Related BLS programs | Related articles
September 2006, Vol. 129, No. 9
The CE and the PCE: a comparison
Thesia I. Garner, George Janini, William Passero, Laura Paszkiewicz, Mark Vendemia
Since the start of the ongoing Consumer Expenditure
Survey (CE) in 1980,
expenditure estimates from CE data have been compared regularly with corresponding expenditure estimates from other data sources to evaluate both the soundness of the CE estimates at any point in time and the consistency of the estimates over time. In 1987, Raymond Gieseman, the first within the Bureau of Labor Statistics (the Bureau, BLS) to use continuing survey data to conduct this work, stated the aim of the comparisons: "What was expected from these comparisons was a sense of degree and direction of possible survey errors, rather than an exact measure of bias, because the specific estimates from other sources are not necessarily the true values."1 In conjunction with other evaluation tools, data comparisons are employed to assess the cumulative effects of nonsampling errors on the quality of data obtained from the CE and to develop methodological studies to improve that quality.2
In addition to these internal uses, data comparisons have appeared regularly in CE publications. The major biennial releases of the CE program include tables comparing its data estimates with those from other sources. Articles on these comparative measures also have been published in the Monthly Labor Review.3
The primary source of independent data for comparison over the years has been the Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) of the National Income and Product Accounts, produced by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA); these data are the focus of this study. The PCE affords comprehensive coverage of item categories similar to those of the CE and, in fact, is used as a tool in the process of producing tables for CE publications.
This excerpt is from an article published in the September 2006 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
Read abstract Download full article in PDF (193K)
1 Raymond Gieseman, "The Consumer Expenditure Survey: quality control by comparative analysis," Monthly Labor Review, March 1987, pp. 814, quote from p. 9.
2 The CE consists of two components: a weekly Diary Survey and a quarterly Interview Survey. Simply put, in the former, respondents fill out two consecutive 1-week expenditure diaries. In the latter, respondents report expenditures through personal interviews every 3 months. Each CE component is described more fully later in this article. Early methodological work included the use of a supplementary Diary administered to respondents and interviewers to measure attitudes and behaviors associated with keeping the Diary, and the use of different formats for the Diary instrument. More recent work includes the testing of computer-assisted personal interviewing (CAPI). Findings from this work led to the use of a CAPI instrument to collect data in the Interview component since April 1, 2003, and in the household characteristics questionnaire of the Diary component since January 2004.
3 For recent published comparisons, see the following BLS publications: Consumer Expenditure Survey 199293, Bulletin 2462, September 1995; Consumer Expenditure Survey 199495, Bulletin 2492, December 1997; Consumer Expenditure Survey 199697, Report 935, September 1999; Consumer Expenditure Survey 199899, Report 955, November 2001; and Consumer Expenditure Survey 200102, Report 969, September 2003. Source data against which CE data have been compared include, for example, the National Health Expenditures from the Health Care Financing Administration, expenditures from the Residential Energy Consumption Survey and Residential Transportation Energy Consumption Survey from the Department of Energy, Progressive Grocer and Supermarket Business food expenditures, and personal consumption expenditures (PCE) of the National Income and Product Accounts from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Other occasional comparisons also have been conducted. For example, health insurance expenditures from the CE survey have been compared with those from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey supplied by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Appendix A includes a summary of sources that have been compared with the CE.
Related BLS programs
Consumer Expenditure Survey
Consumer Expenditure Survey, The: a comparative analysis.Dec. 1994.
Within Monthly Labor Review Online:
Welcome | Current Issue | Index | Subscribe | Archives
Exit Monthly Labor Review Online:
BLS Home | Publications & Research Papers