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April 2010, Vol. 133, No. 4
Consumer Expenditure Survey Microdata Usersí Workshop, July 2009
Geoffrey D. Paulin
Geoffrey D. Paulin is a senior economist in the Publication and Development Section, Branch of Information and Analysis, Office of Prices and Living Conditions, Bureau of Labor Statistics. E-mail: Paulin.Geoffrey@bls.gov
The Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE) is the most detailed source of expenditure, demographic, and income data collected by the Federal Government. The data are collected in two component surveys: the (quarterly) Interview Survey and the Diary Survey. Each year, the CE program releases topcoded microdata from these surveys, which are used by researchers in a variety of areas, including academia, government, market research, and other private industries.
In 2006, the Division of Consumer Expenditure Surveys began conducting a workshop each July for users of the ce microdata. Held in the conference facilities of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) headquarters in Washington, DC, the workshops have included speakers demonstrating features of the data, as well as reports from researchers who have used the data in their work. The BLS recognizes the workshop, which averages 50 participants, as a "BLS Best Practice." Each year, the format has changed to incorporate suggestions from participants, but the basic framework has remained intact.
For the most recent workshop (July 2009), the program was expanded from 2 days to 3 days. The first day was designed especially for new users, including novices and those who had never used the data. The second day was designed to feature research from users outside the BLS. The third day was designed particularly for more experienced users. The program was arranged in this way to accommodate as many participants as possible. That is, any attendee could attend 1, 2, or all 3 days of the workshop and benefit from sessions geared toward his or her expertise.
The first day opened with a welcome by leader Bill Passero, followed by an overview of the CE, featuring topics such as how the data are collected and published (Veri Crain). This session was followed by an introduction to the microdata, including an explanation of its features (Passero and Jeff Crilley). In the afternoon, participants received practical "hands-on" training, with expert users from the Division of Consumer Expenditure Surveys staff (Laura Paszkiewicz and Crilley) demonstrating introductory computer programming techniques to participants in a classroom equipped with several computers.1
This excerpt is from an article published in the April 2010 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.
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1 Examples included how to merge data from the FMLY and MEMB files. The FMLY file contains information about the consumer unit as a whole, such as region of residence and summary variables for expenditure categories, including total expenditures, housing, and apparel. (For the definition of a consumer unit, see "About the CE data," in the appendix.) The MEMB files contain information about each member of the consumer unit, such as the memberís age, ethnicity, and educational attainment. Data on expenditures are collected for the consumer unit as a whole; therefore, expenditure data on specific members are not available, except in single-member consumer units.
Consumer Expenditure Survey
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