Census Bureau To Survey Nation's Spending Habits

ATLANTA — In January 2011, U.S. Census Bureau field representatives will begin collecting information about how much Americans spend for groceries, clothing, transportation, housing, health care and other items from a sample of households across the country.

The Consumer Expenditure Survey consists of two parts:

 • The Interview Survey — During the year, about 15,000 households will be visited each quarter to obtain data on relatively large expenditures and also those expenditures that occur on a regular basis (such as rent and utilities).

• The Diary Survey — During the year, another 12,500 households will be asked to keep two consecutive one-week diaries of smaller, more frequent purchases that may be difficult for respondents to recall later (such as a fast-food purchase at a drive-through window, a soda or candy bar from a vending machine, or a carton of eggs from the supermarket).

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics then calculates and publishes integrated data from the two surveys — providing a snapshot of our nation's economy and spending habits. Government economists use the survey results to update a “market basket” of goods and services for the Consumer Price Index, our nation's most widely used measure of inflation.

“Data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey enable policymakers to evaluate consumer needs, make informed decisions about the impact of policies on families and track changes in consumer spending,” said George Grandy Jr., director of the Census Bureau's Atlanta Regional Office.