Monday, May 13, 2013

Are Americans Buying More Guns?

True or false: Americans are buying more guns. One way to determine whether this statement is fact or fiction is by examining the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Expenditure Survey, which captures household spending on guns and ammunition in the spending category "hunting and fishing equipment." Although hunting and fishing equipment includes rods and reels, bait and tackle, and bows and arrows as well as guns and ammunition, an analysis of trends in the category is revealing.

Average household spending: Between 2000 and 2011, average annual household spending on hunting and fishing equipment fell slightly, from $33.77 to $33.06 (in 2011 dollars). During those 11 years, spending on the category peaked in 2002 at $44.61 and bottomed out in 2010 at $27.00. So there has been no upward trend in average household spending.

Percent of households buying: The Consumer Expenditure Survey also collects information on the percentage of households that make purchases during an average quarter. During an average quarter of 2000, for example, 2.20 percent of households spent money on hunting and fishing equipment. This figure fell as low as 1.83 percent in 2007. In 2011, however, it was at an 11-year high of 2.80 percent. So there has been an upward trend in the percentage of households buying.

Best customers: Non-Hispanic whites spend 17 percent more than the average household on hunting and fishing equipment, making them the "best customers" of the category. In fact, they are the only race/Hispanic origin group that spends more than average on these items. Black households spend 44 percent less than average on hunting and fishing equipment, Hispanic households spend 68 percent less, and Asian households spend almost nothing on the category. The percentage of non-Hispanic white households purchasing hunting and fishing equipment during an average quarter has grown steadily in recent years: 2.26% in 2007; 2.55% in 2008; 2.80% in 2009; 2.98% in 2010; and 3.40% in 2011. So the best customers are becoming even better customers.

Are Americans buying more guns? This analysis suggests that some are.

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