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Asking Households About Expenditures: What Have We Learned?

  • Thomas F. Crossley
  • Joachim K. Winter

When designing household surveys, including surveys that measure consumption expenditure, numerous choices need to be made. Which survey mode should be used? Do recall questions or diaries provide more reliable expenditure data? How should the concept of a household be defined? How should the length of the recall period, the level of aggregation of expenditure items, and the response format be chosen? How are responses affected by incentives? Can computer-assisted surveys be used to reduce or correct response error in real time? In this paper, we provide a selective review of the literature on these questions. We also suggest some promising directions for future research.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19543.

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Date of creation: Oct 2013
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Asking Households about Expenditures: What Have We Learned? , Thomas F. Crossley, Joachim K. Winter. in Improving the Measurement of Consumer Expenditures , Carroll, Crossley, and Sabelhaus. 2015
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19543
Note: PE
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  1. Orazio Attanasio & Erich Battistin & Hidehiko Ichimura, 2004. "What Really Happened to Consumption Inequality in the US?," NBER Working Papers 10338, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Philipson, Tomas, 1997. "Data Markets and the Production of Surveys," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 64(1), pages 47-72, January.
  3. David Comerford & Liam Delaney & Colm Harmon, 2009. "Experimental Tests of Survey Responses to Expenditure Questions," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 30(Special I), pages 419-433, December.
  4. Michael D. Hurd & Susann Rohwedder, 2010. "Effects of the Financial Crisis and Great Recession on American Households," NBER Working Papers 16407, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Essig, Lothar & Winter, Joachim, 2003. "Item nonresponse to financial questions in household surveys: An experimental study of interviewer and mode effects," Sonderforschungsbereich 504 Publications 05-18, Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Universität Mannheim;Sonderforschungsbereich 504, University of Mannheim.
  6. Erich Battistin & Raffale Miniaci & Guglielmo Weber, 2000. "What do we learn from recall consumption data?," IFS Working Papers W00/10, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  7. Pudney, Stephen, 2008. "Heaping and leaping: survey response behaviour and the dynamics of self-reported consumption expenditure," ISER Working Paper Series 2008-09, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
  8. Adam Bee & Bruce D. Meyer & James X. Sullivan, 2013. "The Validity of Consumption Data: Are the Consumer Expenditure Interview and Diary Surveys Informative?," NBER Chapters, in: Improving the Measurement of Consumer Expenditures, pages 204-240 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Michael Hurd & Susann Rohwedder, 2009. "Methodological Innovations in Collecting Spending Data: The HRS Consumption and Activities Mail Survey," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 30(Special I), pages 435-459, December.
  10. Winter, Joachim, 2003. "Response bias in survey-based measures of household consumption," Munich Reprints in Economics 19725, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  11. Daniel McFadden & Albert Bemmaor & Francis Caro & Jeff Dominitz & Byung-Hill Jun & Arthur Lewbel & Rosa Matzkin & Francesca Molinari & Norbert Schwarz & Robert Willis & Joachim Winter, 2005. "Statistical Analysis of Choice Experiments and Surveys," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 16(3), pages 183-196, December.
  12. van Soest, Arthur & Hurd, Michael, 2008. "A Test for Anchoring and Yea-Saying in Experimental Consumption Data," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 103, pages 126-136, March.
  13. Martin Browning & Thomas F. Crossley & Guglielmo Weber, 2003. "Asking consumption questions in general purpose surveys," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(491), pages F540-F567, November.
  14. Clarke, Philip M. & Fiebig, Denzil G. & Gerdtham, Ulf-G., 2008. "Optimal recall length in survey design," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(5), pages 1275-1284, September.
  15. Charles F. Manski & Elie Tamer, 2002. "Inference on Regressions with Interval Data on a Regressor or Outcome," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(2), pages 519-546, March.
  16. Martin Browning & Thomas Crossley, 2009. "Are Two Cheap, Noisy Measures Better Than One Expensive, Accurate One?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 99-103, May.
  17. Martin Browning & S¯ren Leth-Petersen, 2003. "Imputing consumption from income and wealth information," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(488), pages F282-F301, 06.
  18. Philipson, Tomas & Malani, Anup, 1999. "Measurement errors: A principal investigator-agent approach," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 91(2), pages 273-298, August.
  19. Menno Pradhan, 2009. "Welfare Analysis with a Proxy Consumption Measure: Evidence from a Repeated Experiment in Indonesia," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 30(Special I), pages 391-417, December.
  20. Richard Blundell & Luigi Pistaferri & Ian Preston, 2008. "Consumption Inequality and Partial Insurance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(5), pages 1887-1921, December.
  21. Frauke Kreuter & Susan McCulloch & Stanley Presser & Roger Tourangeau, 2011. "The Effects of Asking Filter Questions in Interleafed Versus Grouped Format," Sociological Methods & Research, , vol. 40(1), pages 88-104, February.
  22. Matthew Brzozowski & Thomas F. Crossley, 2011. "Viewpoint: Measuring the well-being of the poor with income or consumption: a Canadian perspective," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 44(1), pages 88-106, February.
  23. Philipson, Tomas, 2001. "Data Markets, Missing Data, and Incentive Pay," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(4), pages 1099-1111, July.
  24. Naeem Ahmed & Matthew Brzozowski & Thomas Crossley, 2006. "Measurement errors in recall food consumption data," IFS Working Papers W06/21, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  25. Hoderlein, Stefan & Winter, Joachim, 2010. "Structural measurement errors in nonseparable models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 157(2), pages 432-440, August.
  26. Garry Barrett & Peter Levell & Kevin Milligan, 2013. "A Comparison of Micro and Macro Expenditure Measures Across Countries Using Differing Survey Methods," NBER Working Papers 19544, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  27. Martin H. David & Christopher R. Bollinger, 2005. "I didn't tell, and I won't tell: dynamic response error in the SIPP," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(4), pages 563-569.
  28. Hausman, J. A. & Newey, W. K. & Powell, J. L., 1995. "Nonlinear errors in variables Estimation of some Engel curves," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 65(1), pages 205-233, January.
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  30. Micklewright, John & Schnepf, Sylke V., 2007. "How Reliable Are Income Data Collected with a Single Question?," IZA Discussion Papers 3177, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  33. Jens Bonke & Martin Browning, 2009. "The Allocation of Expenditures within the Household: A New Survey," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 30(Special I), pages 461-481, December.
  34. Skinner, Jonathan, 1987. "A superior measure of consumption from the panel study of income dynamics," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 213-216.
  35. Melvin Stephens Jr., 2002. "'3rd of tha Month': Do Social Security Recipients Smooth Consumption Between Checks?," NBER Working Papers 9135, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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