A Comparison of Micro and Macro Expenditure Measures across Countries using Differing Survey Methods

Garry Barrett, Peter Levell, Kevin Milligan

This chapter is a preliminary draft unless otherwise noted. It may not have been subjected to the formal review process of the NBER. This page will be updated as the chapter is revised.

Chapter in forthcoming NBER book Improving the Measurement of Consumer Expenditures, Christopher Carroll, Thomas Crossley, and John Sabelhaus, editors
Conference held December 2-3, 2011
Forthcoming from University of Chicago Press
in NBER Book Series Studies in Income and Wealth

There are ongoing concerns about the reliability of household expenditure surveys in many countries. This chapter presents a comparative assessment of the performance of the household expenditure survey programs in Australia, Canada, the UK and US. We first assess the coverage of aggregate expenditure relative to national account benchmarks. It is found that the fall in response rates over time is predictive of changes in coverage rates within countries. Further, the growing concentration of income has been associated with an increasing concentration of expenditures which has not been captured well by the micro surveys. Turning to coverage rates for specific expenditure components, we find high and stable coverage of regularly purchased items, along with more volatile coverage of irregular and larger expenditure items. Therefore the aggregate patterns in coverage cannot be readily attributed to specific expenditure components or collection methods.

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This paper was revised on July 16, 2014

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This chapter first appeared as NBER working paper w19544, A Comparison of Micro and Macro Expenditure Measures Across Countries Using Differing Survey Methods, Garry Barrett, Peter Levell, Kevin Milligan
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