Household reference person

Mnemonic reference (code): HRPPUK11

Type: Derived variable

Definition: The concept of a Household Reference Person (HRP) was introduced in the 2001 Census (in common with other government surveys in 2001/2) to replace the traditional concept of the 'head of the household'. HRPs provide an individual person within a household to act as a reference point for producing further derived statistics and for characterising a whole household according to characteristics of the chosen reference person.

For a person living alone, it follows that this person is the HRP.

If a household contains only one family (with or without ungrouped individuals) then the HRP is the same as the Family Reference Person (FRP).

The Family Reference Person (FRP) is identified by criteria based on the family make up:

In a lone parent family it is taken to be the lone parent.

In a couple family, the FRP is chosen from the two people in the couple on the basis of their economic activity (in the priority order: full-time job, part-time job,

unemployed, retired, other). If both people have the same economic activity, the FRP is identified as the elder of the two or, if they are the same age, the first

member of the couple on the form.

If there is more than one family in a household the HRP is chosen from among the FRPs using the same criteria used to choose the FRP. This means the HRP will be selected from the FRPs on the basis of their economic activity, in the priority order:

Economically active, employed, full-time, non-student

Economically active, employed, full-time, student

Economically active, employed, part-time, non-student

Economically active, employed, part-time, student

Economically active, unemployed, non-student

Economically active, unemployed, student

Economically inactive, retired

Economically inactive, other

If some or all FRPs have the same economic activity, the HRP is the eldest of the FRPs. If some or all are the same age, the HRP is the first of the FRPs from the order in which they were listed on the questionnaire.

For families in which there is generational divide between family members that cannot be determined (Other related family), there is no FRP. Members of these families are treated the same as ungrouped individuals.

If a household is made up entirely of any combination of ungrouped individuals and other related families, the HRP is chosen from among all people in the household, using the same criteria used to choose between FRPs. Students at their non term-time address and short-term migrants cannot be the HRP.

Applicability: All people usually resident and in a household





Not household reference person


Household reference person


No code required

Total number of categories: 3

Not applicable category (X) comprises: Schoolchildren and full-time students living away from home during term-time and persons in communal establishments.

Source variables HRPPUK11 is derived from:

AGE (Derived variable)

ECOPUK11 (Derived variable)

FRPPUK11 (Derived variable)

FT1 (Derived variable)

PERSNUM (Primary variable)

RESIDENCE_TYPE (Primary variable)

SIZHUK11 (Derived variable)

TERMIND (Primary variable)

Known quality issues

This variable relies on relationship data, which include some known quality issues.  These are summarised on the Data Quality Issues Page.

There are 30 HRPs who are aged under 16.  The majority of these have been identified as being due to data quality issues; either with age being incorrect due to scanning, or the wrong person being assigned an HRP due to relationship issues (see relationship issues document).  Around 10% are genuine records.


To see which of our published standard, additional and commissioned tables use this variable please use the Table Index.