How Should We Measure Consumer Confidence (Sentiment)?: Evidence from the Michigan Survey of Consumers (WP-03-10)


IPR-WP-03-10

Jeff Dominitz and Charles F. Manski

The Michigan Index of Consumer Sentiment (ICS) and other indices of consumer confidence are prominent in public discourse on the economy but have little presence in modern economic research. The sparsity of modern research follows an earlier period when economists scrutinized in some depth the methods and data used to produce consumer confidence indices. The literature to date has focused on the predictive power of the survey data used to form the indices; there has been very little study of their microfoundations. This paper analyzes the responses to eight expectations questions that have appeared on the Michigan Survey of Consumers from June 2002 through May 2003. Four questions elicit micro- and macroeconomic expectations in the traditional qualitative manner; two are components of the ICS. Four questions use a “percent chance” format to elicit subjective probabilities of micro- and macroeconomic events. Versions of these questions have previously appeared in the Survey of Economic Expectations.

Jeff Dominitz, Heinz School of Policy and Management, Carnegie Mellon University
Charles F. Manski, Economics and Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

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