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Consumer Expenditure Surveys

Large Scale Feasibility Test of Online Diaries

The Large Scale Feasibility Test (LSF) was proposed in the Gemini Redesign Project as the final field test of the online diary instrument prior to implementation. The field test would build on information learned from prior tests and have sufficient sample to make statistical inferences.

The main objectives were to:

  • Develop an online diary instrument which can be accessed on a computer and mobile device and will be integrated with a case management system.
  • Develop systems, field procedures and training materials for fielding the online diary.
  • Analyze the data and paradata from the feasibility test to make decisions on the implementation of online diaries in the Consumer Expenditure (CE) Diary Survey in 2022.

The results of the LSF will be used to inform the design and implementation of online diaries in the CE Diary Survey in 2022.

OMB Clearance

OMB Clearance No: 1220-0050
Expiration: 09/30/2022

POC Lead Contact (BLS)

Parvati Krishnamurty

Full Design Overview

Large Scale Feasibility Test of Online Diaries Detailed Overview

This page provides a brief overview of the LSF design and related material. For a detailed overview of the design, click on the above PDF link for the LSF Detailed Overview.

The test involved a small pilot test conducted in July 2019, followed by a six-month field test starting in October 2019 with a starting sample of 2,500 cases. Interviewers made two visits to households, one to place the diaries and the other to pick up the diaries. An experiment on the use of incentives and pre-notification postcards was part of the test. Respondents were provided a two week online diary if they qualified based on responses to screening questions. If they were ineligible or refused the online diary, they were placed with paper diaries. Interviewer debriefing was conducted after data collection to get feedback on procedures, instruments, and materials. Respondent feedback on the online diary procedures, instrument, materials, and overall experience was obtained through a self-administered respondent debriefing.


The LSF included an incentive and pre-notification postcard experiment. The selected initial sample was divided into two randomly assigned incentive groups and three pre-notification postcard groups.

  • Group 1 (incentive group) received a pre-notification postcard by U.S. mail followed by an advance letter via Priority Mail. The advance letter provided information about the study and included a $5 bill as an unconditional incentive.

The remaining non-incentive group (Group 2) was divided into two randomly assigned subgroups for the postcard experiment:

  • Group 2A respondents received no incentive with the advance letter but received a pre-notification postcard.
  • Group 2B received no incentive and no pre-notification postcard. This group was a randomly selected half of the non-incentive group in the sample.

Advance Materials

Advance letters describing the interview were sent via Priority Mail, about one week prior to each month of interviews. Prenotification postcards were sent by first class mail prior to the advance letter. The postcards and advance letters sent to the incentive group referenced the incentive.

Online Diary Materials

Respondents were given a printed User Guide and directed to video tutorials on YouTube to assist them with using different features of the online diary.

Control Group

Standard CE Diary Survey with paper diaries.


The results of the LSF are outlined in a preliminary report (which uses unprocessed test data) and a final report (which used the processed data). The online diary was provided as an alternate mode in the CE Diary Survey during the Covid-19 pandemic and will officially be implemented into production in July 2022.


Last Modified Date: February 17, 2022