Abt Associates: Bold thinkers driving real-world impact
For Immediate Release
July 21, 2011
NEW YORK, NY — One of the government’s most important surveys — the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CES) — is preparing for an overhaul, according to Mark Schulman, CEO of Abt SRBI, the survey arm of Abt Associates. Schulman said that Abt Associates, a leading global social and health policy research and program implementation firm, is one of two subcontractors of a contract awarded to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to provide redesign options for the widely used survey. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is the second subcontractor.
The CES, conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is the most broadly adopted indicator of consumer spending patterns. It also provides the market basket weights for the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the leading gauge of inflation. Government leaders, business executives, labor leaders and others use the index as a guide in making economic decisions.
"The CES is probably the most influential policy survey the government conducts,” said Schulman. “However, it needs to be updated to more accurately capture what Americans are purchasing and how much they are paying."
Schulman said that "the current survey is difficult to complete, so some people may be taking shortcuts and not reporting everything. It is also not adequately capturing online purchases."
Because the CES affects the Consumer Price Index (CPI), it is also used to adjust income payments tied to inflation. The index impacts the income of almost 80 million people, 70 million of whom are Social Security beneficiaries or food stamp recipients. More than 2 million workers are covered by collective bargaining agreements which tie wages to the CPI, and changes in the CPI also affect the cost of lunches for the 26.7 million children who eat lunch at school. Since 1985, the CPI has also been used to adjust the Federal income tax structure to prevent inflation-induced increases.
Over the next six months, the research team will investigate solutions to the methodological challenges presented by the CES and develop a report laying out a plan for re-designing the study. Among the issues researchers will address are measurement error, changes in the survey environment due to both new technology and consumer behaviors, and the need for greater flexibility in the mode of data collection.
The team is led by Nancy Mathiowetz, Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Kristen Olson, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Courtney Kennedy, Vice President of the Abt SRBI Advanced Methods Group.
About Abt Associates
Abt Associates is a mission-driven, global leader in research and program implementation in the fields of health, social and environmental policy, and international development. Known for its rigorous approach to solving complex challenges, Abt Associates was ranked as one of the top 20 global research firms in 2011 and also named one of the top 40 international development innovators. The company has multiple offices in the U.S. and program offices in nearly 40 countries.
Sandy Cogan, 301-347-5913
Abt Associates is a mission-driven, global leader in research, evaluation and program implementation in the fields of health, social and environmental policy, and international development. Known for its rigorous approach to solving complex challenges, Abt Associates is regularly ranked as one of the top 20 global research firms and one of the top 40 international development innovators. The company has multiple offices in the U.S. and program offices in more than 40 countries.