The Consumer Expenditure Surveys (CE) program provides data on expenditures, income, and demographic characteristics of consumers in the United States. The CE program provides these data in tables, LABSTAT database, news releases, reports, and public use microdata files.
CE data are collected by the Census Bureau for BLS in two surveys, the Interview Survey for major and/or recurring items and the Diary Survey for more minor or frequently purchased items. CE data are primarily used to revise the relative importance of goods and services in the market basket of the Consumer Price Index. The CE is the only Federal household survey to provide information on the complete range of consumers' expenditures and incomes. Here is an overview of the CE program and its methods.
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CE Data Products
The CE surveys collect data that fall into one of the following major expenditure categories: Alcoholic beverages, Apparel and services, Cash contributions, Education, Entertainment, Food, Healthcare, Housing, Miscellaneous, Personal care products and services, Personal insurance and pensions, Reading, Tobacco products and smoking supplies, and Transportation. CE provides these expenditure data, along with demographics and income information, in four formats:
CE publications provide analyses of CE data to help users understand their meaning and the stories that they tell. These publications are headlined by a news release, which is published twice a year and accompanies CE's two data releases in the spring and fall. Publications are made available through official BLS series, including the Monthly Labor Review, Beyond the Numbers, Handbook of Methods, annual reports, and others. Additional CE program publications, documents, and presentations are available via the online CE library.
CE tables provide estimates by region, income, age, race, education, occupation, and other various household and reference person characteristics. In addition, CE provides tables that cross-tabulate using two characteristics (e.g., age and income) to allow users to further analyze the spending behavior for a particular subset of the population. Users interested in obtaining additional expenditure detail can access the ALL CU Prepublication tables, which contain the most detailed set of expenditure estimates calculated by the CE. Additional detailed tables by demographics are available upon request by contacting the CE program.
Public Use Microdata (PUMD)
CE PUMD enables data users to create custom estimates that are not available through other CE products. The PUMD are the set of Consumer Unit records from both the Interview and Diary Surveys, with disclosure protection enabled so that respondents cannot be identified. The disclosure protection in place meet strict confidentiality requirements set in place by the Census Bureau Disclosure Review Board. The PUMD include an extensive list of variables that allow in-depth analysis.
Users should be proficient with a statistical software package, such as SAS or R to use these files. They are available on the PUMD data page. To get started, you may want to explore the PUMD methodology with the CE PUMD Getting Started Guide and check the availability of data with the Dictionary for Interview and Diary Surveys (XLSX).
The CE program also provides access to restricted use data files that contain the same information as the Public Use Microdata files (PUMD), except with disclosure protection not in place. These files provide more detailed demographic, income, and expenditure data. These data can only be accessed at the BLS national office in Washington, DC. For onsite access at the BLS national office, users need to fulfill the following requirements:
- Be affiliated with a government agency, academic institution, or nonprofit organization.
- Be a U.S. citizen or legal resident.
- Be able to fund travel to Washington D.C.
- Demonstrate to BLS that your research is in the public's interest and will be made publically available.
- Receive clearance from both the BLS and the U.S. Census Bureau to access the restricted use data files (Title 13).
The process to access these files normally takes at least six months, and may take longer. For more information about onsite access, see the BLS restricted data access page.
CE LABSTAT Database provides time series data that are available through the following search tools:
- Data Finder allows you to search for selected time series variables by characteristics, create charts and tables, and export the data into Excel and CSV.
- One-Screen Data Search allows you to produce customized time series by households and their characteristics. Data can be exported into Excel through a single-screen form.
- Multi-Screen Data Search allows you to produce customized time series by households and their characteristics. Data can be exported into Excel through a series of steps using a multi-screen form.
The CE LABSTAT database only contains annual data, so Midyear tables cannot be replicated using the database. Also, the CE LABSTAT database does not include data on variances or metropolitan statistical areas. To get started, you may want to explore the Consumer Expenditure Surveys LABSTAT Getting Started Guide (PDF).
Methods of Contact
Consumer Expenditure Surveys program staff are available Monday through Friday to respond to inquiries.
Please use any of the methods below to contact the CE program. Inquiries should include your name, and phone
number, or email address, along with a brief message.
Incoming calls are connected to the office's voice mail and answered promptly.