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Experimental Tests of Survey Responses to Expenditure Questions

Author

Listed:
  • Comerford, David

    () (University College Dublin)

  • Delaney, Liam

    () (University of Stirling)

  • Harmon, Colm P.

    () (University of Sydney)

Abstract

This paper tests for a number of survey effects in the elicitation of expenditure items. In particular we examine the extent to which individuals use features of the expenditure question to construct their answers. We test whether respondents interpret question wording as researchers intend and examine the extent to which prompts, clarifications and seemingly arbitrary features of survey design influence expenditure reports. We find that over one quarter of respondents have difficulty distinguishing between "you" and “your household” when making expenditure reports; that respondents report higher pro-rata expenditure when asked to give responses on a weekly as opposed to monthly or annual time scale; that respondents give higher estimates when using a scale with a higher mid-point; and that respondents report higher aggregated expenditure when categories are presented in a disaggregated form. In summary, expenditure reports are constructed using convenient rules of thumb and available information, which will depend on the characteristics of the respondent, the expenditure domain and features of the survey question. It is crucial to further account for these features in ongoing surveys.

Suggested Citation

  • Comerford, David & Delaney, Liam & Harmon, Colm P., 2009. "Experimental Tests of Survey Responses to Expenditure Questions," IZA Discussion Papers 4389, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4389
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Martin Browning & Thomas F. Crossley & Guglielmo Weber, 2003. "Asking consumption questions in general purpose surveys," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(491), pages 540-567, November.
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    8. Lindhjem, Henrik & Navrud, Ståle, 2008. "Asking for Individual or Household Willingness to Pay for Environmental Goods? Implication for aggregate welfare measures," MPRA Paper 11469, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Joachim Winter, 2004. "Response bias in survey-based measures of household consumption," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 3(9), pages 1-12.
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    Cited by:

    1. Beegle, Kathleen & De Weerdt, Joachim & Friedman, Jed & Gibson, John, 2012. "Methods of household consumption measurement through surveys: Experimental results from Tanzania," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 98(1), pages 3-18.
    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, pages 23-50 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    survey design; expenditure surveys; data experiments;

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • C81 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Methodology for Collecting, Estimating, and Organizing Microeconomic Data; Data Access
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments

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