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Quentin Brummet, Denise Flanagan-Doyle, Joshua Mitchell, John Voorheis, Laura Erhard, and Brett McBride


In this paper, we investigate the potential of applying administrative records income data to the Consumer Expenditure (CE) survey to inform measurement error properties of CE estimates, supplement respondent-collected data, and estimate the representativeness of the CE survey by income level. We match individual responses to Consumer Expenditure Quarterly Interview Survey data collected from July 2013 through December 2014 to IRS administrative data in order to analyze CE questions on wages, social security payroll deductions, self-employment income receipt and retirement income. We find that while wage amounts are largely in alignment between the CE and administrative records in the middle of the wage distribution, there is evidence that wages are over-reported to the CE at the bottom of the wage distribution and under-reported at the top of the wage distribution. We find mixed evidence for alignment between the CE and administrative records on questions covering payroll deductions and self-employment income receipt, but find substantial divergence between CE responses and administrative records when examining retirement income. In addition to the analysis using person-based linkages, we also match responding and non-responding CE sample units to the universe of IRS 1040 tax returns by address to examine non-response bias. We find that non-responding households are substantially richer than responding households, and that very high income households are less likely to respond to the CE.

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