SCF (Survey of Consumer Finances)

The Survey of Consumer Finances SCF is sposored every 3 years by the Federal Reserve Board to provide detailed information on the balance sheet, pension, income, and other demographic characteristics of U.S. families. The SCF also gathers information on the use of financial institutions. The 2007 survey is the most recently published survey. Data from the SCF are widely used by branches of the U.S. government and major economic research centers. The SCF is widely recognized as the best source of information on the financial circumstances of U.S. households including 401k participation, contributions and general readiness for retirement.

SCF survey work is actually conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, under contract with the Federal Reserve. According to the NORC website:

The SCF is unique. No other survey collects data on the household finances of a probability sample of Americans. Data from the SCF are used to inform monetary policy, tax policy, consumer protection, and a variety of other policy issues. The data also serve as a basis for longer-term research on the economic state of the American family. The survey is thus of enormous consequence not only to the Board, which commissions it and has developed and shaped it, but also to millions of US taxpayers who have no idea of its existence.

The survey collects information from approximately 4,500 respondents. Its content is of both a highly sensitive and technical nature. The confidentiality of participants’ information is paramount. The survey employs highly secure data systems and talented interviewers who are able to communicate that message to often skeptical respondents. Interviewers also play a critical role in working with participants to record their sometimes complex information accurately in the interview. NORC conducted this survey for the sixth time in 2007 and has been awarded a contract to conduct the 2010 SCF.

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