These patterns appear again in a later (2010) evaluation survey. Field representatives working on the CE surveys were asked how often respondents use records and receipts to help report their expenditures. Thirty-two percent reported that respondents rarely used these records and another 50 percent reported that respondents only sometimes used records. Only 18 percent of field representatives said that respondents often used records. In that same study, 68 percent of field representatives said that respondents never or rarely consulted online or electronic records.7
Geisen, Richards, and Strohm (2011) reported on a study conducted for BLS on the availability of records and response accuracy without those records. They conducted two interviews with the same households (n = 115) within a week of each other. Incentives were given for both interviews. The first interview asked respondents to complete nine sections of the CE Interview survey. Afterward, respondents were asked to gather all of the records they had relevant to that interview, and they were re-interviewed within the week with their gathered records. The second interview focused on matching the original response to available records. They found that respondents had records for only 36 percent of the expenditure items and 41 percent of the income items. Records were most likely to be available for property taxes (59 percent), mortgage payments (59 percent), and subscriptions (53 percent). The most recent pay stub was available only 40 percent of the time. Regarding response accuracy without records, the authors found that the expenditure amount reported in the first interview “matched”8 the amount on the record only 53 percent of the time. The difference varied greatly by expenditure categories, and ranged from an 11 percent underestimate to an 83 percent overestimate.
The increasing use of telephone interviewing in the CE may reduce the respondent’s use of records in responding. In preliminary results from a 2011 survey of field representatives working on the CE survey (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011d), 45 percent of field representatives reported that respondents were much less or somewhat less likely
7Internal Bureau of Labor Statistics memo dated November 18, 2010.
8Geisen, Richards, and Strohm (2011) classify a matched response as one in which the initial response was between 90–110 percent of the record amount (for amounts . $200); 95–105 percent of the record amount if the amount was > $200; and 95–105 percent of the record amount for rent, mortgage loan, and income regardless of amount.