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Experimental Tests of Survey Responses to Expenditure Questions

  • Comerford, David

    ()

    (University College Dublin)

  • Delaney, Liam

    ()

    (University of Stirling)

  • Harmon, Colm P.

    ()

    (University of Sydney)

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.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 4389.

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Length: 21 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2009
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Fiscal Studies, 2009, 30 (3-4), 419-433
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4389
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  1. Delaney, Liam & O'Toole, Francis, 2008. "Individual, household and gender preferences for social transfers," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 348-359, June.
  2. Hurd, M., 1999. "Anchoring and Acquiescence Bias in Measuring Assets in Households Surveys," Papers 99-02, RAND - Labor and Population Program.
  3. Oswald, Andrew J., 2008. "On the Curvature of the Reporting Function from Objective Reality to Subjective Feelings," IZA Discussion Papers 3344, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Martin Browning & Thomas F. Crossley & Gugliemo Weber, 2002. "Asking Consumption Questions in General Purpose Surveys," CAM Working Papers 2002-05, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics. Centre for Applied Microeconometrics.
  5. Kahneman, Daniel & Ritov, Ilana & Schkade, David A, 1999. "Economic Preferences or Attitude Expressions?: An Analysis of Dollar Responses to Public Issues," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 19(1-3), pages 203-35, December.
  6. Winter, Joachim, 0000. "Bracketing effects in categorized survey questions and the measurement of economic quantities," Sonderforschungsbereich 504 Publications 02-35, Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Universität Mannheim;Sonderforschungsbereich 504, University of Mannheim.
  7. Schkade David A. & Payne John W., 1994. "How People Respond to Contingent Valuation Questions: A Verbal Protocol Analysis of Willingness to Pay for an Environmental Regulation," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 88-109, January.
  8. repec:ebl:ecbull:v:3:y:2004:i:9:p:1-12 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. Joachim Winter, 2004. "Response bias in survey-based measures of household consumption," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 3(9), pages 1-12.
  10. 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.
  11. Loomis John & Lockwood Michael & DeLacy Terry, 1993. "Some Empirical Evidence on Embedding Effects in Contingent Valuation of Forest Protection," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 45-55, July.
  12. Weber, Bethany J. & Chapman, Gretchen B., 2005. "Playing for peanuts: Why is risk seeking more common for low-stakes gambles?," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 97(1), pages 31-46, May.
  13. Dan Ariely & George Loewenstein & Drazen Prelec, 2003. ""Coherent Arbitrariness": Stable Demand Curves Without Stable Preferences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(1), pages 73-105, February.
  14. Liam Delaney & Francis O’Toole, 2006. "Willingness to pay: individual or household?," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer, vol. 30(4), pages 305-309, December.
  15. Drazen Prelec & George Loewenstein, 1991. "Decision Making Over Time and Under Uncertainty: A Common Approach," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 37(7), pages 770-786, July.
  16. Menon, Geeta & Raghubir, Priya & Schwarz, Norbert, 1995. " Behavioral Frequency Judgments: An Accessibility-Diagnosticity Framework," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(2), pages 212-28, September.
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