Analyzing Consumer Expenditure Patterns
-- tools & data to view/rank/compare regions & metros
January 2017. .. examining consumer buying characteristics ... how much do Houston households spend on home furnishings? cereal? food away from home? How do these expenditures compare with the national average or other metros?
One important part of improving competitive advantage is knowing about expenditure patterns which vary widely by geographic area. The Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE) program provides information on the buying habits of America's consumers, including data on their expenditures, income, and consumer unit (families and single consumers) characteristics. The CE is important because it is the only statistical program to provide information on the complete range of consumers' expenditures and incomes, as well as the characteristics of those consumers. See more about the importance of the CE data.
This section provides access to the CE data and tools to use these data. Use the interactive table below in this section to view, query, rank and compare consumer expenditure patterns for CE tabulation areas. ProximityOne develops CE estimates for states and other geography not tabulated as a part of the CE program.
An Example. Households in the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA metropolitan area spent an average of $53,195 per year in 2014–15. This compares to the $54,715 average expenditure level for households in the U.S. Atlanta-area households allocated their dollars similarly among six of the eight selected major categories, with two differing significantly from the U.S. average. For example, the share of expenditures for food, which accounted for 11.1 percent of the average household’s budget in the Atlanta area, was lower than the national average of 12.6. The above narrative summary is shown with more detail in the following table.
Average annual expenditures, characteristics & percent distributions
- United States and Atlanta metropolitan area, 2014–15
Improving Competitive Advantage Workshops
Join me in the Improving Competitive Advantage Workshops to learn about using tools and data to improve competitive advantage. The opportunities for improving competitive advantage integrate varying types of geography, several sources of demographic-economic data and tools/methods to analyze these data. A focus is on knitting together consumer expenditure patterns and the demographics of alternative geography -- and how it is changing over time. The one-hour Web sessions provide an overview of methodologies, access to key data and tools and step-by-step instructions on their use.
Differences in spending among metropolitan areas, counties, cities, custom defined geographies may reflect differences in the cost of living, but they also may reflect other causes. Spending differences may result from different consumer preferences or variations in demographic characteristics, such as household size, age, or income levels. Other factors including environment and seasonality can result in different buying characteristics However, expenditure shares, or the percentage of a household’s budget spent on a particular category, can be used to compare spending patterns across areas.
- Warren Glimpse, principal, ProximityOne.
Scope of Expenditure Categories
The expenditure categories shown in the table above and the interactive table below are the tip of the iceberg -- with respect to the broader scope of expenditure categories. See illustrative table showing more detail below in this section.
Consumer Expenditures; Regions & Selected Metros; 2014-2015 -- Interactive Table
-- average annual expenditures and characteristics
Click column header to sort; click again to sort other direction.
View percent change from same quarter last year (rightmost column).
See related interactive demographic-economic tables
About Consumer Expenditure Survey Data & Its Value
Data reviewed in this section are partly based on the BLS Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE). The data reflect an average for the 2-year period, 2014 and 2015. For the 2014-15 CE program, summary data were tabulated for the U.S., four Census Regions, and 16 metropolitan areas. The CE program also includes a microdata file that enables users to develop custom estimates.
A household in the CE survey is defined as a consumer unit which consists of members related by blood, marriage, adoption, or other legal arrangement; a single person living alone or sharing a household with others but who is financially independent; or two or more persons living together who share responsibility for at least 2 out of 3 major types of expenses – food, housing, and other expenses. The terms household or consumer unit are used interchangeably for convenience.
Value & Use
The information provided by the Consumer Expenditure (CE) survey, conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is invaluable. Although the main use is to update the Consumer Price Index, it is also used in many other important ways. Government and businesses agencies use the data to look at spending patterns of specific groups of people, such as those over 65, or low-income households. This information is used to make important decisions affecting these groups.
Policymakers use the data to study the impact of policy changes on different socioeconomic groups.
Researchers use the expenditure data to look at a wide range of topics. Some of these research studies look at spending behavior of different types of families, spending on various products (including newly-introduced goods and services), and gift-giving behavior. Market researchers find the data useful in analyzing consumer or business interest in groups of goods and services.
Illustration of More Detail -- national scope trend data -- scroll section
Average annual expenditures and characteristics of all consumer units
Consumer Expenditure Survey, 2013-2015
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Additional Information [goto top]
ProximityOne develops geographic-demographic-economic data and analytical tools and helps organizations knit together and use diverse data in a decision-making and analytical framework. We develop custom demographic/economic estimates and projections, develop geographic and geocoded address files, and assist with impact and geospatial analyses. Wide-ranging organizations use our software, data and methodologies to analyze their own data integrated with other data. Follow ProximityOne on Twitter at www.twitter.com/proximityone. Contact ProximityOne (888-364-7656) with questions about data covered in this section or to discuss custom estimates, projections or analyses for your areas of interest.