Monday, September 13, 2021

Wild Swings in Spending in 2020

The average household spent $61,334 in 2020. This was 3.9 percent less than the $63,792 record high spending by the average household in 2019, after adjusting for inflation. The decline in spending during the pandemic comes as no surprise, of course. The wild swings in spending on so many categories of products and services are also not surprising—but they still are eye popping. Take a look...

% change in average household spending on selected categories, 2019–2020 (in 2020 dollars)
-67%: public transportation (airline fares, bus, subway, etc.)
-52%: fees and admissions to entertainment events
-33%: food away from home (restaurants)
-26%: gasoline
-25%: apparel
-19%: personal care products and services
-18%: alcoholic beverages
-13%: education

  +5%: food at home (groceries)
+13%: cash contributions (church, charitable, political)
+22%: reading material (newspapers, magazines, books)

The increase in spending on reading material was the largest among the 14 major components of spending tracked by the Consumer Expenditure Survey, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Every age group spent more on reading material in 2020 than in 2019, after adjusting for inflation. The biggest spenders on reading material continue to be the oldest Americans. Householders aged 75 or older spent $196 on newspapers, magazines, and books (digital as well as hardcopy) in 2020, up from $161 in 2019. Householders under age 25 spend the least on reading material—just $51 in 2020. But this was 10 percent more than they spent in 2019.

Source: Demo Memo analysis of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2020 Consumer Expenditure Survey

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