Asking Households about Expenditures: What Have We Learned?

Thomas F. Crossley, Joachim K. Winter

Chapter in NBER book Improving the Measurement of Consumer Expenditures (2015), Christopher Carroll, Thomas Crossley, and John Sabelhaus, editors (p. 23 - 50)
Conference held December 2-3, 2011
Published in May 2015 by University of Chicago Press
© 2015 by the National Bureau of Economic Research
in NBER Book Series Studies in Income and Wealth

There is mounting evidence of problems with the household budget surveys conducted by national statistical agencies in many countries. When designing household surveys, including surveys that measure consumption expenditure, numerous choices need to be made. Which survey mode should be used? Do recall questions or diaries provide more reliable expenditure data? How should the concept of a household be defined? How should the length of the recall period, the level of aggregation of expenditure items, and the response format be chosen? How are responses affected by incentives? Can computer-assisted surveys be used to reduce or correct response error in real time? In this chapter, we provide a selective review of the literature on these questions. We also suggest some promising directions for future research.

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This paper was revised on July 16, 2014

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This chapter first appeared as NBER working paper w19543, Asking Households About Expenditures: What Have We Learned?, Thomas F. Crossley, Joachim K. Winter
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