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News Release Information

15-2122-PHI
Thursday, October 29, 2015

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Consumer Expenditures for the Washington Metropolitan Area: 2013-14

Households in the Washington, D.C.-Md.-Va.-W.Va., metropolitan area spent an average of $80,795 per year in 2013–14, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Regional Commissioner Sheila Watkins noted that this figure was significantly higher than the $52,284 average expenditure level for households in the United States. Washington-area households allocated their dollars differently among most of the eight major categories, with six differing significantly from the U.S. average. For example, the share of expenditures for healthcare, which accounted for 6.1 percent of the average household’s budget in the Washington area, was significantly lower than the national average of 7.5 percent. (See chart 1 and table 1.)

Highlights of the Washington area’s 2013–14 spending patterns:

  • Housing: This was the largest expenditure category for Washington-area households and averaged $28,888. Housing accounted for 35.8 percent of the area’s household budget, significantly higher than the 33.4-percent U.S. average. (See table 1.) Among 18 metropolitan areas nationwide for which data are available, Washington was 1 of 8 areas to have housing expenditures which were significantly higher than the national average. Housing expenditures among the 18 metropolitan areas for which data were available ranged from 39.6 percent in New York to 30.2 percent in Detroit. (See table 2.)
  • Transportation: Washington-area households spent 18.0 percent on transportation, similar to the national average of 17.3 percent. Of the $14,559 in annual transportation expenditures in Washington, 91.7 percent was spent buying and maintaining private vehicles; this compared to the national average of 93.8 percent.
  • Food: The portion of a Washington household’s budget spent on food, 10.0 percent, was significantly lower than the 12.8-percent U.S. average. In fact, Washington’s portion of the budget spent on food was the lowest among the 18 published metropolitan areas. Washington-area households spent $4,342, or 53.5 percent, of their food dollars on food prepared at home and $3,767 (46.5 percent) on food prepared away from home. In comparison, the average U.S. household spent 59.5 percent of its food budget on food prepared at home and 40.5 percent on food prepared away from home.

Additional Information

Data in this release are from the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE), which the U.S. Census Bureau conducts for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The data in this release were averaged over a 2-year period, 2013 and 2014.

A household in the CE survey is defined as a consumer unit which consists of members 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.

Differences in spending among metropolitan areas may reflect differences in the cost of living, but they also may reflect other causes. Spending differences may result from different consumer preferences or variations in demographic characteristics, such as household size, age, or income levels. However, expenditure shares, or the percentage of a household’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.

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. A large difference between two values may not be statistically significant, while a small difference could be significant; both the sample size and the variation among the values in the sample affect the relative error of the estimates.

For additional technical and related information, see www.bls.gov/opub/hom/pdf/homch16.pdf. Data for the nation, the four geographic regions of the U.S., and 18 metropolitan areas nationwide are available at www.bls.gov/cex/tables.htm. Metropolitan definitions used in the survey are available at www.bls.gov/regions/ce_areadef.pdf . 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. Metropolitan area news releases for the Consumer Expenditure Survey are available at www.bls.gov/regions/consumerspending.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. Average annual expenditures, characteristics and percent distribution, United States and Washington metropolitan area, 2013-14
CategoryUnited StatesWashington

Consumer unit characteristics:

 

Income before taxes

$65,339$117,645

Age of reference person

50.248.7

Average number in consumer unit:

 

People

2.52.7

Children under 18

0.60.7

Adults 65 and older

0.40.3

Earners

1.31.6

Vehicles

1.92.0

Percent homeowner

63.066.0
 

Average annual expenditures

$52,284$80,795*

Percent distribution

100.0100.0

Food

12.810.0*

Alcoholic beverages

0.90.7*

Housing

33.435.8*

Apparel and services

3.22.6*

Transportation

17.318.0

Healthcare

7.56.1

Entertainment

5.04.2*

Personal care products and services

1.21.0*

Reading

0.20.3*

Education

2.32.4

Tobacco products and smoking supplies

0.60.3*

Miscellaneous

1.31.2

Cash contributions

3.54.2

Personal insurance and pensions

10.813.1*

Note: An asterisk (*) represents a statistically significant difference from the U.S. average at the 95-percent confidence level

Table 2. Percent share of average annual expenditures for housing, transportation, and food, United States and 18 metropolitan areas, 2013-14
AreaHousingTransportationFood

United States

33.417.312.8

Atlanta

33.216.412.8

Baltimore

33.915.011.5

Boston

33.315.1*11.7*

Chicago

35.1*15.2*12.7

Cleveland

31.0*18.013.7

Dallas

33.118.312.7

Detroit

30.2*19.2*12.4

Houston

33.417.912.1

Los Angeles

38.7*15.0*13.1

Miami

39.4*16.813.0

Minneapolis

32.417.911.3*

New York

39.6*13.4*11.6*

Philadelphia

35.4*16.412.5

Phoenix

34.219.413.9

San Diego

37.6*16.311.0*

San Francisco

37.3*13.7*11.9

Seattle

35.015.4*12.3

Washington

35.8*18.010.0*

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

 

Last Modified Date: Thursday, October 29, 2015