April 19, 2010

Board begins 2010 Survey of Consumer Finances

For immediate release

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 all types of American families. The 2010 survey will contain a new set of questions on households' small businesses.

The survey has been undertaken every three years since 1983. It is being conducted for the Board by the National Opinion Research Center (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 been important in policy discussions regarding pension and Social Security reform, tax policy, deposit insurance reform, consumer debt 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 Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said in a letter to prospective survey participants. "Our previous surveys, which date back to 1962, 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."

The new questions on small businesses will address sources of funding to start and to operate the businesses, as well as limitations on borrowing that may have been experienced. A small set of related questions will gather information on the financial institutions used by the businesses. Taken together with other survey variables, they will allow a better understanding of the relationship between households' personal finances and those of their businesses.

Participants in the study are chosen at random from 79 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," Chairman Bernanke 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 2010 study. NORC is required never to give the names and addresses of participants to anyone at the Federal Reserve or anywhere else.

Summary results for the 2010 study will be published in early 2012 after all data from the survey have been assessed and analyzed.

The attached letter from Chairman Bernanke was mailed to approximately 13,000 households urging their participation in the study.

Last Update: April 19, 2010