The Michigan Surveys of Consumers and Consumer Spending

Public Policy Brief No. 13-8
by Michelle L. Barnes and Giovanni P. Olivei

We provide summary measures for a broad set of questions from the Michigan Surveys of Consumers. These measures summarize consumers' attitudes and expectations with respect to income, wealth, prices, and interest rates. They contain information that goes beyond the information captured by the Michigan Index of Consumer Sentiment, which is constructed from five questions in the same survey. We show that the summary measures have some explanatory power for aggregate consumption behavior over the period from 1987 to the present, even when controlling for economic fundamentals. The explanatory power is statistically significant, but, although greater than the explanatory power of consumer sentiment, still relatively modest from an economic standpoint. We discuss the information in these summary measures, which may be useful in forecasting consumption behavior at the current juncture, as some of the signals from the survey are not entirely reflected in standard economic fundamentals.

JEL Classifications: E21, E27, E52, E66

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