Improving the measurement of income and spending in surveys

Publication type

Conference Paper


Mike Brewer

Publication date


We report on experiments in collecting household budget data the Understanding Society Innovation Panel. The innovations include the testing of an income “summary screen”; the use of filtering questions in the collection of unearned income; and various in-interview soft-checks. We also asked singles and couples to reconcile income, saving and spending. One version asked about changes in stocks of assets and debts, while the other asked flows of saving and borrowing. In both cases, respondents were confronted, in a summary screen, with the household budget identity (net income minus saving equals spending), and where their inflows and outflows failed to balance, were asked to update their responses. We compare the two versions, the degree to which the household budget identity was satisfied, corrections made by respondents, and resulting changes in the relationship between reported income and spending.


Survey Methodology, Household Economics and Finance