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Is a User‐Friendly Diary More Effective? Findings from a Field Test

Eric Figueroa, Jeanette Davis, Sally E. Reyes-Morales, Nhien To, and Lucilla Tan


The Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE) is a nationwide survey of households conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Bureau of Census to find out how Americans spend their money. The Diary survey, one of two survey instruments in the CE, is intended to collect weekly expenditures of frequently purchased items such as food and beverages, tobacco, personal care products, and nonprescription drugs and supplies. To improve the "user-friendliness" of the existing Diary, feedback was used from survey respondents, field interviewers and program staff to design several alternative diary instruments. Based on the findings from focus groups on these alternatives, CE management selected one of them (the Redesigned Diary) for field testing. The Redesigned Diary field test took place during the last four months of 2002. The primary objective of the field test was to compare data quality and response rates obtained using the Redesigned Diary with those obtained using the current Diary. This paper reports findings, as well as lessons learned, from the field test.