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Methodological Innovations in Collecting Spending Data: The HRS Consumption and Activities Mail Survey

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  • Michael Hurd
  • Susann Rohwedder

Abstract

It has traditionally been believed that collecting survey measures of total spending necessarily involved asking a large number of questions, too many for inclusion of a comprehensive spending measure in a general-purpose survey. In this paper the authors report on a supplemental survey to the Health and Retirement Study that took up this challenge. They discuss issues that arise designing a survey module to collect spending data with strict time constraints, describe how the implementation in the Consumption and Activities Mail Survey (CAMS) played out, and elicit anomalies that more detailed analysis of data quality revealed. They report how they addressed some of these anomalies in subsequent waves of CAMS. Other anomalies required conducting additional randomized experiments to find what explains the observed patterns. The results highlight the tension between asking about spending using a long time frame, which exacerbates recall bias, versus using a short time frame, which risks relying on an unrepresentative snapshot of a household's spending to proxy the total for the last 12 months. An important complicating factor in deciding which goods should be put into which time frames is that there is substantial heterogeneity in the frequency of spending across households even for the same category of spending.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Institute for Fiscal Studies in its journal Fiscal Studies.

Volume (Year): 30 (2009)
Issue (Month): Special Issue on Measuring Consumption and Saving (December)
Pages: 435-459

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Handle: RePEc:ifs:fistud:v:30:y:2009:i:3-4:p:435-459

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Cited by:
  1. Hoderlein, Stefan & Winter, Joachim, 2009. "Structural Measurement Errors in Nonseparable Models," Discussion Papers in Economics 9192, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  2. Thomas F. Crossley & Joachim K. Winter, 2014. "Asking Households about Expenditures: What Have We Learned?," NBER Chapters, in: Improving the Measurement of Consumer Expenditures National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Michael D. Hurd & Susann Rohwedder, 2011. "Economic Preparation for Retirement," NBER Chapters, in: Investigations in the Economics of Aging, pages 77-113 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Michael Hurd & Susann Rohwedder, 2011. "Consumption and Differential Mortality," Working Papers wp254, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  5. Michael D. Hurd & Susann Rohwedder, 2012. "Measuring Total Household Spending in a Monthly Internet Survey: Evidence from the American Life Panel," NBER Working Papers 17974, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Michael D. Hurd & Susann Rohwedder, 2011. "The Effects of the Financial Crisis on Actual and Anticipated Consumption," Working Papers wp255, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.

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