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Spending patterns of Millennials and earlier generations in 2016

August 01, 2018

Spending patterns may vary from generation to generation due to demographics and lifecycle changes such as income, homeownership, and tastes or preferences. In 2016, the share of total household spending on cellular phone service ranged from 0.6 percent for households in which the reference person was from the Greatest generation (born 1927 or earlier) to 2.3 percent for Millennials (born 1981 to present).

Share of total expenditures by generation, selected items, 2016
Category All
households
Greatest
(Born 1927 or earlier)
Silent
(1928–1945)
Baby Boomers
(1946–1964)
Generation X
(1965–1980)
Millennials
(1981–present)

Food

12.6% 8.8% 13.2% 12.0% 12.9% 13.0%

Food at home

7.1 5.7 8.3 6.9 7.0 6.9

Food away from home

5.5 3.1 4.9 5.1 5.9 6.1

Housing

33.0 50.5 34.5 30.9 33.1 34.9

Owned dwellings

11.0 8.9 11.9 11.8 11.9 7.5

Rented dwellings

7.0 23.4 5.4 3.9 6.6 13.6

Telephone services

2.5 2.0 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5

Residential phone services, VOIP, and phone cards

0.5 1.4 1.2 0.6 0.4 0.2

Cellular phone service

2.0 0.6 1.3 1.9 2.1 2.3

Apparel and services

3.1 1.7 2.2 2.6 3.8 3.6

Transportation

15.8 8.9 14.3 15.9 15.4 17.3

New cars and trucks

2.9 3.2 3.6 3.1 2.3 3.0

Used cars and trucks

3.3 0.3 1.7 3.1 3.5 4.6

Healthcare

8.0 14.9 14.8 9.0 6.6 5.1

Health insurance

5.5 9.8 10.3 6.1 4.5 3.5

Medical services

1.5 2.3 2.3 1.6 1.3 1.1

Drugs

0.8 2.1 1.8 1.0 0.6 0.3

Medical supplies

0.3 0.7 0.5 0.3 0.2 0.2

Households in which the reference person was from the Silent generation (born 1928 to 1945) spent 10.3 percent of their total household budget on health insurance in 2016, followed by 9.8 percent for those from the Greatest generation. Those from the Baby Boomer generation (born 1946 to 1964) spent 6.1 percent of total spending, followed by 4.5 percent for Generation X (born 1965 to 1980), and 3.5 percent for Millennials (born 1981 to present).

In 2016, the share of total spending on food away from home increased with younger generations, ranging from 3.1 percent for households in which the reference person was from the Greatest generation to 6.1 percent for Millennials. Those from the Silent generation spent the highest share on food at home (8.3 percent), followed by households with Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials (7.0 percent each). 

These data come from the Consumer Expenditure Surveys. A reference person is the first person mentioned when the respondent to the survey is asked who is responsible for owning or renting the respondent’s home. Households, or 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 expenses. To learn more, see Fun facts about Millennials: comparing expenditure patterns from the latest through the Greatest generation, in the Monthly Labor Review, March 2018.

SUGGESTED CITATION

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Spending patterns of Millennials and earlier generations in 2016 on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2018/spending-patterns-of-millennials-and-earlier-generations-in-2016.htm (visited October 25, 2020).

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