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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
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As a respondent, you may have some questions about the Consumer Expenditure Survey. Below are some frequently asked questions (FAQs). If you have additional questions not answered below, please contact the Census Regional Office that serves your area.
What is this survey about?
The Consumer Expenditure Survey measures how people in the United States spend their money on items such as housing, food, education, transportation, and healthcare.
Why is this survey important?
The Consumer Expenditure Survey is an essential source of data for the government. The information you provide will affect wages and pensions through adjustments due to changes in the cost of goods and services.
In addition, people in your community and throughout the country use the survey results for planning public services and addressing consumer needs. Your voluntary response is essential for ensuring that this survey’s results are complete and accurate.
What kinds of questions will I be asked?
If you have been selected for the Diary survey, you will write down in a diary all the purchases you make for two weeks. We will want to know about your purchases and the purchases of everyone who lives in your household.
If you have been selected for the Interview survey, you will answer a series of questions about purchases that you and other people in your household have made, and bills you have paid, in the past 3 months.
Why me? Why not interview someone else?
Your address was selected, not you personally, as part of a scientifically determined sample. Your household represents thousands of other households. We need to talk with someone from your household because only your household can accurately tell us how you spend your money.
What if I am retired, ill, unemployed, or just don’t spend much money?
We are interested in how all Americans spend their money. We can only have a complete picture if we talk to all types of people. You and your household represent thousands of other Americans in similar situations. It is important to hear from and learn about the spending habits of people of all ages and of all levels of spending in order to have data that accurately represents the country.
How long will the interview take?
If you have been selected for the Consumer Expenditure Diary Survey, we expect that it will take about 15 minutes to record your expenditures daily; in addition, it will take about 25 minutes for each of our visits over this two-week period.
If you have been selected for the Consumer Expenditure Interview survey, the average interview takes about 60 minutes. The length of the interview depends on many factors, including the number of people in your household and how your household spends its money.
Where can I find out more about the survey?
The Consumer Expenditure Survey is an official government survey. The survey is conducted by the Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can learn more about the data and results from the Consumer Expenditure Survey at www.bls.gov/cex.
If you have questions about how BLS uses the CE data, you can contact the CE at (202) 691-6900 or by email.
Last Modified Date: February 29, 2012