Tuesday, December 18, 2018

New Spending Categories in the 2017 CEX

It's a treasure hunt when the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the Consumer Expenditure Survey each year. Reporters scour the figures for stories, demographers for trends. The ups and downs in average household spending are, of course, the headline makers. But there are many other newsworthy nuggets hidden in each year's release—such as the new spending categories added to the list each year as the BLS attempts to keep up with the changing economy. Here are some of the new categories of 2017...

Electric vehicle charging: While data for new categories such as this one are not yet plentiful enough to draw conclusions, the partial year data show 45-to-54-year-olds to be the biggest spenders on electric vehicle charging.

Dental, vision, and prescription drug insurance: The BLS has broken up the monolithic category "other health insurance" into the important subcategories of dental, vision, and prescription drug. Average household spending is greatest for dental insurance.

Movie tickets: For many years spending on movie tickets was lumped into a single category that also included theater tickets and admissions to parks and museums. Slowly, slowly, the BLS separated one type of admission from another. Finally, beginning in 2017, spending on movie tickets is a category of its own, allowing analysts to track this important expenditure.

Nonphysician health care services inside/outside the home: The BLS has split the single nonphysician health care services category into two categories to allow for analysis of where the need for these services is greatest (or most costly). The partial year data show average household spending on these services at home to be twice as great as outside the home.

Video rental, streaming, and downloading: This new category is a combination of what had been two separate categories—video cassette, tape, and disc rentals; and streaming, downloading videos. The new combined category means that analysts can no longer track spending on streamed and downloaded video, which was the fastest-growing entertainment category of the 2006-to-2016 decade.

Source: Demo Memo analysis of the 2017 Consumer Expenditure Survey

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