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June, 1986, Vol. 109, No. 6
Consumer expenditures: results from
the Diary and Interview surveys
Historically, the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey has been of importance largely for its role in periodically revising the Bureau's Consumer Price Index. Results from the survey are used to select new market baskets of goods and services for the CPI, and to determine the relative importance of the items selected. While this remains an important use of the Consumer Expenditure Survey, the increasing demand for more timely information about the spending habits of different kinds of households has expanded the role of the survey, making it an important source of information in its own right.
In the past, the expenditure survey was conducted about every 10 years, the previous one being in 1972-73. However, sharp increases in the costs of energy and housing during the 1970's highlighted the need for timely expenditure data in order to observe consumers' response to these phenomena. The BLS recognized the need for a survey that would provide a continuous flow of data, and began the current survey in 1980. Data from this ongoing survey allow analysts to track expenditures classified by household characteristics over a period of time and to link expenditure changes to changes in economic and social conditions. Among the characteristics by which the expenditures may be classified are: before-tax income, consumer unit size, age of reference person, region of residence, and number of earners.1
Data from the 1982-83 Survey of Consumer Expenditures show that urban American consumers spent about two-thirds of their total expenditures on food, housing, and transportation; they spent more than a third of their food dollar on food away from home; and average transportation expenditures increased 7 percent from 1980-81 to 1982-83, despite a 10-percent decline in gasoline expenditures. These are among the results that the Consumer Expenditure Survey provides and that this article describes.
This excerpt is from an article published in the June 1986 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 A consumer unit is defined as a single person or group of persons in a sample household, related by blood, marriage, adoption, or other legal arrangement, or who share responsibility for at least two out of three major types of expensesfood, housing, and other expenses.
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Consumer Expenditure Survey
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