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. In subsequent waves interviews were conducted with 4,461 households (2014), 4,942 households (2017) and 4,119 households (2021). Almost half of the households in wave two took part for the second time. Two thirds of households who participated in wave three had already taken part in a previous wave. In wave four, the share of interviews with panel households in the total number of interviews reached 83%. The fifth wave started in spring 2023.
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.