Every year the Bureau of Labor Statistics produces The Consumer Expenditure Survey, a study that provides information on the buying habits of American consumers, including data on their expenditures, income, and consumer unit (families and single consumers) characteristics. This data is used to calculate inflation rates, consumer spending power and other key economic metrics. Below are a few stories as told by the data, and a playground to find more.
Each visualization has been picked to facilitate the exploration of a different aspect of the dataset. For each visualization, we provide preset configurations that tell a story. Click the story links and the corresponding filters will be selected. Then tweak the controls to find your own story!
The Radar Chart is useful for exploring who is consuming what. Who's spending more on entertainment? Elderly or young? Northeasterners or Westerners? Low income earners or High-income earners? Who eats the most eggs? Buys the most personal care items?
The Area Chart lets you drill down into the details of what the average american spends their money on. Expenditure items are grouped in convenient categories that can be expanded to examine the details.
The Money Tree is a unique visualization that gives insight into how the average american allocates key parts of their budget. In particular, it highlights the relative weight of those expenditures and incorporates Consumer Price Index data to illustrate changes in buying power.
'We should always be aware that what now lies in the past once lay in the future.' - F.W. Maitland
Marketers, economists, business people and investors analyze history to better understand why Americans consume the way they do. As you scroll through the site, the timeline below will remain fixed at the top of the page allowing for time period adjustment in any context. Expand, collapse or slide the range you want to examine and it will affect all the visualizations on the page.
Overlaid on the timeline, markers indicate major events that have occured since 1984. Use the links above to change the category of events being displayed.
In general bigger, greener and bloomier trees suggest a 'healthier' consumer posture.
The left and right trees represent the beginning and end of the selected range in the timeline, respectively. Slide, expand or contract the timeline selection to see the trees 'grow' (or 'shrink!) over time.
Refine the data by selecting from the various demographics, and hover over the leaves for more details.
In 2014, older households (those with a reference person 55 years and older) made up 41.5 percent of the CE sample, compared with 37.5 percent in 2009 and 34.6 percent in 2004, reflecting the aging of the U.S. population.
Housing was the greatest expense in dollar terms ($16,219) and as a share of annual expenditures (32.9 percent) for older households. The statistically significant decline in dollar expenditure reflects the decline in mortgage debt among (aging) households.
Looking at the data for the last ten years, there is a marked decrease in the amount of money spent on beef and pork, and generally on meats. What could it mean? The consumer price index does not suggest that meat got more affordable; are we making healthier choices?
Three major spikes in flooring consumption during the 1990's were followed by a decade of relatively low, flat consumption. One big spike peaked not long after the northridge earthquake...did it shake up the flooring market?
It’s been said that “America is a place where the luxuries are cheap and the necessities are expensive.” With the rise in world trade over the past three decades, certain goods such have become markedly less expensive. This trend is very clear in apparel: between 1984 and 2014, the average expenditure in inflation-adjusted dollars has dropped from over $5000 to less than $3000 per year. The drop has been particularly steep for adult men, where average spending has dropped from more than $600 to less than $350. In contrast, inflation-adjusted healthcare expenses have more than doubled (from $2500 to more than $4000) and housing expenses have also increased.
In 1993, the middle class cut their spending by almost 50% on alcohol compared to 1987. They also spent less on entertainment, though recreational costs remained relatively cheap compared to increasing costs in healthcare and education. Income was also flat between the two years. The early 90's was not kind to the middle class.
Have a look at how top 20% was doing over the same time period.
In 2006, income for homeowners was nearly 15% more than 6 years prior. The 6 year period from 2006-2012 wasn't quite as fruitful. Slide the timeline ahead 6 years to see the difference!