NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

A Comparison of Micro and Macro Expenditure Measures Across Countries Using Differing Survey Methods

Garry Barrett, Peter Levell, Kevin Milligan

NBER Working Paper No. 19544
Issued in October 2013
NBER Program(s):   EFG   PE

This paper presents a comparative assessment of the performance of the household expenditure survey programs in Australia, Canada, the UK and US. Cross-country and time series variation in survey methodology and experience is used to assess the role of factors influencing the performance of the household surveys.

First, coverage of aggregate expenditure relative to national account is examined. Coverage rates are highest in Canada and the UK. Over the past three decades coverage remained fairly stable in Canada and Australia; in the UK and US coverage rates declined sharply. Survey response rates and top income shares are then considered in tandem with coverage rates. Falls in response rates are found to be predictive of changes in coverage rates. Further, the change in coverage rates over time coincided with the growing concentration of income, indicating that growing inequality contributed to declining coverage rates.

Specific expenditure components were then examined. There was no clear pattern by collection method. Most evident is the high and stable coverage of regularly purchased items (e.g. food), along with the more volatile coverage of irregular and larger expenditure items (e.g. vehicles, furniture and household equipment). The aggregate patterns in coverage cannot be attributed to specific expenditure components or collection methods.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w19544

Forthcoming: A Comparison of Micro and Macro Expenditure Measures across Countries using Differing Survey Methods, Garry Barrett, Peter Levell, Kevin Milligan. in Improving the Measurement of Consumer Expenditures, Carroll, Crossley, and Sabelhaus. 2014

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