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April 2010

Consumer Expenditure Survey Microdata Users’ Workshop, July 2009

Geoffrey D. Paulin

The Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE) is the most detailed source of expenditure, demographic, and income data collected by the Federal Government. The data are collected in two component surveys: the (quarterly) Interview Survey and the Diary Survey. Each year, the CE program releases topcoded microdata from these surveys, which are used by researchers in a variety of areas, including academia, government, market research, and other private industries. In 2006, the Division of Consumer Expenditure Surveys began conducting a workshop each July for users of the ce microdata. Held in the conference facilities of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) headquarters in Washington, DC, the workshops have included speakers demonstrating features of the data, as well as reports from researchers who have used the data in their work. The BLS recognizes the workshop, which averages 50 participants, as a "BLS Best Practice." Each year, the format has changed to incorporate suggestions from participants, but the basic framework has remained intact. For the most recent workshop (July 2009), the program was expanded from 2 days to 3 days. The first day was designed especially for new users, including novices and those who had never used the data. The second day was designed to feature research from users outside the BLS. The third day was designed particularly for more experienced users. The program was arranged in this way to accommodate as many participants as possible. That is, any attendee could attend 1, 2, or all 3 days of the workshop and benefit from sessions geared toward his or her expertise. The first day opened with a welcome by leader Bill Passero, followed by an overview of the CE, featuring topics such as how the data are collected and published (Veri Crain). This session was followed by an introduction to the microdata, including an explanation of its features (Passero and Jeff Crilley). In the afternoon, participants received practical "hands-on" training, with expert users from the Division of Consumer Expenditure Surveys staff (Laura Paszkiewicz and Crilley) demonstrating introductory computer programming techniques to participants in a classroom equipped with several computers

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