Why does “last week” reporting give higher estimates than “last month”?

Article Type

Research Article

Publication Title

Communications in Statistics - Theory and Methods


Experiments in various countries with “last week” and “last month” reference periods for reporting of households’ food consumption have generally found that “week”-based estimates are higher. In India the National Sample Survey (NSS) has consistently found that “week”-based estimates are higher than month-based estimates for a majority of food item groups. But why are week-based estimates higher than month-based estimates? It has long been believed that the reason must be recall lapse, inherent in a long reporting period such as a month. But is household consumption of a habitually consumed item “recalled” in the same way as that of an item of infrequent consumption? And why doesn’t memory lapse cause over-reporting (over-assessment) as often as under-reporting? In this paper, we provide an alternative hypothesis, involving a “quantity floor effect” in reporting behavior, under which “week” may cause over-reporting for many items. We design a test to detect the effect postulated by this hypothesis and carry it out on NSS 68th round HCES data. The test results strongly suggest that our hypothesis provides a better explanation of the difference between week-based and month-based estimates than the recall lapse theory.

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