% of these households had unmanageable debt in 2018-2020. In contrast, only 5.2% of households where the household head was employed had unmanageable debt. Households with retired or self-employed household heads had hardly any risk of having unmanageable debt.

Economic status data was available from 2014-2016.

Figure 43: Unemployed and inactive (but not retired) households most likely to have unmanageable debt
Table 43a: Proportion of households with unmanageable debt by economic status of the household head, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Inactive/Unemployed 10.3% 6.8% 7.2% 11.1%
Employed 4.7% 3.2% 3.4% 5.2%
Self-employed 3.3% 5.8% 2.2% 0.0%
Retired 1.1% 0.5% 0.3% 0.4%
All 4.0% 2.8% 2.9% 4.1%
Table 43b: Composition of households with unmanageable debt, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Inactive/Unemployed 28% 27% 30% 32%
Employed 57% 57% 62% 66%
Self-employed 6% 11% 5% 0%
Retired 9% 6% 3% 3%
All 100% 100% 100% 100%
Table 43c: Median age of household head, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Inactive/Unemployed 39 48 45 45
Employed 43 38 38 42
Self-employed 40 31 41 50
Retired 75 76 69 73
All 43 41 40 43
Table 43d: Sample sizes, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Inactive/Unemployed 177 156 163 136
Employed 816 728 689 630
Self-employed 131 103 114 109
Retired 766 709 641 639
All 1,890 1,696 1,607 1,514

Household

Lone parent households still most likely to have unmanageable debt

Figure 44 shows the proportion of households that had unmanageable debt, broken down by household type.

Lone parent households were the most likely to have unmanageable debt. 9.8% of lone parent households had unmanageable debt in 2018-2020. In contrast, pensioner households had hardly any risk of having unmanageable debt.

The 'Other' group contains households with additional adults such as non-dependent (grown-up) children.

Figure 44: Lone parent households still most likely to have unmanageable debt
Table 44a: Proportion of households with unmanageable debt by household type, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Lone parent 20.0% 12.9% 5.3% 9.1% 9.8%
Single working-age 8.5% 8.6% 5.2% 5.2% 7.1%
Couple with children 8.4% 4.6% 3.8% 3.1% 6.8%
Other 5.1% 3.8% 3.2% 2.1% 4.9%
Working-age couple 3.1% 3.8% 3.0% 3.3% 0.9%
Single pensioner 1.6% 1.1% 0.7% 0.4% 0.3%
Pensioner couple 0.9% 0.4% 0.1% 0.0% 0.3%
All 5.6% 4.0% 2.8% 2.9% 4.1%
Table 44b: Composition of households with unmanageable debt, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Lone parent 17% 16% 10% 16% 11%
Single working-age 23% 29% 28% 32% 34%
Couple with children 30% 23% 25% 21% 31%
Other 16% 14% 18% 12% 19%
Working-age couple 7% 11% 13% 17% 3%
Single pensioner 5% 5% 5% 2% 1%
Pensioner couple 2% 2% 0% 0% 1%
All 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Table 44c: Median age of household head, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Lone parent 38 45 44 36 43
Single working-age 47 36 51 45 52
Couple with children 37 39 32 39 38
Other 52 64 41 46 44
Working-age couple 43 43 38 25 45
Single pensioner 65 66 76 69 73
Pensioner couple 58 86 75 71 72
All 44 43 41 40 43
Table 44d: Sample sizes, Scotland
Source: Wealth and Assets Survey
Group 2010-2012 2012-2014 2014-2016 2016-2018 2018-2020
Lone parent 106 88 73 66 53
Single working-age 284 226 209 222 231
Couple with children 370 314 263 253 217
Other 279 242 235 227 193
Working-age couple 263 206 207 222 198
Single pensioner 366 391 349 295 302
Pensioner couple 401 423 360 322 320
All 2,069 1,890 1,696 1,607 1,514

Tenure

Social renters more likely to have unmanageable debt

Figure 45 shows the proportion of households that had unmanageable debt, broken down by housing tenure.

Households in the social rented sector were the most l