that produce multiple values for planned or unplanned missing data from questionnaires, along with an understanding of how estimates and their standard errors can be generated by users. In addition, leveraging administrative and commercial data on expenditures will necessitate expertise in statistical methods for data linkage and integration. Estimation methods will require greater reliance on models and potentially the ability to create synthetic (fully imputed) datasets that can provide users with information to measure consumer behavior over time.

BLS staff must be hired or trained to carry out these activities. Knowledge of sampling techniques and weighting will not be enough. More expertise is needed in model-assisted and model-based estimation methods for sampling, imputation, estimation, data integration, and error modeling to generate data products, evaluate methodological research, and quantify error in estimates (including the impact of methodological changes).

  • Develop a more fluid bridge between operations, research, and expertise in other organizations.

More flexibility will be gained if research and operations staffs have closer ties. Production staff can help think through the practical issues that might arise with a new method (e.g., what might work well, what problems could arise) and gain exposure to possible future changes in the survey well before they are called upon to implement them. Research staff may develop more effective experiments and gain an understanding of aspects of data collection they are not familiar with. However, it will be important for program staff and research staff to have the technical abilities necessary to communicate with one another. This means that the two staffs must have a basic understanding of what each will bring to the table for solving both the statistical and operational problems that are sure to arise in implementing any new CE survey design.

Other agencies have extensive expertise in areas that will be of interest to BLS as it redesigns the CES and other surveys. For example, the Census Bureau, which currently has responsibility for the CE data collection, has expertise in using administrative data to augment survey datasets and is devoting considerable energy to expanding its abilities in this area. Census staff have also conducted research in survey designs that administer partial questionnaires to each respondent. Joint research endeavors can be used to leverage expertise in these areas.

In addition, where institutional barriers prove detrimental to conducting responsive research, it may be wise to develop partnerships with survey vendors who are able to provide a quicker and more effective research service than is possible within BLS.

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