NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Is the Consumer Expenditure Survey Representative by Income?

John Sabelhaus, David Johnson, Stephen Ash, David Swanson, Thesia Garner, John Greenlees, Steve Henderson

NBER Working Paper No. 19589
Issued in October 2013
NBER Program(s):Economic Fluctuations and Growth

Aggregate under-reporting of household spending in the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE) can result from two fundamental types of measurement errors: higher-income households (who presumably spend more than average) are under-represented in the CE estimation sample, or there is systematic under-reporting of spending by at least some CE survey respondents. Using a new data set linking CE units to zip-code level average Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), we show that the very highest-income households are less likely to respond to the survey when they are sampled, but unit non-response rates are not associated with income over most of the income distribution. Although increasing representation at the high end of the income distribution could in principle significantly raise aggregate CE spending, the low reported average propensity to spend for higher-income respondent households could account for at least as much of the aggregate shortfall in total spending.

download in pdf format
   (425 K)

email paper

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w19589

Published: Is the Consumer Expenditure Survey Representative by Income?, John Sabelhaus, David Johnson, Stephen Ash, David Swanson, Thesia I. Garner, John Greenlees, Steve Henderson. in Improving the Measurement of Consumer Expenditures, Carroll, Crossley, and Sabelhaus. 2015

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Bee, Meyer, and Sullivan w18308 The Validity of Consumption Data: Are the Consumer Expenditure Interview and Diary Surveys Informative?
Sabelhaus, Johnson, Ash, Swanson, Garner, Greenlees, and Henderson Is the Consumer Expenditure Survey Representative by Income?
Crossley and Winter w19543 Asking Households About Expenditures: What Have We Learned?
Blair w19582 Constructing a PCE-Weighted Consumer Price Index
Barrett, Levell, and Milligan w19544 A Comparison of Micro and Macro Expenditure Measures Across Countries Using Differing Survey Methods
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
NBER Videos
Themes
Data
People
About

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us