International Symposium on Financial Survey

International Symposium on Financial Survey

September 9-13, 2013


“This is my third time to China, and this conference came out really well. A lot of things started to materialize.” said Mike Zachar, Director of Social Sciences Computing Services (SSCS).

CHENGDU.JPGSSCS played a key role in the International Symposium on Financial Survey held in China from September 9 to September 13, 2013.  Mike Zachar and Jingsheng Zhu, SSCS Data Archivist, have been working closely with Kathleen Parks, Senior Vice President of The National Opinion Research Center (NORC), and Professor Dali Yang, Faculty Director of University of Chicago Center in Beijing, in planning and orchestrating a series of events and forming coalitions with Renmin University, including the most recent five-day symposium.

DESIGN.JPGJiaqiang Chen, SSCS Data Archivist, who has been working on the Townsend Thai Project for 10 years, was invited to deliver a 40-minute presentation at the symposium. The presentation, titled “Data across borders: Some Insights and Implications,” discussed the data handling pipeline and some of the key components and hidden challenges of launching a successful international research data project.

The presentation was well received and stimulated productive offsite-conversations with the attendees.

Three prospects for future collaboration emerged out of this joint conference:

  1. SSCS’s participation helped strengthen existing relationships with the key Chinese institutions, especially reinforcing the Memorandum of Understanding between National Survey Research Center (NSRC) at Renmin University and NORC at the University of Chicago.

    Prof. Weidong Wang, Technology Director of NSRC at Renmin University of China expressed keen interest in exchanging visiting scholars and bringing in a data specialist from SSCS or NORC to work at Renmin University during summer months to help with translation of the CGSS data.
  2. The symposium helped build a valuable new relationship with the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics (SWUFE). NORC at the University of Chicago and SWUFE reached an oral agreement to sign a Memorandum of Understanding for future research collaboration. All parties are currently working on drafting a formal agreement.
  3. The China visit sparked the prospect of a book translation project and potential joint research projects (with access to data) and workshop/talk opportunities at SWUFE that are to involve the Townsend Research Group and have the potential to involve other well-known scholars at the University of Chicago.   

Key Elements of the Conference:

The International Symposium on Financial Survey was organized by the following institutions:

  1. The National Opinion Research Center (NORC)
  2. University of Chicago Center in Beijing
  3. National Survey Research Center at Renmin University of China (NSRC)
  4. Southwest University of Finance and Economics (SWUFE)

The attendees included scholars and researchers from:

  • Federal Reserve Board
  • People’s Bank of China
  • University of Chicago
  • National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago
  • Renmin University of China
  • Southwest University of Finance and Economics of China
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • University of Michigan
  • Peking University of China
  • Texas A & M University
  • Tsinghua University of China
  • Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS)
  • Shandong University of China
  • Sichuan Bureau of Statistics of China
  • Blaise Survey Software team of the Netherlands

NORC.jpgThe goals of the conference were to bring scholars and researchers from both America and China together to exchange academic ideas, survey methodology and advanced techniques, to share their working experiences in conducting financial survey of consumer finance (SCF) in each other's country.

The conference included two main components:

  1. The National Survey Research Center (NSRC) at Renmin University in Beijing on the 9th and 10th of September.  This two-day session at Renmin University was centered on continued collaboration between NORC and NSRC at Renmin University.

    It targeted the discovery of more advanced technical tools and supporting methodologies to improve the quality and timely production and distribution of consumer financial and economic survey data. 
  2. A two-day workshop held on the 12th and 13th at Southwestern University of Finance and Economics (SWUFE) in Chengdu.  This two-day session at SWUFE focused on economics, finance and policy, using NORC’s Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) as a case study. 

The SCF is a triennial survey funded by the Federal Reserve Board. It is the only fully representative source of information on the broad financial circumstances of U.S. households. The survey gathers information on balance sheet, pension, income, the use of financial institutions, and other demographic characteristics of U.S. families.

The China Household Finance Survey (CHFS) was inspired by the SCF. It collected nationally representative data of 8,438 samples in 25 provinces, 80 counties during the first round of project implementation in 2011, and expanded the sample size to more than 28,000 households in the second round in 2013.

Questions from the participants ranged from the big picture to specific statistical techniques.  The large number of participants from varied backgrounds appeared to provide something for everyone to take home.

REMIN.JPGIn the closing remarks, Prof. Wei Yuan, Senior Vice President of Renmin University of China, said, “Next year we should organize another one. Get more participants. We need NORC’s expertise and technology.”


Prof. Li Gan, Director of China Household Finance Survey and Dean of Research Institute of Economics and Management at SWUFE, said “Survey is new in China. Most people are suspicious about survey. We need to learn from the experts…we need to let China understand itself.  Let the world help us understand China.”


ARTHUR.jpgPerhaps Arthur Kennickell, Assistant Director of Research and Statistics in Federal Reserve Board, summed up the conference best when he commented on his Chinese counterparts’ endeavors, “I’m very moved by your presentation (on the China Household Finance Survey). That is a really wonderful and beautiful thing.”