Description of the Survey

The July 2020 supplemental survey to the Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking was fielded from July 17 through July 27 of 2020. This survey was fielded to a subset of respondents from the seventh annual SHED, which was fielded in October 2019.17 Staff of the Federal Reserve Board wrote the survey questions in consultation with other Federal Reserve System staff, outside academics, and professional survey experts.

Ipsos, a private consumer research firm, administered the survey using its KnowledgePanel, a nationally representative probability-based online panel. Ipsos selected respondents for KnowledgePanel based on address-based sampling. SHED respondents were then selected from this panel.

Survey Participation

Participation in the July survey depended on several separate decisions made by respondents. First, they agreed to participate in Ipsos' KnowledgePanel, then they completed an initial demographic profile survey. According to Ipsos, 12.2 percent of individuals contacted to join KnowledgePanel agreed to join (study-specific recruitment rate), and 62.1 percent of recruited participants completed the initial profile survey and became a panel member (study-specific profile rate). Selected panel members then must have agreed to complete the 2019 SHED and, finally, agreed to complete the July 2020 survey.

Of the 5,306 panel members contacted to take the July survey, 4,185 (excluding breakoffs who did not complete the survey) participated, yielding a final-stage completion rate of 78.9 percent. All the stages taken together, the cumulative response rate was 3.7 percent. The final sample used in the report included 4,174 respondents.18

Targeted Outreach and Incentives

To increase survey participation and completion among hard-to-reach demographic groups, Board staff and Ipsos utilized a targeted communication plan. The target groups—young adults ages 18 to 29, adults with less than a high school degree, and those who are a race or ethnicity other than White and non-Hispanic—received additional email reminders during the field period.

All respondents to the survey received a coming-soon email the day before the survey launched, as well as an email once the survey was available to them. Targeted individuals also received follow-up emails during the field period to encourage completion.19 All respondents to the survey also received a small incentive from Ipsos for their participation.

Survey Questionnaire

The survey took respondents about four minutes (median time) to complete.

A leading priority in selecting questions was to provide information on the financial experiences and challenges among low- and moderate-income populations during the public health crisis. The questions were intended to complement and augment the base of knowledge from other data sources. The full survey questionnaire can be found in appendix A of the appendixes to this report.

Survey Mode

While the sample was drawn using probability-based sampling methods, both the 2019 SHED and the July supplemental survey were administered to respondents entirely online. Online interviews are less costly than telephone or in-person interviewing, and can still be an effective way to interview a representative population.20 Ipsos' online panel offers some additional benefits. Their panel allows the same respondents to be re-interviewed in subsequent surveys with relative ease, as they can be easily contacted for several years—as was done for the July survey.

Furthermore, internet panel surveys have numerous existing data points on respondents from previously administered surveys, including detailed demographic and economic information. This allows for the inclusion of additional information on respondents without increasing respondent burden. The respondent burdens are further reduced by automatically skipping irrelevant questions based on responses to previous answers.

The "digital divide" and other differences in internet usage could bias participation in online surveys, so recruited panel members who did not have a computer or internet access were provided with a laptop and access to the internet to complete the surveys. Even so, individuals who complete an online survey may have greater comfort or familiarity with the internet and technology than the overall adult population.

Sampling and Weighting

The SHED sample was designed to be representative of adults age 18 and older living in the United States. The Ipsos methodology for selecting a general population sample from KnowledgePanel ensured that the resulting sample behaved as an equal probability of selection method (EPSEM) sample. This methodology started by weighting the entire KnowledgePanel to the benchmarks in the 2019 March supplement of the Current Population Survey along several geo-demographic dimensions. This way, the weighted distribution of the KnowledgePanel matched that of U.S. adults. The geo-demographic dimensions used for weighting the entire KnowledgePanel included gender, age, race, ethnicity, education, census region, household income, homeownership status, and metropolitan area status.

Using the above weights as the measure of size (MOS) for each panel member, in the next step a probability proportional to size (PPS) procedure was used to select study specific samples. This methodology was designed to produce a sample with weights close to one, thereby reducing the reliance on post-stratification weights for obtaining a representative sample.

After the survey collection was complete, statisticians at Ipsos adjusted weights in a post-stratification process that corrected for any survey non-response as well as any non-coverage or under- and over-sampling in the study design. The following variables were used for the adjustment of weights for this study: age, gender, race, ethnicity, census region, residence in a metropolitan area, education, and household income. Demographic and geographic distributions for the noninstitutionalized, civilian population age 18 and older from the March 2019 Current Population Survey were the benchmarks in this adjustment.

Although weights allow the sample population to match the U.S. population (not in the military or in institutions, such as prisons or nursing homes) based on observable characteristics, similar to all survey methods, it remains possible that non-coverage, non-response, or occasional disparities among recruited panel members result in differences between the sample population and the U.S. population. For example, address-based sampling likely misses homeless populations, and non-English speakers may not participate in surveys conducted in English.21 All results presented in this report utilize the post-stratification weights produced by Ipsos for use with the survey.


 17. Data and reports of survey findings from all past years are available at to text

 18. Of the 4,185 respondents who completed the survey, 11 were excluded from the analysis in this report due to either leaving responses to a large number of questions missing, completing the survey too quickly, or both. Return to text

 19. All targeted adults received an email encouraging completion on July 24 and July 26 during the field period. Return to text

 20. David S. Yeager et al., "Comparing the Accuracy of RDD Telephone Surveys and Internet Surveys Conducted with Probability and Non-Probability Samples," Public Opinion Quarterly 75, no. 4 (2011): 709–47. Return to text

 21. For example, while the survey was weighted to match the race and ethnicity of the entire U.S. adult population, there is evidence that the Hispanic population in the survey were somewhat more likely to speak English at home than the overall Hispanic population in the United States. See the Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2017 for a discussion of this issue and a comparison of results to select questions administered in Spanish and English in that year's survey. Return to text

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Last Update: June 13, 2022