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, databases, 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, as well as the characteristics of those consumers. Researchers and government agencies also use CE data to study consumers' spending habits and trends. Here is an overview of the CE program and its methods.
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What kind of data do you need?
CE provides you its data in five formats:
- News releases and reports
These publications provide analysis of CE data and overviews of major spending trends.
You do not need statistical software to use these publications. They are available in two formats: News releases and reports.
- Tables of major expenditures, incomes, and demographic characteristics
These products provide data by region, income categories, age, race, education, occupation, or other household characteristics. In addition, CE provides tables that cross tabulate variables of interest by two characteristics, for example age and income.
You do not need statistical software to use these tables. They are available in two formats: Published tables or a database.
- Tables of detailed expenditure, incomes, and demographic characteristics
Provide additional expenditure detail and related reliability measures, such as standard error.
You need to take into account that some data points may be subject to significant sampling error causing a coefficient of variation of over 25 percent and thus should be used with caution. These tables are available on the experimental research tables page or upon request from CE.
- Public Use Microdata (PUMD) with edited survey responses
The PUMD contain edited data derived from the survey instruments. The data have been edited to meet strict confidentiality requirements set in place by BLS and the Census Disclosure Review Board. The PUMD include an extensive list of variables that allow in-depth analysis. CE staff edit these data in two main ways:
You may need to use PUMD with caution because some data points may have a large coefficient of variation and you should be proficient with a statistical software package, such as SAS or R to use these files.
- Anonymizes the data to protect the respondents' identities.
- Imputes components that respondents did not report in sufficient detail or were unwilling to share. These include types of income and income taxes.
They are available on the PUMD data page. To get started, you may want to explore the data availability with the Dictionary for Interview and Diary Survey (XLSX), and the methodology with the Getting Started Guide.
- Data files with unedited survey responses
This product contains the same information as the Public Use Microdata files (PUMD) except that the confidentiality measures to protect respondents' identities have not been applied. Thus, these data provide slightly more demographic, income, and expenditure data. You have to come to the BLS national office to use this product.
You may need to use these data files with caution because some data points may have a large coefficient of variation and you should be proficient with a statistical software package, such as SAS or R to use these files.
In addition, accessing these files is more involved than accessing the above alternatives. For onsite access at the BLS national office, you 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 publically available, and receive clearance from both BLS and the U.S. Census Bureau to access the unedited data (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.
Methods of Contact
Consumer Expenditure Survey 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, fax number, mailing address, or email address, along with a brief message.
Incoming calls are connected to the office's voice mail and answered promptly.
Bureau of Labor Statistics
Consumer Expenditure Surveys — Branch of Information and Analysis
Postal Square Building, Room 3985
2 Massachusetts Avenue, N.E.
Washington, DC 20212-0001