Survey of Consumer Finances
The Federal Reserve needs reliable, accurate financial data about American households.
The Federal Reserve System is responsible for promoting maximum employment, maintaining stable prices, and moderating systemic risks to the U.S. economy. Quality information about the financial well-being of U.S. households is vital for the Fed to understand how central bank policies ripple through the system.
NORC conducts the Survey of Consumer Finances, the most comprehensive survey of American finances.
Since 1992, NORC has conducted the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) with sponsorship from the Federal Reserve Board. The SCF is unique. This triennial survey is the only fully representative source of information on the broad financial circumstances of U.S. households. Every three years, beginning the day after Tax Day, NORC queries roughly 6,000 scientifically selected participants about their financial well-being. The survey covers:
- Attitudes about financial institutions
- Credit attitudes and credit card use and debt
- Principal residences and lines of credit
- Real estate and loans to others
- Small business ownership
- Vehicle ownership and loans
- Education loans
- Attitudes about savings
- Financial assets
- Employment status
- Retirement savings and pensions
- Income, taxes, and support
- Inheritances and charity
- Impact of COVID-19 pandemic
- Demographics and health
- Finances of independent household members
NORC researchers use multiple sources to ensure the 6,000 respondents are a representative demographic sample, and they make an extra effort to include high-income earners, who are difficult to recruit.
Informing policy and business decisions for more than 30 years.
The SCF is the only fully representative source of information about the finances of U.S. households. For 30 years, the data has informed U.S. monetary and tax policies, consumer protection initiatives, and federal legislation. Numerous agencies rely on SCF data, including the departments of the Treasury, Justice, and Commerce, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. SCF data also helps individuals, small businesses, and corporations navigate the economy. The Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis’s Center for Household Financial Stability relied on the SCF in their examination of how age influenced the recovery of households from the Great Recession. SCF data showed that people under 40 have recovered only about one-third of their lost wealth, while those over 40 have recovered almost all of it. SCF data has also informed the ongoing debate about affirmative action. White Americans account for 78 percent of the population and 88 percent of the nation’s wealth, while black Americans—who make up more than 13 percent of the population—own only 3 percent of the wealth.
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opens in new tab"Changes in U.S. Family Finances from 2016-2019: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances"
Journal Article | September 1, 2020
opens in new tab"The Effect of Large Monetary Incentives on Survey Completion: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment with the Survey of Consumer Finances."
Journal Article | October 11, 2017
Journal Article | August 26, 2016
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