The PHF is a representative survey of German households comprising both a panel and a refresher component. The panel structure mimics that of the [U.S.] Panel Study on Income Dynamics (PSID). All households are re-contacted, and all individuals tracked. The intended survey frequency is three years.
During the PHF's first wave in 2010-2011 a net sample of 3,565 randomly selected households was collected. The survey’s second wave took place in summer 2014. In total 4,500 households participated in the second wave. Of those, about 2,200 households had also taken part in wave one. Between March and November 2017 the third wave of the PHF survey was conducted with almost 5,000 participating households. The fourth wave is scheduled to start in spring 2021.
The survey is based on a stratified design. To better measure the distribution of wealth in Germany, wealthy households are oversampled on the basis of micro-geographical information.