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Release Date: May 16, 2001

For immediate release

The Federal Reserve Board this month will begin a statistical study of household finances that will provide policymakers with important insight into the economic condition of a broad array of American families.

The Survey of Consumer Finances, undertaken every three years since 1983, is being conducted for the Board by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago through November of this year.

The data collected will provide a representative picture of what Americans own--from houses and cars to stocks and bonds--how and how much they borrow and how they bank. Past study results have been important in policy discussions regarding pension and social security reform, tax policy, deposit insurance reform and a broad range of other areas.

"Although good overall information on the state of the major sectors of the economy is available regularly, our knowledge about the financial circumstances faced by different types of households is much more limited," Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, said in a letter to prospective survey participants. "Our survey is intended to fill a key part of this gap," he said.

The 2001 survey will contain a new question regarding the degree to which saving decisions are affected by the availability of informal financing options, such as borrowing from a friend or relative. Responses to this question will help to identify the contribution that "precautionary savings" make to total savings.

Participants in the study are chosen at random using a scientific sampling procedure in 100 areas across the United States. A representative of NORC contacts each potential participant personally to explain the project and request time for an interview.

Names and addresses of each participant are confidential. Extraordinary steps are taken to uncouple the identities of the respondents from the information they provide.

"Our data collection systems are designed with extensive safeguards to protect the anonymity of the survey participants," Mr. Greenspan said. "Indeed, neither I nor anyone else at the Federal Reserve is allowed to know the names of the survey participants."

Summary results for 2001 will be published in early 2003 after all data have been assessed and analyzed.

The attached letter was mailed to approximately 10,000 households urging their participation in the study.

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Last update: May 16, 2001