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Consumer Expenditure Surveys

Changes to Published Tables in 2003

In 2003, the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE) modified the questions on race and Hispanic origin to comply with new standards for maintaining, collecting, and presenting Federal data on race and ethnicity for Federal statistical agencies. Beginning with the 2003 data, the CE tables use data collected from the new race and ethnicity questions. In addition to these changes, a more comprehensive review was undertaken to evaluate the classifications of published CE data with the goal of providing data users with additional information while maintaining data reliability and continuity with previously published data. As a result of this review and the new race and ethnicity changes, a number of new classifications of CE data are being made available with the publication of the 2003 data. A description of the changes for 2003 follows.

Race and ethnicity. In accordance with the new standards, the following changes were made to the CE questions:

  1. Individuals are now asked whether they are of Hispanic ethnicity before being asked about race, whereas prior to 2003, they were asked about their ethnic origin after they were asked about their race.
  2. Individuals are now asked directly if they are Hispanic or Latino, whereas previously they were identified as Hispanic based on their, or their ancestors’, country of origin.
  3. With respect to race, the response category of Asian and Pacific Islanders was split into two categories: a) Asian, and b) Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.
  4. The race question was reworded to indicate that individuals were allowed to choose more than one race category. Prior to 2003, individuals were required to select a single primary race.

As a result of the changes to the race and ethnicity questions, revisions were made to the CE published tables. Prior to 2003, CE data for race and Hispanic origin were included with housing tenure and type of area (urban-rural) in one table. Beginning in 2003, race and Hispanic origin are each shown in separate tables. The new definitions of race and Hispanic origin are included in the titles and column headings, so "Black" becomes "Black or African American," and "Hispanic" becomes "Hispanic or Latino." A new column for "Asian" is shown in the race table. In the "Hispanic or Latino" table, the "Not Hispanic or Latino" class is further divided into two classes: "White, Asian, and All Other Races", and "Black or African American." In order to compare 2003 and future data with earlier data, existing aggregations are maintained where possible. Therefore, the pre-2003 classes labeled "White and other" and "Black" have been kept with the new labels "White and All Other Races, and Asian" and "Black or African American." The 2003 data for race are by definition slightly different from data for earlier years due to the multi-race option. Approximately 1.3 percent of the CE reference persons selected more than one race. Also, the 2003 published tables are based on responses collected over the entire year and include a small percentage of answers using the old format. Because of the 3-month recall in the Interview Survey, the CE introduces changes to the questionnaire in April, not in January of any year. All respondents participating in the Interview Survey were asked the new race and ethnicity questions starting in April. A small portion of the sample had their last interview and rotated out of the survey in January through March 2003, so their race and ethnic origin were determined using the old definitions.

New data classifications beginning in 2003. The table review revealed that a number of additional data classes could be shown while maintaining the reliability of the data. Changes to existing tables and the addition of new tables include the following

  • Housing tenure and type of area—prior to 2003 these classifications were included in one table with the race and Hispanic origin classifications. Beginning in 2003, housing tenure and type of area are shown in one table. Under housing tenure, the homeowner class includes new subclasses for homeowners with mortgages and for those with no mortgage. Under type of area, the urban class includes new subclasses for central city and for other urban areas.
  • Higher income before taxes—the highest income class previously shown in the standard classification of income was for consumer units (CUs) with incomes of $70,000 and over. As incomes have risen over the years, the upper income class has grown substantially. The larger sample of upper income CUs allows for the publication of a new table that shows CE data for CUs with before tax incomes of $70,000 to $79,999, $80,000 to $99,999, $100,000 and over, $100,000 to $119,999, $120,000 to $149,999, and $150,000 and over.
  • Population size of area of residence—this is a new table for 2003 that shows CE data for urbanized consumers classified by population size. It includes urbanized areas with populations of less than 100,000, 100,000 to 249,999, 250,000 to 999,999, 1,000,000 to 2,499,999, 2,500,000 to 4,999,999, and 5,000,000 and over. Urbanized areas are defined as a central city plus the closely-settled urban fringe that together have a minimum population of 50,000. Urban areas (in the type of area table described above) are urbanized areas plus all places of over 2,500 inhabitants.

The CE staff will continue to evaluate the CE data in the future to determine if additional data classifications can be shown under the continuing constraints of data reliability and confidentiality.


Last Modified Date: April 12, 2005