Integrating Nonmarket Consumption into the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey

Integrating Nonmarket Consumption into the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey
In spring 2021, under the direction and encouragement of Commissioner William Beach, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) kicked off a major initiative—to produce a measure of consumption to supplement the release of consumer expenditures. The production of such a measure would fill a data gap regarding household economic well-being. For years BLS staff, with support from the public, had discussed the possibility of producing a consumption measure. However, it was the experience of COVID-19 and the role of home production for consumption that nudged the Bureau to promote the development of such a measure. To support this new initiative, the BLS sought input from the greater research community and public: first through the organization of a Consumption Symposium; and second through a Request for Information (RFI) that would result in an outside BLS contract. Consumption Symposium speakers included well-known national and international researchers who are expert in various aspects of measurement, including home production; the Symposium was held September 21–22, 2021. In parallel, the RFI was issued in May 2021 with responses received in July 2021. This was followed by Request for Quotation (RFQ) in September 2021. The Levy Institute was awarded the contract with a period of performance of twelve months beginning September 30, 2021.
The following report includes the Levy Institute’s findings in developing an empirical methodology and identifying data sources (including the BLS American Time Use Survey) to extend the consumer expenditure data collected by the BLS (using Consumer Expenditure Surveys) by incorporating household production (nonmarket and nongovernmental services such as do-it-yourself home repairs and childcare). The researchers—Ajit Zacharias, Fernando Rios-Avila, Nancy Folbre, and Thomas Masterson—found that an overwhelming share of home production is provided by women. Distinct from most previous research, this research extends the scope of household production to include supervisory childcare and care received by household members from people outside their household. Estimates are generated for various major components of household production, such as childcare and cooking, rather than a single category. Included are estimates by alternative methods with monetary values of household production. This research represents an extension of the work the Levy Institute has been doing in bringing the realm of household production into economic analysis, including the creation of alternative measures of economic well-being (LIMEW) and poverty (LIMTIP).
During fiscal year 2024, the BLS will be evaluating the methodology proposed in this report with an expectation that a BLS consumption measure that includes home production will be forthcoming in 2025.
The full report can be downloaded here.

Tables and figures from the report can be downloaded here.

Additional detailed information on the quality checks conducted regarding the imputations from the ATUS data can be found here.

The GitHub repository files contain detailed information on the three methods of imputation, weekday and weekend imputations, and results pertaining to each CE file (Interview, Diary, quarter, etc.). These files contain information that we used to check the quality of imputations. Users who want to use a particular method (say statistical matching) and a particular file (say third-quarter Interview sample) can check the quality of imputation for their use with the help of the information available in the repository. In assessing the quality, the users could use the strategy we provide in the report or their own criteria.

Publication Highlight

Public Policy Brief No. 156
Still Flying Blind after All These Years
The Federal Reserve’s Continuing Experiments with Unobservables
Author(s): Dimitri B. Papadimitriou, L. Randall Wray
December 2021

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