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Economic News Release
CE CES Program Links

Consumer Expenditures (Annual) News Release

For release: 10:00 a.m.	(ET), Wednesday, September 9, 2020						USDL-20-1690

Technical Information:	(202) 691-6900  *  *
Media Contact:		(202) 691-5902  *


Average annual expenditures for all consumer units(1) in 2019 were $63,036, a 3.0-percent increase from 2018, the 
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. During the same period, the Consumer Price Index (CPI-U) rose 
1.8 percent and average income before taxes increased 5.4 percent.

|                       Vehicle Insurance Spending                              |
|                                                                               | 
|In 2019, the data source used to estimate spending on vehicle insurance        |
|switched from the Diary Survey to the Interview Survey. It was determined that |
|the Interview Survey provided a better measure of spending for the category.   |
|This change in methodology and its impact on the estimate is explained in      |
|greater detail at                  |
|                                                                               |                                                                                                                                               

In total expenditures, 8 of the 10 largest components of household spending increased during 2019. (See table A.) 
The 10.1-percent rise in transportation spending was the largest percentage increase among all major components, 
followed by a 5.7-percent rise in cash contributions. The largest decline in spending was entertainment 
(-4.2 percent), followed by personal insurance and pensions (-1.8 percent). 

Selected spending patterns, 2019
      --Transportation expenditures increased 10.1 percent from 2018 to 2019 to $10,742. This change was largely 
      	driven by vehicle insurance spending. Vehicle insurance spending showed a sizable increase (58.3 percent), 
      	in part due to a change in source selection from the Diary Survey to the Interview Survey, which 
      	was determined to better measure spending for this item in 2019. (For more information on how this change 
      	to vehicle insurance spending impacts the year-over-year comparison of this category, see the methodology 
      	section below). Average expenditures for vehicle purchases were up 10.5 percent, and average household 
      	expenditures for gasoline, other fuels, and motor oil decreased 0.7 percent over the period.
      --Cash contributions were up 5.7 percent in 2019 after a modest 0.8-percent increase in 2018. 

      --Healthcare expenditures were up 4.5 percent in 2019, following a modest 0.8-percent increase in 2018. The 
      	largest component of healthcare, health insurance, was up 3.6 percent, following a 0.3-percent decrease in 
      	the preceding year. 
      --Spending on food increased 3.1 percent over this period. The increase was driven by both food at home 
      	spending, up 4.0 percent, and food away from home spending, up 1.9 percent.
      --Housing expenditures increased 2.9 percent in 2019. Expenditures on rented dwellings were up 4.3 percent, 
      	while expenditures on owned dwellings were up 1.8 percent. In addition to rent, expenditures on rented 
      	dwellings include rent as pay, and maintenance, insurance, and other expenses. The owned dwellings category 
      	includes interest on mortgages, interest on home equity loans, property taxes and insurance, refinancing 
      	charges, homeowners' insurance, and expenses for maintenance and repairs.
      --Expenditures on education were up 2.6 percent in 2019 after a decrease of 5.6 percent in 2018.
      --Personal insurance and pensions spending decreased 1.8 percent in 2019, compared to an increase of 7.8 
      	percent in 2018. This was driven by a 2.7-percent decrease in contributions to pensions and Social Security. 
      --Entertainment expenditures decreased 4.2 percent in 2019. The decrease was driven by a 36.6-percent drop in 
      	other entertainment supplies, equipment, and services, as well as a 9.1-percent decrease in toys, hobbies, 
      	and playground equipment. 

Average annual income before taxes rose 5.4 percent in 2019, after increasing 6.9 percent in 2018. Income increased 
within each of the five income quintiles, which are based on the weighted distribution of income before taxes among 
consumer units. For the highest quintile, average income increased 6.7 percent in 2019. For the lowest quintile, 
the increase (6.6 percent) was nearly identical. The middle quintiles experienced smaller percentage increases 
(3.2 percent to 4.9 percent). In 2019, the lower income bounds for each quintile were $22,488 for the second 
quintile, $43,432 for the third quintile, $72,234 for the fourth quintile, and $120,729 for the highest quintile.
(For more information on how income before taxes is defined, see the methodology section below).  

Spending by composition of consumer unit, 2019

Data from the Consumer Expenditure Surveys (CE) indicate how consumers allocate their spending among the various 
components of total expenditures. Table B compares the shares allocated to selected expenditures by 
composition of consumer units. For example, married-couple-only consumer units allocated the largest share of total 
expenditures to healthcare (10.2 percent), while single parent consumer units allocated the smallest share 
(5.4 percent). Single parent consumer units allocated the highest share of all groups to food (14.9 percent). Single 
person and other consumer units allocated the highest share of all groups to housing (35.9 percent). 
Married-couple-with-children consumer units allocated the highest share of all groups to transportation (17.9 percent). 
In contrast, married couples only allocated the least amount to food (12.3 percent) and transportation (16.4 percent), 
and the second least to housing (31.0 percent). Married couples with children allocated the smallest share to housing
(30.7 percent).

Spending by income quintile, 2019 

Table C shows the annual percent change in expenditures by income quintile. Overall spending increased in all five 
quintiles, ranging from 1.3 percent in the second quintile to 8.6 percent in the lowest quintile. Among components of 
spending, food at home, housing, transportation, and cash contributions increased for all five quintiles. Healthcare 
expenditures rose in four of five quintiles. Expenditures for food away from home and apparel and services increased in 
three of five quintiles. Entertainment, personal insurance and pensions, and all other expenditures decreased in four 
of five quintiles. 

Table A. Average income and expenditures of all consumer units, 2017-19	
                                                                          Percent change
	Item                                2017     2018     2019      2017-18   2018-19
Number of consumer units (000's)         130,001  131,439  132,242          1.1       0.6
Average income before taxes              $73,573  $78,635  $82,852	    6.9	      5.4                                 
Average annual expenditures               60,060   61,224   63,036	    1.9	      3.0
  Food                                     7,729    7,923    8,169	    2.5	      3.1
    Food at home                           4,363    4,464    4,643	    2.3	      4.0
    Food away from home                    3,365    3,459    3,526	    2.8	      1.9
  Housing                                 19,884   20,091   20,679	    1.0	      2.9
    Shelter                               11,895   11,747   12,190	   -1.2	      3.8
      Owned dwellings                      6,947    6,678    6,797	   -3.9       1.8 
      Rented dwellings                     4,167    4,249    4,432	    2.0       4.3
  Apparel and services                     1,833    1,866    1,883	    1.8	      0.9
  Transportation                           9,576    9,761   10,742	    1.9	     10.1
    Vehicle purchases                      4,054    3,975    4,394	   -1.9	     10.5
    Gasoline, other fuels, and motor oil   1,968    2,109    2,094	    7.2	     -0.7
  Healthcare                               4,928    4,968    5,193	    0.8	      4.5
    Health insurance                       3,414    3,405    3,529	   -0.3	      3.6
  Entertainment                            3,203    3,226    3,050	    0.7	     -4.2
  Personal care products and services	     762      768      786	    0.8	      2.3
  Education                                1,491    1,407    1,443	   -5.6	      2.6
  Cash contributions                       1,873    1,888    1,995	    0.8	      5.7
  Personal insurance and pensions          6,771    7,296    7,165	    7.8	     -1.8                                   
    Pensions and Social Security           6,353    6,831    6,645	    7.5	     -2.7
  All other expenditures                   2,010    2,030    1,891	    1.0	     -6.8

Note: Only selected subcategories are shown; as a result the subcategories do not sum to their respective 
major item category.

Table B. Shares of average expenditures on selected major components by composition of consumer unit, 2019  
	Item 		            All       Married    Married     Other       One          Single 
				    Consumer  couple     couple      married     parent,      person 
				    Units     only       with        couple      at least     and other
				                         children    consumer    one child    consumer   
				                                     units       under 18     units
Housing	                            32.8      31.0	 30.7	     33.2	 35.7	      35.9
Transportation	                    17.0      16.4	 17.9	     16.9	 17.5	      16.7
Food	                            12.9      12.3	 13.3	     13.9	 14.9	      12.8
Personal insurance and pensions	    11.4      11.5	 13.6 	     13.6	  8.4	       9.3
Healthcare	                     8.2      10.2 	  7.1 	      9.1 	  5.4 	       8.0 
Apparel and services	             3.0       2.4 	  3.3 	      3.2 	  4.4 	       3.0 


Table C. Change in average annual expenditures of major components by income quintile, 2019
	Item				 Lowest Quintile Second Quintile Third Quintile Fourth Quintile  Highest Quintile
					     Over-the-	     Over-the-	     Over-the-       Over-the-	     Over-the-	
					     year	     year	     year            year	     year
					     change	     change	     change          change	     change
					 Dollar Percent  Dollar	Percent	 Dollar	Percent	 Dollar	Percent	 Dollar	 Percent

Total                                     2,273	    8.6	    504	    1.3	  1,316	    2.5	  2,042	    3.0	  2,790	     2.3
Food                                        291	    7.1	     19	    0.3	    547	    7.9	   -273	   -2.9	    639	     4.8
  At home                                    81	    3.0	     52	    1.4	    341	    8.4	    117	    2.3	    302	     4.4
  Away from home                            210	   15.0	    -33	   -1.5	    207	    7.2	   -390	   -9.1	    336	     5.2
Housing                                     978	    9.3	    512	    3.6	    215	    1.2	    394	    1.8	    801	     2.3
Apparel and services                         69	    9.2	    -34	   -2.7	     11	    0.7	    142	    6.8	   -109	    -3.0
Transportation                              863	   23.2	    399	    5.9	  1,214	   14.1	  1,622	   14.4	    779	     4.2
Healthcare                                  380	   15.4	    -47	   -1.2	     57	    1.2	    170	    2.9	    550	     7.0
Entertainment                              -260	  -19.0	   -338	  -15.5	   -274	  -10.8	   -106	   -3.0	    296	     4.5
Cash contributions                           16	    2.5	     48	    4.3	      1	    0.1	    318	   17.1	    152	     3.4
Personal insurance and pensions             -97	  -13.5	    -48	   -2.3	   -314	   -6.3	     29	    0.3	   -251	    -1.2
All other expenditures                       33	    1.6	     -7	   -0.3	   -141	   -4.3	   -254	   -5.9	    -67	    -0.8

Additional Information

Data Products

Data from the Consumer Expenditure Surveys (CE) include income and demographic characteristics in addition to 
expenditures for consumers. Tables with more expenditure details than those presented here are available at Published tables provide 2019 CE data by standard classifications that include income 
quintile, income decile, income class, age of reference person, generation of reference person, size of consumer 
unit, number of earners, composition of consumer unit, Census region of residence, Census division of residence, 
housing tenure, race, Hispanic origin, occupation, highest education level of any member, and type of area 
(urban-rural). These annual tables include means, shares, and standard errors. Other published tables available on 
the website include expenditures by age, region, size, or gender cross-tabulated by income before taxes and other 
demographic variables. Historical published tables back to 1984 and selected metropolitan area tabulations are also 

Standard CE midyear tables, which are similar to the annual tables but cover the third quarter of a given year 
through the second quarter of the next year, are available at The most recent set 
covers July 2018 through June 2019. 

A table showing results for all consumer units including the most detailed breakdown of expenditures, as well as other 
research tables (e.g., those showing expenditures by higher-than-standard income groups or by selected states) are 
available at Unpublished, but releasable, tables of detailed expenditures by 
demographic can be obtained by sending a request to

The CE LABSTAT database provides tools to access historical CE data (1984 onward) to produce trends in expenditures by 
demographic groups of interest, and can be found at Documentation on how to use the CE LABSTAT 
database is available at 

The 1980 through 2019 CE public-use microdata, including Interview Survey data, Diary Survey data, and paradata (information 
about the data collection process), are available on the CE website at The Interview Survey 
files contain detailed expenditure data in two different formats: MTBI files that present monthly values in an item-coding 
framework based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) pricing scheme, and EXPN files that organize expenditures by the section 
of the Interview questionnaire in which they are collected. Expenditure values on EXPN files cover different time periods 
depending on the specific questions asked, and the files also contain relevant non-expenditure information not found on the 
MTBI files. For those interested in examining broader categories of expenditures (e.g., housing or owned dwellings) rather 
than detailed items (e.g., mortgage interest or property taxes), summary variables are also available on the FMLI files.

Documentation of the CE public-use microdata, its conventions, files, sample code, and methodology are available at Researchers interested in learning more about both the Interview and Diary 
files, and in receiving “hands on” training in their usage, are encouraged to attend the annual CE Microdata Users’ 
Workshop ( The next event is scheduled for July 21-23, 2021, and is free of charge to
attendees. (See Upcoming Events for more information.)


Recent CE-specific articles are available in the Beyond the Numbers publication series at, 
and the CE Data Comparisons section of The BLS Beyond the Numbers publication series 
provides analyses of topical economic issues and long-term spending trends, and the data comparison articles examine CE data 
benchmarked to other sources. Additional methodological and analytical articles using CE data will be published in these 
series as they become available. 

The CE program also produces occasional articles for publication in the Monthly Labor Review (MLR) and Spotlight on Statistics 
series. The flagship publication of the BLS, the MLR publishes scholarly articles on many topics in labor economics. Items in 
the Spotlight series are meant to be shorter pieces accessible to the general public. A Spotlight generally includes a series 
of charts or graphs accompanied by a brief explanation of their relevance to the analysis. At the time of publication of this 
release, the most recent analytical MLR article that features CE data (June 2019) is “Not fun for young and old alike: how 
the youngest and oldest consumers have fared in recession and recovery” 
recession-and-recovery.htm); the most recent Spotlight (April 2020) is “Meal Appeal: Patterns of Expenditures on Food away 
from Home” (

The 2019 Data Quality Profile, which reports quality metrics and indicators for the Interview and Diary Surveys regarding 
measurement, nonresponse, and processing error, will be available shortly after this release at  

The 2019 Annual Report, which includes more detailed information on spending patterns, will be published in late 2020. 

For a listing of links to other published reports featuring CE data, see the CE publications page at

Survey Materials

Also available are the Diary Survey questionnaire and a modified version of the computer assisted personal interview (CAPI) 
instrument used to collect the Interview Survey data at


The change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI-U) cited in the text was calculated as the percentage change between the 
12-month average CPI-U for all items from January to December 2018 (251.107) and the 12-month average CPI-U for all items 
from January to December 2019 (255.657).

Income before taxes includes the following components: Wages and salaries; self-employment income; Social Security; private 
and government retirement; interest, dividends, rental income, and other property income; unemployment, workers' 
compensation and veterans' benefits; public assistance, supplemental security income, and food stamps; regular 
contributions for support; and other income.  

Income quintiles are constructed by sorting consumer units in the sample from lowest to highest income before taxes. The 
population weight (i.e., the number of consumer units within the population that each sampled unit represents) associated 
with each consumer is summed with those of the consumer units preceding it in the sorted set, resulting in a cumulative 
frequency count. The first quintile includes all consumer units for which the cumulative frequency count is less than or
equal to 20 percent of the number of consumer units in the population. The second quintile includes all those consumer 
units for which the cumulative frequency count is greater than 20 percent, but less than or equal to 40 percent of the 
population, and so forth. Because there were approximately 132 million consumer units in the population in 2019, each 
quintile includes over 26 million consumer units.  

For expenditures collected in both surveys, the CE program uses a statistical method to select the source used in 
publication. In 2019, while vehicle insurance spending showed a sizable year-over-year increase of 58.3 percent, it is 
important to note that the 2018 estimate was sourced from the Diary Survey and the 2019 estimate was sourced from the 
Interview Survey. As noted, this source change was due to the determination of better measurement of vehicle insurance
spending in the Interview Survey in 2019. For comparison, the year-over-year change for the Diary Survey estimate was 
–15.1 percent; and the year-over-year change for the Interview Survey estimate was 4.0 percent. Had the source for 
vehicle insurance spending remained the Diary Survey in 2019, the year-over-year change in the estimate of 
transportation expenditures would have been 2.7 percent, instead of 10.1 percent. For more information about the source
selection process, see

Composition of the consumer unit is the classification of interview families according to: (1) relationship of other 
family members to the reference person; (2) age of the children of the reference person; and (3) combination of 
relationship to the reference person and age of the children. Stepchildren and adopted children are included with the 
reference person's own children. Definitions of CE terms are in the CE glossary at 

Information on the methodology used to calculate and collect CE data is available at 
General articles and research papers using CE data are in the CE research library at

Upcoming Events

Each year, the CE program sponsors a symposium and a microdata users’ workshop. Both events are free, although 
registration is required.

The CE Symposium focuses on survey methodology, and typically features invited presenters from the CE program, other 
BLS programs, and researchers who are not affiliated with the BLS. The symposium typically meets on one day.

The CE Microdata Users’ Workshop is a three-day event that combines practical “hands on” training in use of the data 
(Interview and Diary) with presentations from users who are not affiliated with the BLS.  The practical training builds 
from an introduction to the data files and structure on the first day to expert topics on the final day. Presentations 
from researchers are selected from those who answer the call for presenters. (See 
As with registration, there is no fee for submitting a proposal to present in answer to the call.

Both events are held in the same week of July. The next CE Symposium will be held July 20, 2021. The next CE Microdata 
Users’ Workshop will be held July 21-23, 2021. More information about these events is available on the CE website 
( Reports on these events are also published in the Monthly Labor Review (MLR). 
The most recent report available at the time of publication of this news release describes the 2019 events 
Reports on earlier events are available on the CE MLR publications webpage ( Reports 
on subsequent events (2020 onward) will be posted at a later date. 

Contact Information

For further information, contact the Division of Consumer Expenditure Surveys, Office of Prices and Living Conditions 
at (202) 691-6900 or by email at Information in this release will be made available to sensory 
impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (202) 691-5200; Federal Relay Service: 1 (800) 877-8339.

(1)Consumer units include families, single persons living alone or sharing a household with others but who are 
   financially independent, or two or more persons living together who share major expenses.

Last Modified Date: September 09, 2020