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Analyzing Consumer Expenditure Patterns
  -- tools & data to view/rank/compare regions & metros

August 2018. .. 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
Consumer unit characteristics:
  Income before taxes $68,316$73,671
  Age of reference person 50.447.9
  Average number in consumer unit:
    People 2.52.5
    Children under 18 0.60.6
    Adults 65 and over 0.40.3
    Earners 1.31.3
    Vehicles 1.91.8
  Percent homeowner 6366
Average annual expenditures $54,715$53,195
Percent distribution
  Total 100.0100.0
    Food 12.611.1*
    Alcoholic beverages 0.90.6*
    Housing 33.133.2
    Apparel and services 3.33.3
    Transportation 17.016.1
    Healthcare 7.97.7
    Entertainment 5.14.8
    Personal care products and services 1.21.0*
    Reading 0.20.2*
    Education 2.32.5
    Tobacco products and smoking supplies 0.60.4*
    Miscellaneous 1.50.8*
    Cash contributions 3.34.1
    Personal insurance and pensions 11.014.3*
- Asterisk (*) represents a statistically significant difference from the U.S. average at the 95-percent confidence interval.

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
Number of consumer units (in thousands)125,670127,006128,437
Consumer unit characteristics:
  Income before taxes$63,784$66,877$69,627
  Income after taxes56,35258,36460,448
  Age of reference person50.150.350.5
  Average number in consumer unit:
    Children under
    Adults 65 and older.3.4.4
Percent distribution:
  Reference person:
  Housing tenure:
      With mortgage373735
      Without mortgage262627
  Race of reference person:
    Black or African-American131313
    White, Asian, and all other races878787
  Hispanic or Latino origin of reference person:
    Hispanic or Latino131313
    Not Hispanic or Latino878787
  Education of reference person:
    Elementary (1-8)733
    High school (9-12)303332
    Never attended and other000
  At least one vehicle owned or leased878787
Average annual expenditures$51,100$53,495$55,978
    Food at home3,9773,9714,015
      Cereals and bakery products544519518
        Cereals and cereal products185176172
        Bakery products359343346
      Meats, poultry, fish, and eggs856892896
        Other meats119123124
        Fish and seafood122129126
      Dairy products414423413
        Fresh milk and cream152147140
        Other dairy products262276273
      Fruits and vegetables751756769
        Fresh fruits270274284
        Fresh vegetables236240247
        Processed fruits115109108
        Processed vegetables130133130
      Other food at home1,4121,3821,419
        Sugar and other sweets143139155
        Fats and oils117115111
        Miscellaneous foods728702726
        Nonalcoholic beverages384375374
        Food prepared by consumer unit on out-of-town trips425152
    Food away from home2,6252,7873,008
  Alcoholic beverages445463515
      Owned dwellings6,1086,1496,210
        Mortgage interest and charges3,0782,9532,859
        Property taxes1,8481,9031,913
        Maintenance, repairs, insurance, other expenses1,1821,2931,438
      Rented dwellings3,3243,6313,802
      Other lodging649710730
    Utilities, fuels, and public services3,7373,9213,885
      Natural gas393439421
      Fuel oil and other fuels142152116
      Telephone services1,2711,3151,347
        Residential phone service, VOIP, and phone cards358353324
        Cellular phone service9139631,023
      Water and other public services509530540
    Household operations1,1441,1741,309
      Personal services368366427
      Other household expenses776808882
    Housekeeping supplies645632655
      Laundry and cleaning supplies154148156
      Other household products350354368
      Postage and stationery140131131
    Household furnishings and equipment1,5421,5811,818
      Household textiles9796115
      Floor coverings201818
      Major appliances214233268
      Small appliances, miscellaneous housewares100106118
      Miscellaneous household equipment727740798
  Apparel and services1,6041,7861,846
    Men and boys374430422
      Men, 16 and over304326331
      Boys, 2 to 157010491
    Women and girls636656697
      Women, 16 and over527551596
      Girls, 2 to 15109105101
    Children under 2757683
    Other apparel products and services211256291
    Vehicle purchases (net outlay)3,2713,3013,997
      Cars and trucks, new1,5631,5621,956
      Cars and trucks, used1,6691,6891,982
      Other vehicles395059
    Gasoline and motor oil2,6112,4682,090
    Other vehicle expenses2,5842,7232,756
      Vehicle finance charges204208216
      Maintenance and repairs835836837
      Vehicle insurance1,0131,1121,079
      Vehicle rental, leases, licenses, and other charges533567624
    Public and other transportation537581661
    Health insurance2,2292,8682,977
    Medical services796790791
    Medical supplies135146149
    Fees and admissions569636652
    Audio and visual equipment and services9641,0511,084
    Pets, toys, hobbies, and playground equipment596634653
      Toys, hobbies, and playground equipment136127125
    Other entertainment supplies, equipment, and services353407453
  Personal care products and services608645683
  Tobacco products and smoking supplies330319349
  Cash contributions1,8341,7881,819
  Personal insurance and pensions5,5285,7266,349
    Life and other personal insurance319327333
    Pensions and Social Security5,2095,3996,016
Sources of income and personal taxes:
  Money income before taxes$63,784$66,877$69,627
    Wages and salaries50,16851,88954,405
    Self-employment income3,2734,2844,363
    Social Security, private and government retirement7,5147,7007,801
    Interest, dividends, rental income, other property income1,4111,5941,737
    Public assistance, Supplemental Security Income, Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)534530568
    Unemployment and workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, and regular contributions for support612556432
    Other income272323320
  Personal taxes (contains some imputed values)7,4328,5139,178
    Federal income taxes5,7436,6807,111
    State and local income taxes1,6291,7821,997
    Other taxes605270
  Income after taxes56,35258,36460,448
  Net change in total assets and liabilities$11,404$7,431$6,937
    Net change in total assets$20,539$15,798$15,442
    Net change in total liabilities9,1368,3668,504
  Other financial information:
    Other money receipts737659766
    Mortgage principal paid on owned property-1,858-1,816-1,757
    Estimated market value of owned home154,907160,814162,749
    Estimated monthly rental value of owned home882908930
  Gifts of goods and services, total1,0781,0631,249
    Alcoholic beverages121415
      Housekeeping supplies262330
      Household textiles598
      Appliances and miscellaneous housewares192222
        Major appliances588
        Small appliances and miscellaneous housewares141414
      Miscellaneous household equipment414248
      Other housing112127137
    Apparel and services198201253
      Males, 2 and over515059
      Females, 2 and over766964
      Children under 2303140
      Other apparel products and services425290
        Jewelry and watches141660
        All other apparel products and services283630
      Toys, games, arts and crafts, and tricycles272829
      Other entertainment626166
    Personal care products and services141316
    All other gifts726577

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