The BLS Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE) publishes tables that show average expenditures, income, and other consumer unit characteristics classified by selected variables. Among these variables are pretax income; housing tenure; and gender, age, race, Hispanic origin, and education of the reference person. When calendar year 2012 CE data are released on September 10, 2013, table 2000 on the education of the reference person will be replaced by table 2010, which is based on the highest education level of any member of the consumer unit.
A major reason for this change is that the highest level of education attained by any member of the consumer unit more accurately reflects the income and spending patterns of a consumer unit than does the education level of the reference person only. The reference person is the first household member mentioned by the respondent when asked to “Start with the name of the person or one of the persons who owns or rents the home.” It is with respect to this person that the relationship of the other consumer unit members is determined. Although it is useful to have information on the education of the reference person, it is not always the best way to classify CE data if other consumer unit members have higher levels of education.
Examples of both tables are shown below. These tables contain CE data for the 3rd quarter of 2011 through the 2nd quarter of 2012.
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In table 2000 (the “old” table), 30.9 percent of all consumer units have a reference person who has completed a bachelor's degree or more education. By comparison, in table 2010 (the “new” table), 37.7 percent of consumer units have at least one member who has completed a bachelor's degree or more education.
We welcome your comments about these tables and look forward to hearing from you.
Last Modified Date: June 24, 2013