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Consumer Expenditure Surveys

CPS Data Comparison to the Consumer Expenditure Surveys

The Current Population Survey (CPS) is a monthly survey of households conducted by the Bureau of Census and co-sponsered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It provides a comprehensive body of data on the labor force, employment, unemployment, persons not in the labor force, hours of work, earnings, and other demographic and labor force characteristics.

Release ScheduleAnnually

Data Source

The Current Population Survey (CPS) is a monthly sample survey of 60,000 households. The survey is conducted using a combination of live telephone and in-person interviews. Information on special topics such as worker displacement, employee tenure, and military veterans with service-connected disabilities is gathered in periodic supplements to the basic monthly survey.

Data Type

Collection UnitHouseholds

Sample Characteristics

There are about 60,000 eligible households in the sample for this survey. This translates into approximately 110,000 individuals each month, a large sample compared to public opinion surveys, which usually cover fewer than 2,000 people. The CPS sample is selected to be representative of the entire population of the United States. In order to select the sample, all of the counties and independent cities in the country first are grouped into approximately 2,000 geographic areas (sampling units). The Census Bureau then designs and selects a sample of about 800 of these geographic areas to represent each state and the District of Columbia. The sample is a state-based design and reflects urban and rural areas, different types of industrial and farming areas, and the major geographic divisions of each state.

Notable Sample Exclusions

The survey excludes people living in institutions (for example, a correctional institution or a residential nursing or mental health care facility) and those on active duty in the Armed Forces. The survey is designed so that each person age 16 and over (there is no upper age limit) is counted and classified in only one group. The sum of the employed and the unemployed constitutes the civilian labor force.


Data Comparison

As seen in Chart 1 below, the CE estimates of income track closely with the Current Population Survey (CPS). The ratio since CE began using income imputation in 2004 has been between 85 and 94 percent. Deviations between the two products are directly attributed to coverage, definitional, and measurement differences. Beyond that, time period differences between the two surveys may also account for some of the difference.

For more information on these detailed expenditure ratios, please see the CPS tab in CE data comparisons linked below.

Methodology and Concordance:

The CE estimates provided in this comparison were developed using the same methods used in estimating average annual figures in the CE tables. For more information on this methodology, see the Tables Getting Started Guide. The CPS figures were developed using data from the CPS Annual Social and Economic Supplements. These files contain data for the entire U.S and are presented at the household-level. Population weights are used to generate estimates population estimates that can be compared with the CE.

Supporting Documentation

  • CE data comparison (XLSX)

Last Modified Date: January 28, 2022