Consumer Expenditure Survey, 2013: Diary Survey Files (ICPSR 36275)

Published: Oct 19, 2015

Principal Investigator(s):
United States Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics


Version V1

The Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE) program provides a continuous and comprehensive flow of data on the buying habits of American consumers, including data on their expenditures, income, and consumer unit (families and single consumers) characteristics. These data are used widely in economic research and analysis, and in support of revisions of the Consumer Price Index.

The CE program is comprised of two separate components (each with its own survey questionnaire and independent sample), the Diary Survey and the quarterly Interview Survey (ICPSR 36237). This data collection contains the Diary Survey component, which was designed to obtain data on frequently purchased smaller items, including food, housing, apparel and services, transportation, entertainment, and out-of-pocket health care costs. Each consumer unit (CU) recorded its expenditures in a diary for two consecutive 1-week periods. Although the diary was designed to collect information on expenditures that could not be easily recalled over time, respondents were asked to report all expenses (except overnight travel) that the CU incurred during the survey week.

The 2013 Diary Survey release contains five sets of data files (FMLD, MEMD, EXPD, DTBD, DTID), and one processing file (DSTUB). The FMLD, MEMD, EXPD, DTBD, and DTID files are organized by the quarter of the calendar year in which the data were collected. There are four quarterly datasets for each of these files.

The FMLD files contain CU characteristics, income, and summary level expenditures; the MEMD files contain member characteristics and income data; the EXPD files contain detailed weekly expenditures at the Universal Classification Code (UCC) level; the DTBD files contain the CU's reported annual income values or the mean of the five imputed income values in the multiple imputation method; and the DTID files contain the five imputed income values. Please note that the summary level expenditure and income information on the FMLD files permit the data user to link consumer spending, by general expenditure category, and household characteristics and demographics on one set of files.

The DSTUB file provides the aggregation scheme used in the published consumer expenditure tables. The DSTUB file is further explained in Section III.F.6. "Processing Files" of the Diary Survey Users' Guide. A second documentation guide, the "Users' Guide to Income Imputation," includes information on how to appropriately use the imputed income data.

Demographic and family characteristics data include age, sex, race, marital status, and CU relationships for each CU member. Income information was also collected, such as wage, salary, unemployment compensation, child support, and alimony, as well as information on the employment of each CU member age 14 and over.

The unpublished integrated CE data tables produced by the BLS are available to download through NADAC (click on "Other" in the Dataset(s) section). The tables show average and percentile expenditures for detailed items, as well as the standard error and coefficient of variation (CV) for each spending estimate. The BLS unpublished integrated CE data tables are provided as an easy-to-use tool for obtaining spending estimates. However, users are cautioned to read the BLS explanatory letter accompanying the tables. The letter explains that estimates of average expenditures on detailed spending items (such as leisure and art-related categories) may be unreliable due to so few reports of expenditures for those items.

United States Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Consumer Expenditure Survey, 2013: Diary Survey Files. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2015-10-19.

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Primary Sampling Unit


2013 (First Quarter through Fourth Quarter)

Please refer to the BLS Consumer Expenditure Survey Web page for additional information about this data series.

Variable NEWID (CU's unique identification number) can be used to link records across the data files.

This collection has been minimally processed. ICPSR has extracted variable label and value label information from the Diary Data Dictionary (contained within the ICPSR Codebook) and applied these labels to the corresponding data files. Additionally, UCC item codes have been applied for each UCC variable.

National probability sample of households designed to represent the total United States non-institutionalized civilian population.

Longitudinal: Trend / Repeated Cross-section

Eligible population includes all civilian non-institutional persons.

Consumer Unit

survey data

computer-assisted personal interview (CAPI)

face-to-face interview



2015-10-19 ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Created variable labels and/or value labels.

The data are not weighted. However, the data files feature various weight variables that users may wish to apply during analyses. Please refer to the Diary Survey Users' Guide for a detailed explanation of the weighting procedures.


  • Data in this collection are available only to users at ICPSR member institutions.

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