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Consumer Expenditures and Income: Overview

The Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE) is a nationwide household survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to find out how Americans spend their money. It is the only federal government survey that provides information on the complete range of consumers’ expenditures as well as their incomes and demographic characteristics. BLS publishes 12-month estimates of consumer expenditures twice a year with the estimates summarized by various income levels and household characteristics. BLS also produces annual public-use microdata files to help researchers analyze the data in more detail.

The CE consists of estimates derived from two separate surveys, the Interview Survey and the Diary Survey. The Quarterly Interview Survey is designed to collect data on large and recurring expenditures that consumers can be expected to recall for a period of 3 months or longer, such as rent and utilities, and the Diary Survey is designed to collect data on small, frequently purchased items, including most food and clothing. Together, the data from the two surveys cover the complete range of consumers’ expenditures. CE data are collected for BLS by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Quick Facts: Consumer Expenditures and Income
Subject areas Consumer spending , Income, Pay
Key measures Income, Spending
How the data are obtained Survey of households
Classification system Demographic
Periodicity of data availability Annual, Semi-annual
Geographic detail Census region, Metro area, National, Region
Scope Civilian noninstitutional population
Key products
Program webpage


Last Modified Date: February 25, 2016