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Consumer Expenditure Surveys

CE Interview Survey Introduction to CAPI Instrument


Beginning in April 2003, Consumer Expenditure Interview Survey data are collected via Computer Assisted Personal Interview (CAPI). The Interview Survey questionnaire, previously contained in a large booklet, is programmed into a laptop computer which is used by a Census Bureau field representative to conduct the interview.

The CAPI questionnaire was developed over several years in a joint effort by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau. The instrument is programmed in Blaise, a Windows-based survey processing system developed by Statistics Netherlands and licensed by Westat in the United States.

There are several benefits to updating the mode of data collection. For example, the length of the interview is lessened by the use of a computerized questionnaire. Furthermore, the complex structure of the questionnaire (i.e., changes in question order being dependent on the preceding response) is more easily managed by the CAPI system, thus reducing the burden on field representatives. Interviewers also have the ability to incorporate notes throughout the CAPI questionnaire, where they were previously limited to a few blank lines on the paper instrument. In terms of data processing, the use of CAPI generates great efficiency improvements by eliminating the need for keying information that was previously hand-written. The CAPI system also includes built-in range edits for several expenditure items allowing the field representative to verify reported amounts at the time of collection, rather than having data programs perform these edits post-interview. Finally, with the introduction of the CAPI instrument, several wording changes were implemented throughout the Interview Survey, both to streamline some of the more complex sections of the questionnaire and to modernize some of the language (for example, “Video tape recorder, video disc player, or video cassette recorder (VCR)” is now “VCRs, DVD players, or laser disc players”).

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Last Modified Date: April 7,2016