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National Accounts at a Glance 2011
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branch Capital
  branch 25. Non-financial assets held by households

Non-financial assets held by households reflect the assets owned by unincorporated household enterprises and dwellings owned by households, with the latter component forming by far the bulk of non-financial assets held by households. They form an important part of overall wealth and can provide an important additional source of revenue; either through their sale or refinancing, or as income via rentals of residential property for example. Estimates of non-financial assets held by households also play an important role in economic analyses, such as studies of asset bubbles, and analyses of living standards.

Definition

Non-financial assets held by households include in theory both produced and non-produced non-financial assets and therefore include: Dwellings and other buildings and structures and land improvements; Machinery and equipment including livestock; and even intellectual property products, such as software and literary originals, and non-produced assets such as land and taxi-licenses. In practice dwellings form by far the most significant component.

Except for dwellings, only those assets owned by household unincorporated enterprises, and used in production, are included as non-financial assets. For example a car used by a household purely for household transport is not a non-financial asset whereas a car used by a self-employed taxi driver is.

Non-financial assets are valued in the balance sheets at the market prices of the time of the balance sheet, and are recorded net of depreciation.

 

Comparability

Information on non-financial assets held by households typically relies on household based surveys and so the quality of such information, except for that pertaining to dwellings and land, is generally of lower quality than it is for similar information collected on incorporated businesses.

Moreover, in practice, countries use a variety of methods to differentiate between the value of dwellings and the land on which the dwellings sit, meaning that comparisons of these subcomponents across countries are challenging. Some countries, for example the United Kingdom, include the value of land under dwellings within the figures for dwellings. This matters not only for international comparability, and indeed temporal comparisons, but also because dwellings, as produced assets depreciate whereas (most) land, as a non-produced asset, does not. A particular challenge arises from capturing quality change and quality differences in the housing stock and valuing it accordingly.

The caveats above, pertaining to the distinction between land and dwellings, mean that users should be particularly careful in using the figures on the right in making international comparisons. The OECD Statistics Directorate will be working with national statistics institutes so that future versions of this publication reflect a greater degree of international comparability.

Data are net assets for all countries except for Slovak Republic and Poland (gross assets).

Online database

Further reading

Indicator in PDF Acrobat PDF page

Table
25.1. Non-financial assets of households per capita
    Table in Excel