Fed to launch consumer finance survey in March; results publication expected late next year

A statistical study of household finances designed to give policymakers “important insight” into the economic condition of a broad cross section of American families gets underway next month, the Federal Reserve said Friday.

The Survey of Consumer Finances, the Fed said, is one of its primary sources of information on the financial condition of different types of families, according to a letter sent to 13,000 households and signed by Fed Board Chair Jerome H. (“Jay”) Powell that accompanies the survey, which is conducted every three years. The first survey was in 1983.

“Our most recent survey has been instrumental in continuing to understand the different experiences of American families during the economic uncertainty resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic,” the letter adds.

According to the Fed, data collected provides 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, the Fed said.

In addition, the Fed said it has modified the 2022 survey to improve coverage of Black, Hispanic or Latino, and Asian families in the survey.

The survey is being conducted for the Fed by NORC, a social science research organization at the University of Chicago, through December. Participants are chosen at random from 119 areas, including metropolitan areas and rural counties across the United States, using a scientific sampling procedure, the Fed said. A representative of NORC contacts each potential participant personally to explain the study and request time for an interview. Individual survey responses are kept confidential.

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, the agency said. NORC is also forbidden from giving the names and addresses of participants to anyone at the Federal Reserve or anywhere else.

Survey results are scheduled to be published in late 2023, the Fed said.

Federal Reserve Board begins 2022 Survey of Consumer Finances