streamline data collection and rethink what kinds of general and specific information need to be asked of respondents. Although the immediate applications to the CE of the particular approaches described at the workshop are not entirely clear, and although much remains to be understood about the relationship between survey length and respondent burden, the panel’s subsequent deliberations and proposals were influenced by such efforts.

Fifth, whether or not event history methods are the only or best way to stimulate all respondents’ recall, the panel took note of the insight that emerges from studies of alternative interviewing methods. A redesigned CE needs to go as far as it can to accommodate respondents’ natural ways of thinking about and recalling their expenditures, rather than asking respondents to conceive of their expenditures from the researcher’s perspective. More broadly, assuming that respondents can recall purchases accurately without consulting records is problematic, and a redesigned CE needs to promote the use of records far more than current methods do.

Finally, the panel took very serious note of the opportunities for using new technologies to facilitate more direct and in-the-moment self-administered reporting of expenditures, as well as for passive measurement of expenditures. It will be important for a CE redesign to make as much use of these opportunities as feasible, and to start a new forward-thinking mode of research and production that continually assesses the changing technological landscape and prepares as much as possible for changes before they happen.


In order to elicit a broader perspective on possible solutions to the CE’s problems, the panel sought formal input from organizations with experience in designing complex data collection methods. It is in this context that the panel initiated a Request for Proposal (RFP) and competitively awarded two subcontracts, one to Westat (project leader: David Cantor) and the second to a consortium from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, and Abt-SRBI (Nancy Mathiowetz, project leader; Kristen Olson; and Courtney Kennedy). The Statement of Work (see Appendix D) required the subcontractors to produce a comprehensive proposal for a survey design, and/or other data acquisition process, that collects the data required for the primary uses of the current CE while addressing the following issues:

  • Underreporting of expenditures
  • Fundamental changes in the social environment for collection of survey data

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