Objectives of the Survey

The main goal of the HFCS is to collect structural information on euro area households’ assets and liabilities. The survey has also been designed to collect information that provides insights into households’ investment and consumption decisions.

The survey microdata are used to:

  • enhance understanding of individual household behavior;
  • evaluate the impact of economic policies and institutional changes;
  • analyze the impact of macroeconomic shocks; and
  • gain insights into various aspects of the monetary transmission mechanism and of financial stability.

The HFCS is the most comprehensive survey gathering information on the assets and liabilities of households in Europe. While some national surveys had been carried out in the past, they were not harmonized internationally, which limits their comparability; and they were typically not designed to collect information on the full range of variables necessary to arrive at a comprehensive assessment of households’ balance sheet.

For central banks, data on household finances and spending are an essential source of information, as they are key to better understanding the effectiveness of monetary policy and the economics of financial stability. One of the lessons of the financial crisis is that stability risk monitoring must go beyond assessing the level of aggregate household debt (which can be calculated using macrodata) because developments in specific income, occupational and age groups can have a major impact on the financial stability of an economy. Thus, one purpose of the HFCS in Austria was to close this empirical gap and to enhance the basis for monetary and financial stability policymaking. The HFCS moreover provides comparable structural data at the level of households in the euro area, which will also help improve forecast models and microsimulations.