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News Release Information

14-2202-PHI
Tuesday, December 02, 2014

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Consumer Expenditures for the Washington, D.C. Area: 2012-2013

Consumer units in the Washington, D.C.-Md.-Va.-W.Va., metropolitan area spent an average of $80,452 per year in 2012–2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Sheila Watkins, the Bureau’s regional commissioner, noted that this figure was over 56 percent higher than the $51,299 average expenditure level for a typical household in the United States. Not only did households in the Washington area spend significantly more than the U.S. average, they allocated their dollars differently among the major categories, varying significantly in 5 of the 8. For example, the share of expenditures for healthcare, which accounted for 5.5 percent of a typical household’s budget in the Washington area, was significantly lower than the nationwide average of 7.0 percent. (See chart 1 and table 1.)

 

Housing in the Washington area averaged $28,416 annually and was the largest expenditure category, accounting for 35.3 percent of a Washington-area household’s total budget. (See table 1 and table 2.) This share was significantly higher than the 33.2-percent national average. Overall, 8 of the 18 published metropolitan areas had expenditure shares for housing significantly above the U.S. average, while only Detroit had a significantly lower-than-average share. (See chart 2.) Housing expenditure shares among the 18 areas ranged from 39.9 percent in Miami to 30.0 percent in Detroit. (See table 3.)

The majority of housing expenditures in Washington went toward shelter, 62.9 percent, which includes mortgage interest, property taxes, repairs, and rent, among other items; nationwide, 58.6 percent of the housing budget was allocated for shelter. (See table A.) Utilities, fuels, and public services expenses accounted for 15.7 percent of the housing budget locally; nationally, they made up 21.7 percent. The rate of homeownership in Washington was 70 percent, compared to the U.S. average of 64 percent.

Table A. Percent distribution of housing expenditures, United States and Washington, 2012-2013
CategoryUnited StatesWashington

Housing

100.0100.0

Shelter

58.662.9

Utilities, fuels, and public services

21.715.7

Household operations

6.88.9

Housekeeping supplies

3.72.9

Household furnishings and equipment

9.29.6

Note: Columns may not add to 100.0 due to rounding.

At 16.7 percent of the total budget, transportation was the second-largest expenditure category in the Washington area, not significantly different from the national average of 17.5 percent. Among the 18 metropolitan areas nationwide, 6 had expenditure shares for transportation that were significantly below the U.S. average; Detroit and Houston had transportation shares significantly higher than the U.S. share. (See chart 3.)

Of the $13,450 in annual expenditures for transportation in Washington, 90.9 percent was spent buying and maintaining private vehicles; this compared to the national average of 94.0 percent. The remaining 9.1 percent of a Washington household’s transportation budget was spent on public transit, which includes fares for taxis, buses, trains, and planes; this allocation was significantly above the 6.0-percent average for the nation. (See table B.) The average number of vehicles per household in Washington (2.1) was higher than the U.S. average (1.9).

Table B. Percent distribution of transportation expenditures, United States and Washington, 2012-2013
CategoryUnited StatesWashington

Transportation

100.0100.0

Vehicle purchases (net outlays)

36.039.4

Gasoline and motor oil

29.822.1

Other vehicle expenses

28.229.4

Public transportation

9.29.6

Note: Columns may not add to 100.0 due to rounding.

Washington households spent 13.7 percent of their annual budgets on personal insurance and pensions, significantly above the national average of 10.8 percent, making this the third-largest expenditure category for the area’s consumer units.

The portion of a Washington consumer unit’s budget spent on food, 10.9 percent, was significantly lower than the 12.9-percent U.S. average. Among the 18 published metropolitan areas, 6 had food expenditure shares that were significantly below the nationwide average; no area reported an expenditure share for food significantly above that for the nation. (See table 3.)

Households in Washington spent $4,639, or 52.9 percent, of their food dollars on food prepared at home and the remaining 47.1 percent ($4,123) on food prepared away from home, such as restaurant meals, carry-out, board at school, and catered affairs. In comparison, the typical U.S. household spent 59.8 percent of its food budget on food prepared at home and 40.2 percent on food prepared away from home.

As noted, Washington is 1 of 18 metropolitan areas nationwide for which Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE) data are available. Metropolitan area CE data and that for the four geographic regions of the United States are available on our Web site at www.bls.gov/cex/tables.htm. Metropolitan area CE news releases are available at www.bls.gov/regions/subjects/consumer-spending.htm.

Additional Information

Data contained in this release are from the CE Survey, which is conducted on an ongoing basis by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The CE data in this release were averaged over a two-year period, 2012 and 2013. CE data are available for the nation, the 4 geographic regions of the country, and 18 metropolitan areas. The metropolitan area discussed in this release is Washington, D.C.-Md.-Va.-W.Va. PMSA, which includes the District of Columbia; Calvert, Charles, Frederick, Montgomery, Prince George’s, and Washington Counties in Maryland; Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Fredericksburg, Manassas, and Manassas Park cities and Arlington, Clarke, Fairfax, Fauquier, King George, Loudoun, Prince William, Rappahannock, Spotsylvania, Stafford, and Warren Counties in Virginia; and Berkeley and Jefferson Counties in West Virginia.

The survey consists of two components, a diary or recordkeeping survey, and an interview survey. The integrated data from the BLS Diary and Interview Surveys provide a complete accounting of consumer expenditures and income, which neither survey component alone is designed to do. Due to changes in the survey sample frame, metropolitan area data in this release are not directly comparable to those prior to 1996.

A consumer unit is defined as members of a household related by blood, marriage, adoption, or other legal arrangement; a single person living alone or sharing a household with others but who is financially independent; or two or more persons living together who share responsibility for at least 2 out of 3 major types of expenses – food, housing, and other expenses. The terms household or consumer unit are used interchangeably for convenience.

CE metropolitan area estimates are not comparative cost of living surveys, as neither the quantity nor the quality of goods and services has been held constant among areas. Differences may result from variations in demographic characteristics such as consumer unit size, age, preferences, income levels, etc. However, expenditure shares, or the percentage of a consumer unit’s budget spent on a particular category, can be used to compare spending patterns across areas. Sample sizes for the metropolitan areas are much smaller than for the nation, so the U.S. estimates and year-to-year changes are more reliable than those for the metropolitan areas. Users should also keep in mind that prices for many goods and services have changed since the survey was conducted.

Expenditure shares for housing and transportation that are above or below that for the nation after testing for significance at the 95-percent confidence interval are also identified in charts 2 and 3 for the 18 metropolitan areas surveyed.

A value that is statistically different from another does not necessarily mean that the difference has economic or practical significance. Statistical significance is concerned with our ability to make confident statements about a universe based on a sample. It is entirely possible that a large difference between two values is not significantly different statistically, while a small difference is, since both the size and heterogeneity of the sample affect the relative error of the data being tested.

For additional technical documentation and related information, see www.bls.gov/opub/hom/homch16.htm.

Information in this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (202) 691-5200; Federal Relay Service: (800) 877-8339.

Table 1. Percent distribution of average annual expenditures, United States and Washington, Consumer Expenditure Survey, 2012-2013
ItemUnited StatesWashington

Average annual expenditures

$51,299$80,452 *

Percent distribution:

100.0100.0

Food

12.910.9 *

Alcoholic beverages

0.90.8

Housing

33.235.3 *

Apparel and services

3.33.1

Transportation

17.516.7

Healthcare

7.05.5 *

Entertainment

5.04.4 *

Personal care products and services

1.21.1

Reading

0.20.3 *

Education

2.32.7

Tobacco products and smoking supplies

0.60.4 *

Miscellaneous

1.41.7

Cash contributions

3.73.4

Personal insurance and pensions

10.813.7 *

* Statistically significant difference from the U.S. average at the 95-percent confidence level.

Note: Columns may not add to 100 due to rounding.

Table 2. Consumer unit characteristics and average annual expenditures, United States and Washington, Consumer Expenditure Survey, 2012-2013
CategoryUnited StatesWashington

Consumer unit characteristics:

  

Income before taxes

$64,686$115,597

Age of reference person

50.148.1

Average number in consumer unit:

  

People

2.52.7

Children under 18

0.60.7

Adults 65 and older

0.30.3

Earners

1.31.6

Vehicles

1.92.1

Percent homeowner

6470

Average annual expenditures

$51,299$80,452

Food

6,6008,762

Food at home

3,9494,639

Cereals and bakery products

541590

Meats, poultry, fish, and eggs

8541,043

Dairy products

416478

Fruits and vegetables

741940

Other food at home

1,3971,589

Food away from home

2,6514,123

Alcoholic beverages

448681

Housing

17,03028,416

Shelter

9,98617,883

Owned dwellings

6,08211,726

Rented dwellings

3,2554,723

Other lodging

6491,434

Utilities, fuels, and public services

3,6934,457

Household operations

1,1522,528

Housekeeping supplies

627827

Household furnishings and equipment

1,5712,722

Apparel and services

1,6772,454

Transportation

9,00113,450

Vehicle purchases (net outlay)

3,2415,298

Gasoline and motor oil

2,6832,973

Other vehicle expenses

2,5373,949

Public transportation

5401,230

Healthcare

3,5944,450

Entertainment

2,5533,513

Personal care products and services

618901

Reading

106211

Education

1,1722,160

Tobacco products and smoking supplies

331300

Miscellaneous

7361,371

Cash contributions

1,8732,751

Personal insurance and pensions

5,55911,030

Life and other personal insurance

336980

Pensions and Social Security

5,22410,050
Table 3. Percent share of average annual expenditures for housing, transportation, and food, United States and 18 metropolitan areas, Consumer Expenditure Survey, 2012-2013
AreaHousingTransportationFood

United States

33.217.512.9

Atlanta

33.417.112.6

Baltimore

32.515.511.0 *

Boston

32.615.6 *13.3

Chicago

35.4 *15.6 *12.7

Cleveland

31.618.212.8

Dallas

33.517.912.6

Detroit

30.0 *19.7 *13.5

Houston

33.121.0 *12.0

Los Angeles

38.2 *15.4 *13.4

Miami

39.9 *16.214.0

Minneapolis

32.018.311.3 *

New York

39.8 *13.5 *11.9 *

Philadelphia

35.4 *15.4 *13.7

Phoenix

34.818.913.6

San Diego

38.2 *15.811.5 *

San Francisco

35.8 *13.7 *11.9 *

Seattle

33.415.613.0

Washington

35.3 *16.710.9 *

* Statistically significant difference from the U.S. average at the 95-percent confidence level.

 

Last Modified Date: Tuesday, December 02, 2014