Historically, the primary use of the CE data has been for the BLS’ CPI, a Principal Federal Economic Indicator of the United States. The CPI program uses the CE data to produce the budget shares for each of 211 expenditure items, and the CE collects detailed expenditures for more than 800 items used in the construction of the budget shares. In order to produce these budget shares, the CE collects a highly detailed disaggregation of a household’s annual spending. As an additional product from the CE, BLS publishes annual expenditure tables, collapsing the 800+ items into 96 different expenditure categories. BLS also produces microlevel data files for use in basic economic research and policy analysis. The users of the microdata generally are satisfied with these more aggregated categories of spending, but they have other requirements. For example, they want a complete picture of spending, income, and assets for each household in the survey. These users also need data collected on these households at multiple time periods to facilitate investigations of how spending and income change in different conditions.
From a survey design perspective, the uses of the CE have competing requirements. Setting expectations in his original communication with the panel, Michael Horrigan stated that the “CE needs to support CPI needs” and the “CE needs to support other data users as much as possible as long as the design to meet those needs meets the needs of the core CE mission” (see Appendix B). BLS also laid out the CPI Requirements of CE in Casey (2010). In May 2011, BLS issued a separate paper entitled Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE) Data Requirements (Henderson et al., 2011), which laid out the comprehensive CE needs beyond those of the CPI. The paper states, “for purposes of this document, the CPI constraints are assumed to be suspended. This is a theoretical exercise, and in no way indicates a lack of support for the CPI program after the survey redesign. This is simply to delineate CPI versus non-CPI requirements for the CE” (Henderson et al., 2011, p. 2).
At a Redesign Options Workshop convened by the panel in late October 2011, the breadth of requirements for the CE stimulated considerable discussion. On November 11, 2011, BLS modified its expectations for the panel’s work:
Therefore, contrary to previous direction to the panel that both the CPI Requirements of the CE (William Casey, June 17, 2010) and the CE Data Requirements (Henderson, Passero, Rogers, Ryan, Safir, May 24, 2011) collectively form the requirements for the survey, the program managers ask that the panel members treat the CE Data Requirements as the mandatory requirements for the survey. The CPI data requirements document