Sunday, April 30, 2006

Gasoline Matters

Anyone who thinks the media are paying too much attention to every penny increase in the price of gasoline should take a refresher on the rank order of household expenditures. According to my analysis of the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey, the top six household expenditures in 2004 (the latest data available) are:

1. Food ($5,781)
2. Deductions for Social Security ($3,433)
3. Vehicles ($3,397)
4. Mortgage interest ($2,785)
5. Federal income taxes ($1,519)
6. Gasoline ($1,467)

Gasoline ranks a lofty 6th—and that was in 2004 when the average price of a gallon of gasoline was a bargain at $1.85. As of April 2006, a gallon of gasoline cost $2.91, a 57 percent increase since 2004. Ouch.

MAY 3 UPDATE: Those who grub around in government data like I do occasionally find a mistake—like the one I found in the tax payment lines in the detailed spending tables from the 2004 Consumer Expenditure Survey. The BLS has updated the tables, and the new ranking above shows the corrected data.

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