In October 2016, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System's (Board's) Division of Consumer and Community Affairs conducted the fourth Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking (SHED). This survey has been conducted annually in the fall of each year since 2013.1
The SHED aims to capture a snapshot of the financial and economic well-being of U.S. households and identify any risks to their financial stability. It further collects information on household finances that is not readily available from other sources or that is not available in combination with other variables of interest. The survey was designed in consultation with Federal Reserve System staff and outside academics with relevant research backgrounds.
The SHED provides a nationally representative snapshot of the economic situation of households in the United States at the time of the survey, as well their perspectives on financial conditions in the recent past and expectations for conditions in the near future.
The 2016 survey focuses on a range of topics, including
- the personal finances of U.S. adults;
- employment characteristics;
- income and spending;
- economic preparedness and emergency savings;
- banking, credit access, and credit usage;
- housing and living arrangements;
- education and student debt; and
The SHED was designed by Board staff and is administered by GfK, a consumer research company, on behalf of the Board. The questions in the survey are designed to better illuminate the activities, experiences, and attitudes of individual consumers regarding their financial lives and the financial well-being of those in their household. They are intended to complement and augment the existing base of knowledge from other data sources, including the Board's own Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), while also including some overlapping questions from other surveys to allow for direct comparisons across datasets.2
The survey is conducted using a sample of adults ages 18 and over. This includes a subset of respondents from the 2015 SHED ("re-interviewed respondents"), randomly selected adults who did not participate in the 2015 SHED ("fresh respondents"), and an oversample of lower-income individuals with a household income less than $40,000 per year ("lower-income oversample"). Of the 11,882 respondents contacted for the survey, 6,643 respondents completed it (table 1).3
Table 1. Key survey response statistics
|Sample type||Number sampled||Qualified completes||Completion rate (percent)|
Recognizing that the sample demographics may differ from that of the overall U.S. population, especially given the oversample of respondents making less than $40,000, survey results are weighted based on the demographic characteristics of the respondents to match characteristics from the 2016 March Current Population Survey. Further details on the survey methodology are included in appendix A.
As is the case with all surveys, some caution in interpreting the survey results is prudent. Although the survey is designed to be nationally representative, some degree of selection bias beyond that which can be corrected through weighting is possible nonetheless (see appendix A).4 Further, results are all self-reported, and respondents' knowledge and memory may not always be completely accurate when answering survey questions. Readers are encouraged to keep these limitations in mind.
The following sections of this report summarize key findings from the SHED. Unless otherwise noted, the numbers cited in this report are derived from the Board survey and are weighted to yield estimates for the U.S. adult population. Only a subset of questions asked in the SHED are discussed in the report; however, the complete survey questionnaire is provided in appendix B. The responses to all the survey questions are presented in appendix C in the order that the questions were asked of respondents. A full copy of the survey data, excluding information that could potentially be used to identify respondents, is also available on the Federal Reserve Board's website.
1. Data and reports of survey findings from all past years are available at www.federalreserve.gov/consumerscommunities/shed.htm. Return to text
2. For more information on the SCF or to access SCF data, see www.federalreserve.gov/econresdata/scf/scfindex.htm. For a comparison of results to select overlapping questions from the SHED and Census Bureau surveys, see Jeff Larrimore, Maximilian Schmeiser, and Sebastian Devlin-Foltz, "Should You Trust Things You Hear Online? Comparing SHED and Census Bureau Survey Results," FEDS Notes (October 2015), www.federalreserve.gov/econresdata/notes/feds-notes/2015/comparing-shed-and-census-bureau-survey-results-20151015.html. Return to text
3. Of the 6,643 respondents who completed the survey, 33 are excluded from the analysis in this report due to either leaving responses to a large number of questions missing, completing the survey unusually quickly, or both. Hence, 6,610 respondents are included in the analysis in this report. Return to text
4. For example, while the survey does weight to match the race and ethnicity of the entire U.S. adult population, there is evidence that the Hispanic population in the survey is somewhat more likely to speak English at home than the overall Hispanic population in the United States. While the Census Bureau observed that 73 percent of Hispanics in the 2015 American Community Survey speak Spanish at home, in the 2015 SHED a smaller 65 percent of Hispanic respondents who provide information on their language usage reported that they speak Spanish at home (see table B16006 at factfinder.census.gov). This difference may result from the fact that the SHED is only conducted in English and, therefore, non-English speakers may be less likely to respond. Return to text