Even so, modifications in the CE design have not kept pace with the changes in how consumers make (and remember) purchases, the reluctance of the public to respond to surveys, and the availability of newer survey methodology and technology.


In 2009, perceived decline in the quality of data collected spurred BLS to embark upon a concentrated effort to study and understand the potential sources of error in the CE. Known as the Gemini Project, this multiyear project seeks both to understand the potential causes of the decline in CE data quality and to design improvements that would reduce measurement error. As part of the Gemini Project’s efforts, BLS asked the National Research Council, through its Committee on National Statistics, to convene an expert panel. Box 1-1 provides the Statement of Task for the Panel on Redesigning the BLS Consumer Expenditure Surveys (referred to as “the panel” in this report).

Michael Horrigan, BLS associate commissioner for prices and living conditions, addressed the panel at its first meeting on February 3, 2011, providing more specific expectations. He called for flexible recommendations, saying that the “design recommendations should include a menu of comprehensive design options with the highest potential, not one specific all-or-nothing design.” He also stated that the “design recommendations should be flexible to allow for variation in program budget, staffing resources and skills, ability of the data collection contractors to implement,

BOX 1-1 Statement of Task

The National Research Council will convene an expert panel to contribute to the planned redesign of the Consumer Expenditure Surveys (CE) by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The panel will review the output of a data user needs forum and a methods workshop, both convened by BLS. It will also conduct a household survey data producer workshop to ascertain the experience of leading survey organizations in dealing with the types of challenges faced by the CE and a workshop on redesign options for the CE based on papers on design options commissioned from one or more organizations. Based on the workshops and its deliberations, the panel will produce a consensus report at the conclusion of a 24-month study with findings and recommendations for BLS to consider in determining the characteristics of the redesigned CE (National Research Council, 2011b).

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