Underreporting of Purchases in the U.S. Consumer Expenditure Survey


Motivated misreporting occurs when respondents give incorrect responses to survey questions to shorten the interview; studies have detected this behavior across many modes, topics, and countries. This paper tests whether motivated misreporting affects responses in a large survey of household purchases, the U. S. Consumer Expenditure Interview Survey. The data from this survey inform the calculation of the official measure of inflation, among other uses. Using a parallel web survey and multiple imputation, this paper estimates the size of the misreporting effect without experimentally manipulating questions in the survey itself. Results suggest that household purchases are underreported by approximately 5 percentage points in three sections of the first wave of the survey. The approach used here, involving a web survey built to mimic the expenditure survey, could be applied in other large surveys where budget or logistical constraints prevent experimentation.

Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology