Few students walking across the Diag are aware that one of the major predictors of consumer confidence in the United States is conducted right here on campus.
The Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index, started in the 1940s, aims to measure how consumer spending and saving decisions influence the overall economic health of the economy, according to the University Survey Research Center’s website.
Researchers at the SRC call at least 500 people once a month from all states except Hawaii and Alaska. They ask respondents questions about their current confidence in their financial situations and future economic times.
According to the website, the graphs of consumer confidence and economic health show a correlation that makes the survey a very important tool for economists across the country.
There are also questions about unemployment, governmental actions in the economic sector and the ability of each respondent to buy various products, like a car. Survey subjects are asked to respond based on their own financial situations, their views of how others are doing and how they think businesses in America are doing overall.
In addition to giving their opinions on the survey, subjects are also asked to provide an explanation for their levels of confidence in the economy and the government’s economic actions.
According to the website’s description of the survey, these follow-up questions reflect a growing interest in not only projecting what consumers will do, but also understanding why consumers make certain spending and saving decisions.
Richard T. Curtin PhD., a senior associate research scientist at the UM Institute for Social Research, currently directs the survey.