Consumer Expenditure Survey

CE Diary 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?

Proceed with the interview

1. What is this survey all about?

The Consumer Expenditure Diary Survey collects information from households and families on their buying habits. It helps us to understand what products and services are bought and how much is spent.

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

This survey has a number of uses. The most important is the periodic revision of the Consumer Price Index. The Consumer Price Index provides cost of living and wage adjustments, social security payment adjustments, and helps determine the cost of school lunches.

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?

I will be here a short time today to ask a few questions about your household. I will also drop off your first diary. How long it will take to write your expenses each day depends on how many things you buy. Some days, you may have nothing to record, other days may have a lot to record. It averages out to about 15 minutes a day.

After today, I will return in a week to pick up your completed diary and drop off the second diary. At the end of the second week, I will return to pick up the second completed diary and ask a few final questions.

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

Your names and addresses are removed from what you report in the diaries. All Census Bureau employees take an oath of confidentiality and are subject to fines and imprisonment, if they improperly disclose information provided by people like you. All information collected is used for statistical purposes only.

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5. Is this survey authorized by law?

Yes. The Bureau of Labor Statistics conducts the Consumer Expenditure Diary 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 Census Bureau 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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Go to CE Diary Household Characteristics Questionnaire Home Page

Last Modified Date: January 15, 2009

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