Release Date: March 24, 2016
For release at 10:00 a.m. EDT
The Federal Reserve Board in April will begin a statistical study of household finances, the Survey of Consumer Finances, that will provide policymakers with important insight into the economic condition of a broad cross section of American families.
The survey has been undertaken every three years since 1983. It is being conducted for the Board by NORC, a social science research organization at the University of Chicago, through December 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 contributed to policy discussions regarding recovery of households from the Great Recession, changes in the use of credit, the use of tax-preferred retirement savings accounts, and a broad range of other issues.
"This survey is one of the nation's primary sources of information on the financial condition of different types of households," Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen said in a letter to prospective survey participants. "Our previous surveys…have helped the Federal Reserve and other parts of the government make policy decisions and have also supported a wide variety of basic research, public discussion, and education."
Participants in the study are chosen at random from 128 areas, including metropolitan areas and rural counties across the United States, using a scientific sampling procedure. A representative of NORC contacts each potential participant personally to explain the study and request time for an interview.
"I assure you that we give the highest priority to guarding the privacy of all survey participants and the confidentiality of their answers," Chair Yellen said. NORC uses names and addresses only for the administration of the survey, and that identifying information will be destroyed at the close of the study. NORC is forbidden from giving the names and addresses of participants to anyone at the Federal Reserve or anywhere else.
Summary results for the 2016 study will be published in late 2017 after all data from the survey have been assessed and analyzed.
The attached letter from Chair Yellen will be mailed in mid-April to approximately 13,000 households urging their participation in the study.
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