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Fed To Collect Information On US Households' Finances

Saturday, March 30, 2013 - 9:43 AM
Yesterday,  3/28/13, in the Business Today section of our local newspaper, there was a concerning article stating that next month the Federal Reserve will begin to survey households across the nation to get a more accurate picture of their economic condition. Such information has helped the Fed formulate policies related to the recent economic recovery, changes in the use of credit and other issues. 

Has anyone else read about this or heard anything about it on tv etc.?  It seems to me the Fed can find out all it wants already about us by checking our income tax reports.  Is there more to this than what it seems??  Just wondering.
paoli2paoli21,406 posts since
Aug 10, 2011
Rep Points: 6,150
1. Saturday, March 30, 2013 - 9:50 AM
I found a little more information on the survey in this USA Today article.

I always wonder about the validity of the results from surveys. How many people want to spend their night answering survey questions? In addition to the time, who wants to give financial type of info to a stranger over the phone. I don't know who would want to participate unless the survey takers offer some compensation and have a way to ensure privacy.
Ken TuminKen Tumin5,472 posts since
Nov 29, 2009
Rep Points: 125,708
2. Saturday, March 30, 2013 - 10:06 AM
Paoli, by law, income tax records are not accessible by the Fed, they are private. Some of the info on them might be availabe, such as wages earned, but the tax filing itself is not. Income tax filings are highly restricted.

Ken, I agree. I long ago decided it was not the least bit safe to answer any question from anyone calling on the phone for any kind of survey, no matter who it was (which is actually who they say they are). About the only other way the Fed would be doing this would be by mail (but maybe not if they want it back by Saturday!). 
me1004me1004373 posts since
Jan 16, 2010
Rep Points: 2,600
3. Saturday, March 30, 2013 - 6:19 PM
Our government is certainly active when it comes to surveying its citizens.    

In addition to the well-known census which is conducted every 10 years, the Census Bureau regularly conducts and publishes other information on a fixed schedule.  Throughout the decade between censuses, surveys are conducted regularly to provide a picture of the changing social and economic conditions in the US. 

For instance, an economic census and a census of governments are conducted at 5-year intervals.  In addition, an American Community Survey (ACS) is conducted annually, although it is not done in every community at the same time.   The ACS covers social, housing, demographic and financial information and is similar to the decennial census, but asks for more detail.   The data is used for a wide variety of efforts, such as planning public policy, determining where new highways will be built, assisting in planning disaster relief services, and determining the allocation of over $400 billion in state and local funding. 

You can read about the Census Bureau’s efforts here

I was not familiar with the Federal Reserve’s survey effort, so was thankful for Ken’s citing of the USA Today article.  It is a concise overview of the upcoming Federal Reserve study.  This press release from the Fed covers in greater detail how participants are selected and the interview process.  Summary results for the 2013 study will be published in early 2015 after all data from the survey have been assessed and analyzed.

It seems to me, though, that despite all the data collection, assessment and analysis, nothing will ever change as long as our elected leaders continue to serve their own interests as well as those of their special interest group supporters before serving those of the people who elected them. 
pearlbrownpearlbrown1,485 posts since
Nov 2, 2010
Rep Points: 6,449
4. Saturday, March 30, 2013 - 6:37 PM
As far as the privacy/confidentiality issues mentioned by Ken and me1004, the Federal Reserve's letter to the selected households is available here

Excerpts from the letter (highlighting, underlining and selection of font is mine):
"Within the next few months, a specially trained interviewer from NORC at the University of Chicago, a social science research organization acting on our behalf, will contact you to request an appointment for an interview.  Participation in the survey is voluntary, but I urge you to take part."

... "I assure you that we give the highest priority to guarding the privacy of all survey participants and the confidentiality of their answers.  Your name will never be associated with the answers you provide.  In fact, neither I nor anyone else at the Federal Reserve is allowed to know your name and address.  That information is only available to employees of NORC who are directly involved in conducting the survey and who have signed a legally binding statement of confidentiality.  At the conclusion of the project, we require that NORC permanently destroy all name and address files from the survey.  The answers provided by participants will be used only for statistical purposes.

So, participation is voluntary, there is no compensation, and you don't need to sharpen a #2 pencil to complete any forms because the interview is done in your home.   

The 2010 census takers ran across many individuals who were adamantly opposed to giving any but the most basic required information.  This effort asks for more personal and detailed data - and in this day and age, I really wonder how many people will choose to participate voluntarily in this effort. 
pearlbrownpearlbrown1,485 posts since
Nov 2, 2010
Rep Points: 6,449
5. Sunday, March 31, 2013 - 7:36 AM
I have a habit I formed from the day I became aware of "surveyers".  They say "Would you mind just participating in a short survey for us?"  I say " Let me advise you from the start, I will answer no personal questions or ANY questions pertaining to finances".  Many times they try to sneak in a financial question and I immediately hang up on them!
paoli2paoli21,406 posts since
Aug 10, 2011
Rep Points: 6,150