Assessing Nonresponse Bias in the Consumer Expenditure Interview Survey

Susan L. King, Boriana Chopova, Jennifer Edgar, Jeffrey M. Gonzalez, David E. McGrath, and Lucilla Tan


The Consumer Expenditure Interview Survey (CE) is a nationwide survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to estimate the expenditures made by American households. The response rate for the survey has varied between 74.5 and 78.6 percent over the past six years. In 2006, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a directive for any household survey with a response rate below 80 percent to conduct a study determining whether nonresponse introduces bias into the survey estimates. This paper is a synthesis of four studies undertaken to respond to OMB's directive. The four studies are: a comparison of response rates between subgroups of the survey's sample; a comparison of respondent demographic characteristics between the CE and the American Community Survey, an analysis of nonresponse bias using 'harder-to-contact' respondents as proxies for nonrespondents; an analysis of nonresponse bias using intermittent respondents and attritors as proxies for nonrespondents. Collectively, the studies show no meaningful bias in the survey's estimates even though the nonresponse is not missing completely at random.