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WASHINGTON -- Next month U.S. Census Bureau field representatives will start gathering data about how much Americans spend on groceries, as well as what they spend on other essentials such as clothing, transportation, housing, and health care. It will gather the data from a sample of households across the United States.
The Census Bureau's Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE) program features two separate surveys: the Interview Survey, for which about 15,000 households will be interviewed once every three months to obtain data on relatively large expenditures, and also for those expenditures that occur on a regular basis, such as rent and utilities; and the Diary Survey, which will require another 12,500 households to keep two consecutive one-week diaries of all purchases during the year, including small, frequently bought items that are normally difficult for respondents to remember later, such as fast food at a drive-through window, a soda or candy bar from a vending machine, or a carton of eggs from the supermarket.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will then publish integrated data from the two surveys, providing a picture of the United States' economy and spending habits. Government economists will employ the survey results to update a "market basket" of goods and services for the Consumer Price Index, the nation's most widely used measure of inflation.
"Data from the CE enable policymakers to evaluate consumer needs, make informed decisions about the impact of policies on families, and track changes in consumer spending," the bureau noted in a statement.