Survey of Consumer Finances Series

Investigator(s): Economic Behavior Program, Survey Research Center, University of Michigan

Surveys of Consumer Finances were conducted annually from 1946 through 1971. The survey was again administered in 1977, 1983, 1986, 1989, 1992, 1995, and 1998, and is expected to be updated on a triennial basis. The major focus of these surveys is the collection of statistics on the distribution of consumer income, assets, debt, and major transactions. Interviewing is conducted in January-August of each year with questions covering (1) ownership of assets and financial balances, (2) source, purpose, and amount of debt, including installment debt, and (3) wage earners, and amount and source of current income, as well as previous year's income. Also explored are respondents' attitudes toward their personal financial situations and toward general economic conditions and prices, and respondents' expectations for the coming year. Information is sought on current and planned expenditures for housing, automobiles, and major durables. Personal characteristics reported include age and education of head of household, household composition, and occupation. Samples for the surveys are made up of a national cross-section of dwelling units representing the total population of the United States. In the early years the interviewing unit was the spending unit, but in 1964 it was changed to the family unit. Several financial innovations were instituted through the years, including the introduction of new financial instruments such as money market funds and the deregulation of financial markets. To assess the effects of these changes on the financial positions and behaviors of households, seven governmental agencies joined together to sponsor the 1983 Survey of Consumer Finances. For a discussion of the data, see the Federal Reserve Board, "Reports on the Surveys of Consumer Finances," FEDERAL RESERVE BULLETIN, and publications of the principal investigators. General reports of the data from the Surveys of Consumer Finances appear in these publications.