National Academies Press: OpenBook

Measuring Poverty: A New Approach (1995)

Chapter: Consumer Expenditure Survey

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Suggested Citation:"Consumer Expenditure Survey." National Research Council. 1995. Measuring Poverty: A New Approach. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4759.
Page 391

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APPENDIX B 391 APPENDIX B Data Sources for Measuring Poverty This appendix provides information on the major features of four continuing surveys that provide data relevant to measuring poverty and economic well-being: the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CEX), the Current Population Survey (CPS) March income supplement, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), and the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). The appendix also provides detailed comparisons of the features and quality of the March CPS and SIPP. The March CPS is the current source of the nation's official income and poverty statistics; we recommend that SIPP become the official source instead (see Chapter 5). (The report of the Panel to Evaluate SIPP made the same recommendation; see Citro and Kalton, 1993:8). MAJOR FEATURES OF THE CEX, MARCH CPS, PSID, AND SIPP Consumer Expenditure Survey The CEX is sponsored by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and conducted by the Census Bureau, with a current budget of about $12 million per year. Historically, surveys of expenditures by consumers (with varying names and formats) were fielded at roughly 10- to 15-year intervals from 1901 to 1950. The 1950 survey was the first one to be officially designated the Consumer Expenditure Survey. The 1950 and 1960-1961 surveys used annual recall for expenditures. In 1972-1973, the current design of a quarterly Interview Survey and a two-week Diary Survey was introduced. In 1980 the CEX became a continuing survey. Its major uses are to provide the market basket

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Each year's poverty figures are anxiously awaited by policymakers, analysts, and the media. Yet questions are increasing about the 30-year-old measure as social and economic conditions change.

In Measuring Poverty a distinguished panel provides policymakers with an up-to-date evaluation of:

  • Concepts and procedures for deriving the poverty threshold, including adjustments for different family circumstances.
  • Definitions of family resources.
  • Procedures for annual updates of poverty measures.

The volume explores specific issues underlying the poverty measure, analyzes the likely effects of any changes on poverty rates, and discusses the impact on eligibility for public benefits. In supporting its recommendations the panel provides insightful recognition of the political and social dimensions of this key economic indicator.

Measuring Poverty will be important to government officials, policy analysts, statisticians, economists, researchers, and others involved in virtually all poverty and social welfare issues.

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