Thursday, August 13, 2015

Peak Transportation Spending

Has household spending on transportation peaked? It looks that way. The average household devoted 17.5 percent of its budget to transportation in 2013-14. While this is more than the Great Recession low of 15.6 percent in 2008 (the smallest since the early 1960s), it remains well below the 19-plus percent of the 1980s and early 2000s.

Transportation is our second biggest expense. In 2013-14, the average household devoted $9,104 to transportation, most of it for vehicles and gasoline. The evolution of this major household expense has been documented by the Bureau of Labor Statistics' consumer expenditure surveys. In the earliest, taken in 1901 and 1918-19, there was no separate spending category for transportation, so minor was the expense. As cars became common, transportation became a category. In 1934-36, transportation consumed 8 percent of average household spending. At the time, 40 percent of households owned a vehicle. The figure climbed over the decades, peaking in 2008 at 89 percent. In 2013-14, a smaller 87 percent of households owned a vehicle. The average number of vehicles per household fell to 1.8, down from 2.0 as recently as 2009.

With households holding on to their vehicles longer (the average age of light vehicles is now 11.4 years, up from 9.1 in 2000), greater fuel efficiency, increased urbanization, and the rise of ride sharing services, it looks like peak transportation spending may be in our rearview mirror.

Source: Demo Memo analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Expenditure Surveys

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