Bureau of Labor Statistics The Consumer Expenditure Quarterly Interview survey asks respondents to


report their expenses for a three month period. The survey asks about a wide range of expenses, asking specific questions about expenses the household has had in the past three months (e.g., “Since the first of June, how much have you spent on pants?”). These questions require respondents to recall specific purchases and report the details of each. This paper explores the strategies 76 participants used when answering questions about usual spending patterns. Additionally, participant responses were reviewed for evidence that they followed interview instructions, including accounting for the purchases of other household members and using the correct reference period. There are four questions in the interview that are an exception to this pattern of questioning. These questions ask respondents about usual expenditure patterns (e.g., “Since the first of June, what has been your usual weekly expense for groceries?”) instead of specific purchases. Respondents are asked to estimate typical spending over a three month period for four expenditures: food at home, food away from home, alcohol at home and alcohol away from home. Previous research has found respondents use a variety of strategies to answer these types of questions, including recalling each specific episode (Bradburn et al. 1987), recalling some events and using that information to generalize (Conrad et al. 1998), using time periods between episodes to estimate (Lessler et al. 1989), or retrieving relevant stored information and making some calculations to adjust it

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