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Is the Consumer Expenditure Survey Representative by Income?

Author

Listed:
  • John Sabelhaus
  • David Johnson
  • Stephen Ash
  • David Swanson
  • Thesia Garner
  • John Greenlees
  • Steve Henderson

Abstract

Aggregate under-reporting of household spending in the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE) can result from two fundamental types of measurement errors: higher-income households (who presumably spend more than average) are under-represented in the CE estimation sample, or there is systematic under-reporting of spending by at least some CE survey respondents. Using a new data set linking CE units to zip-code level average Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), we show that the very highest-income households are less likely to respond to the survey when they are sampled, but unit non-response rates are not associated with income over most of the income distribution. Although increasing representation at the high end of the income distribution could in principle significantly raise aggregate CE spending, the low reported average propensity to spend for higher-income respondent households could account for at least as much of the aggregate shortfall in total spending.

Suggested Citation

  • John Sabelhaus & David Johnson & Stephen Ash & David Swanson & Thesia Garner & John Greenlees & Steve Henderson, 2013. "Is the Consumer Expenditure Survey Representative by Income?," NBER Working Papers 19589, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19589
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Richard Burkhauser & Shuaizhang Feng & Stephen Jenkins & Jeff Larrimore, 2009. "Recent Trends in Top Income Shares in the USA: Reconciling Estimates from March CPS and IRS Tax Return Data," Working Papers 09-26, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    2. 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.
    3. Thomas F. Crossley, 2009. "Measuring Consumption and Saving: Introduction," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 30(Special I), pages 303-307, December.
    4. Orazio Attanasio & Gabriella Berloffa & Richard Blundell & Ian Preston, 2002. "From Earnings Inequality to Consumption Inequality," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(478), pages 52-59, March.
    5. Jonathan Heathcote & Fabrizio Perri & Giovanni L. Violante, 2010. "Unequal We Stand: An Empirical Analysis of Economic Inequality in the United States: 1967-2006," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 13(1), pages 15-51, January.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Huo, Zhen & Ríos-Rull, José-Víctor, 2016. "Financial Frictions, Asset Prices, and the Great Recession," CEPR Discussion Papers 11544, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Rios-Rull, Jose-Victor & Huo, Zhen, 2016. "Financial Frictions, Asset Prices, and the Great Recession," Staff Report 526, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
    3. Jonathan Fisher & Joseph Marchand, 2014. "Does the retirement consumption puzzle differ across the distribution?," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 12(2), pages 279-296, June.
    4. Dettling, Lisa J. & Devlin-Foltz, Sebastian & Krimmel, Jacob & Pack, Sarah & Thompson, Jeffrey P., 2015. "Comparing Micro and Macro Sources for Household Accounts in the United States: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2015-86, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    5. Campos, Rodolfo G. & Reggio, Iliana, 2014. "Measurement error in imputation procedures," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 122(2), pages 197-202.
    6. repec:bla:revinw:v:63:y:2017:i:1:p:53-69 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Jesse Bricker & Alice Henriques & Jacob Krimmel & John Sabelhaus, 2016. "Measuring Income and Wealth at the Top Using Administrative and Survey Data," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 47(1 (Spring), pages 261-331.
    8. Barry Z. Cynamon & Steven M. Fazzari, 2017. "Household Income, Demand, and Saving: Deriving Macro Data With Micro Data Concepts," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 63(1), pages 53-69, March.
    9. Edward N. Wolff, 2016. "Deconstructing Household Wealth Trends in the United States, 1983 - 2013," NBER Working Papers 22704, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Garry Barrett & Peter Levell & Kevin Milligan, 2014. "A Comparison of Micro and Macro Expenditure Measures across Countries Using Differing Survey Methods," NBER Chapters,in: Improving the Measurement of Consumer Expenditures, pages 263-286 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Michael Gelman & Yuriy Gorodnichenko & Shachar Kariv & Dmitri Koustas & Matthew D. Shapiro & Dan Silverman & Steven Tadelis, 2016. "The Response of Consumer Spending to Changes in Gasoline Prices," NBER Working Papers 22969, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C83 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Survey Methods; Sampling Methods
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis

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