Consumer Expenditure Survey

CE CAPI Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is this survey all about?
  2. Who uses this information? What good is it?
  3. How is the data collected? How many times will I be interviewed?
  4. I hesitate to tell some things about myself, what protection do I have?
  5. Is this survey authorized by law?
  6. Proceed with the interview

1. What is this survey all about?

The Consumer Expenditure Survey collects information from the Nation's households and families on their buying habits (expenditures), income, and characteristics. The strength of the survey is that it allows data users to relate the expenditure and income of consumers to the characteristics of those consumers.

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2. Who uses this information? What good is it?

Data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey are used in a number of different ways by a variety of users. An important use of the survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is for the periodic revisions of the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Survey results are used to select new market basket of goods and services for the CPI, to determine the relative importance of CPI components and to derive new cost weights for the market basket.
Government and private agencies use the data to study the welfare of particular segments of the population. Economic policymakers use the data to study the impact of policy changes in the welfare of different socioeconomic groups. Researchers use the data in a variety of studies, including those that focus on the spending behavior of different family types and historical spending trends.

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3. How is the data collected? How many times will I be interviewed?

Data collection is carried out by the Bureau of the Census. In the Interview Survey, each consumer unit is interviewed every 3 months over 5 calendar quarters. In the initial interview, information is collected on demographic and family characteristics and on the inventory of major durable goods of the consumer unit. Expenditure information is collected in the second through fifth interview using uniform questionnaires. In the fifth interview, a supplement is used to account for changes in assets and liabilities.

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4. I hesitate to tell some things about myself, what protection do I have?

The information that respondents provide is used solely for statistical purposes. All Census Bureau data collectors take an oath of confidentiality and are subject to fines and imprisonment for improperly disclosing information provided by respondents. Names and addresses are removed from all forms and that information is not released as part of any statistical data.

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5. Is this survey authorized by law?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics conducts the Consumer Expenditure Survey under the authority of Title 29 of the U.S. Code. Congress authorizes the financial support for the CE survey through Public Laws 94-439 and 95-205.
The Bureau of the Census collects the CE data under the authority of Title 13, U.S. Code, Section 8b, which allows the Census Bureau to undertake surveys for other government agencies. Participation in the survey is voluntary. Under Title 13, the Census Bureau holds all information in strict confidence. We will not release information reported in the survey which would permit the identification of a household or any of its members to anyone outside of the Census Bureau.

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Last Modified Date: December 01, 2005

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