In April, the Federal Reserve Board will begin a statistical study of household finances titled the Survey of Consumer Finances, which will give policymakers a peek into the economic condition of all types of American families.
The survey, which has been undertaken every three years since 1983, is being conducted for the Board by NORC, a social science research organization at the University of Chicago. The study will run through December of this year.
It is intended that the collected data will provide a picture of what Americans own — from houses and cars to stocks and bonds — how and how much they borrow and how they bank.
Previous studies have played a crucial role in policy discussions regarding recovery of households from the Great Recession, changes in the use of credit, use of tax-preferred retirement savings accounts 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…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."
Participants are chosen at random from 127 areas, using a scientific sampling procedure. A representative from NORC will contact each potential participant.
"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 study. NORC is required never to give the names and addresses of participants to anyone at the Federal Reserve or anywhere else.
The summary results will be published in early 2015 after all data has been properly assessed and analyzed.