April 2014

Consumer Expenditure Survey Microdata Users’ Workshop and Survey Methods Symposium, 2013


Initially, Paulin focused on the consequences of discontinuing the bounding interview. These consequences include the need to add information collected only in the bounding interview to the second interview, as well as the additional interview time needed during the second interview. The question was then posed whether or not expenditures currently collected in the second interview can be successfully imputed from third, fourth, and fifth interviews to minimize respondent burden. The presentation suggested the modification of the Utilities and Apparel sections, as well as the categories for which respondents are asked about “usual” weekly/monthly expenditures. However, general and technical questions must be answered before any determination can be made.

Use of Financial Records in the CE Survey. Brandon Kopp (OSMR) reported that the CE Records Study focused on determining what records are available and from whom, while establishing how respondents’ self-reports compare with those records. Records were provided for 36 percent of the expenditures reported in the first visit, with participant characteristics such as non-Hispanic Whites, women, DC residents, and homeowners as well as expenditure characteristics such as recent purchases and more expensive purchases being positively associated with supplying records. While over- and under-reporting were not common, when over- and under-reporting did occur, respondents’ accuracy in reporting expenditure amounts was low, off by an average of 36 percent. However, the CE Records Study found records to be more accurate than self-reports.

The Records Information and Feasibility Study considered the information necessary for completing the CE Surveys that is available on financial records. Analysis shows that, while transaction data, an item description, and outlet information appear on most records, not all of the information CE needs is easily obtained on financial records and, consequently, respondent interaction is still necessary. The two records studies showed great promise, but future challenges remain, including 1) collecting a comprehensive set of records, 2) capturing transactions that do not yield records, and 3) easily and accurately converting records into tabular data.

Gemini Survey Redesign

A Comparison of Consumer Expenditure Surveys. As input into the CE Gemini Survey Redesign, Brett McBride (CE) presented on the Comparison of Consumer Expenditure Surveys, the design of which featured 35 countries’ household expenditure surveys that were selected based on the diversity of their characteristics and the extent of the information provided. Survey information was collected from program websites, methodology reports, and e-mail correspondence with survey representatives. The Comparison of Consumer Expenditure Surveys reports that common themes and innovations in other countries’ design characteristics can inform the CE Survey program’s redesign efforts. In addition, while the CE Survey shares similar data collection methods, it uniquely uses two independent samples and differs in some notable design features including 1) incorporation of new (online) technologies, 2) data collection at the individual level, and 3) the motivation of respondents through incentives.

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About the Author

Ian Elkin

Ian Elkin is a senior economist in the Consumer Expenditure Survey Program, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Geoffrey D. Paulin

Geoffrey D. Paulin is a senior economist in the Consumer Expenditure Survey Program, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.