Experimental Tests of Survey Responses to Expenditure Questions

21 Pages Posted: 15 Oct 2009

See all articles by David Comerford

David Comerford

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Liam Delaney

University College Dublin (UCD) - Geary Institute and Department of Economics

Colm P. Harmon

The University of Sydney - School of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Abstract

This paper tests for a number of survey effects in the elicitation of expenditure items. In particular we examine the extent to which individuals use features of the expenditure question to construct their answers. We test whether respondents interpret question wording as researchers intend and examine the extent to which prompts, clarifications and seemingly arbitrary features of survey design influence expenditure reports. We find that over one quarter of respondents have difficulty distinguishing between "you" and "your household" when making expenditure reports; that respondents report higher pro-rata expenditure when asked to give responses on a weekly as opposed to monthly or annual time scale; that respondents give higher estimates when using a scale with a higher mid-point; and that respondents report higher aggregated expenditure when categories are presented in a disaggregated form. In summary, expenditure reports are constructed using convenient rules of thumb and available information, which will depend on the characteristics of the respondent, the expenditure domain and features of the survey question. It is crucial to further account for these features in ongoing surveys.

Keywords: expenditure surveys, survey design, data experiments

JEL Classification: D03, D12, C81, C93

Suggested Citation

Comerford, David and Delaney, Liam D. and Harmon, Colm P., Experimental Tests of Survey Responses to Expenditure Questions. IZA Discussion Paper No. 4389. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1489212

David Comerford (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Liam D. Delaney

University College Dublin (UCD) - Geary Institute and Department of Economics ( email )

Newman Building (Room G215)
Belfield, Dublin 4
Ireland

Colm P. Harmon

The University of Sydney - School of Economics ( email )

Rm 370 Merewether (H04)
Sydney, NSW 2006 2008
Australia

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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