Field representatives place mid-week calls to diary-keepers to mitigate this problem—to ask whether the diary-keeper is having any difficulties and to encourage continued reporting through the week. In addition, the diary pick-up at the end of each week provides the field representative an opportunity to explore whether the respondent may have forgotten to record certain expenditures such as those from checks, cash, credit card payments, automatic online payments, or deductions from pay stubs. These mitigation strategies are not uniformly implemented. There are shortcuts allowed in the fielding of the Diary survey; for example, field representatives are permitted to place both one-week diaries at the same time. Thus, no “reinforcing” visits take place in these cases to examine diary entries and to encourage increased compliance during the second week. The panel did not have data on the extent of this practice or on how often the mid-week telephone calls were placed with households.
Conclusion 5-11: A major concern with the Diary survey is that respondents appear to suffer diary fatigue and lack motivation to report expenditures throughout the two-week data collection period and especially to go through the process of recording all items in a large shopping trip.
The current diary form suffers from a number of cognitive problems that make the diary-keeping process more difficult than it needs to be and thus can contribute to underreporting on those forms.
Learning to Complete the Diary May Be Confusing
An initial challenge facing respondents willing to complete the diary is sorting through all the instructions to understand how and where to report expenditures. The diary has 44 numbered pages plus front and back covers, both of which have attached foldout flaps. Fifteen separate pages (including covers and foldout flaps) provide instructions for the diary-keeper on what and how to report, with instructional material scattered among these 15 pages. On the front cover, the field representative identifies the days the diary is supposed to be kept and the first names of the people in the household. The foldout cover flap lists numerous examples for each category of expenditures. Page 1 tells “Why the CE Diary Is Important.” Page 2 describes “How to Fill Out Your Diary” and the four parts. Pages