Also amusing to an anthropologist is that the creator of the consumer sentiment index was only able to convince the Fed to ask the questions for his index by telling them they had to ask some polite, "How are you?" type of questions at the start of the survey to build rapport, before the interviewers would go on to ask "How much money do you have?" So he asked four questions:
- Are you better or worse off financially than you were a year ago?
- Do you think the economy will be better off a year from now?
- What about five years from now?
- Is this a good time to make a big purchase?
He combined these into an index, and voila, an index that we use to this day. I'm not sure these questions really build rapport, at least in the sense anthropologists understand the concept. I also wonder how much people lie in answering the economic questions. But like all indices, they may ask a silly question but if you ask it every month for many years, it gives a pattern that can be meaningful. It's just that in this case, no one can decide what it means, though it does help businessmen make decisions. Just like psychics.