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Monday, March 10, 2014


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Consumer Expenditures for the Chicago Area: 2011-2012

Consumer units1 (households) in the Chicago-Gary-Kenosha, Ill.-Ind.-Wis., metropolitan area spent an average of $57,706 per year in 2011-2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Regional Commissioner Charlene Peiffer noted that this figure was 14 percent higher than the $50,581 average expenditure level for a typical household in the United States. Although households in the Chicago area spent more than the U.S. average, they allocated their dollars similarly among most of the eight major categories, differing significantly in two. For example, the share of expenditures for cash contributions, which comprised 3.0 percent of a typical household’s budget in the Chicago area, was significantly less than the nationwide average of 3.6 percent. (See chart 1 and table 1.)

Chart 1. Percent distribution of average annual expenditures for eight major categories in the United States and Chicago metropolitan area, 2011-2012


1 See the Additional Information for the definition of a consumer unit. The terms consumer unit and household are used interchangeably throughout the text for convenience.

Housing in the Chicago metropolitan area averaged $20,124 annually and was the largest expenditure category, accounting for 34.9 percent of a Chicago area household’s total budget. This share was significantly above the 33.3-percent national average. (See tables 1 and 2.) Overall, 8 of the 18 published metropolitan areas had expenditure shares for housing significantly above the U.S. average, while 3 had significantly lower-than-average shares. (See chart 2.) Housing expenditures among the 18 areas ranged from 39.7 percent in New York to 31.7 percent in Detroit. (See table 3.)

The majority of housing expenditures in Chicago went toward shelter, 63.4 percent, which includes mortgage interest, property taxes, repairs, and rent, among other items; nationwide, 58.5 percent of the housing budget was allocated for shelter. (See table A.) Utilities, fuels, and public services expenses accounted for 19.4 percent of the housing budget locally; nationally, this category made up 21.9 percent. The rate of homeownership in Chicago was 67 percent, whereas the U.S. average was 65 percent.

Table A. Percent distribution of housing expenditures, United States and Chicago metropolitan area, 2011-2012
Category United States Chicago

Total housing

100.0 100.0


58.5 63.4

Utilities, fuels, and public services

21.9 19.4

Household operations

6.8 7.2

Housekeeping supplies

3.6 2.9

Household furnishings and equipment

9.2 7.1

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

At 15.0 percent of the total budget, transportation was the second-largest expenditure category in the Chicago area and was significantly lower than the national average of 17.1 percent. Among the 18 published metropolitan areas nationwide, 8 (including Chicago) had below-average transportation shares; only one, Houston, had a share that was significantly above the average. (See chart 3.)

Of the $8,656 in annual expenditures for transportation in Chicago, 90.9 percent was spent buying and maintaining private vehicles compared to the national average of 93.9 percent. The remaining 9.1 percent of a Chicago household’s transportation budget was spent on public transit, which includes fares for taxis, buses, trains, and planes, compared to the 6.1-percent average for the nation. (See table B.) The average number of vehicles per household in Chicago (1.8) was very close to the national average (1.9).

Table B. Percent distribution of transportation expenditures, United States and Chicago metropolitan area, 2011-2012
Category United States Chicago


100.0 100.0

Vehicle purchases (net outlays)

34.0 31.5

Gasoline and motor oil

31.3 31.8

Other vehicle expenses

28.6 27.6

Public transportation

6.1 9.1

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

The portion of a Chicago consumer unit’s budget spent on food, 12.3 percent, was not significantly different than the 12.9-percent U.S. average. Among the 18 metropolitan areas, 3 had food expenditure shares that were significantly below the nationwide average; only Los Angeles reported a share for food above that for the nation. (See table 3.)

Households in Chicago spent $4,187, or 58.8 percent, of their food dollars on food prepared at home and the remaining 41.2 percent ($2,935) 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 59.4 percent of its food budget on food prepared at home and 40.6 percent on food prepared away from home.

As noted, Chicago 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 Metropolitan area CE news releases are available at

Additional Information

Data contained in this report are from the CE, which is collected on an ongoing basis by the U.S. Census Bureau for the BLS. The CE data were averaged over a two-year period, 2011 and 2012 and are available for the nation, the 4 geographic regions of the country, and 18 metropolitan areas. The metropolitan area discussed in this release is Chicago-Gary-Kenosha, Ill.-Ind.-Wisc., which is comprised of Cook, DeKalb, Du Page, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will Counties in Illinois; Lake, Newton, and Porter Counties in Indiana; and Kenosha County in Wisconsin.

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 and related information, see

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 Chicago metropolitan area, Consumer Expenditure Survey, 2011-2012
Category United States Chicago

Average annual expenditures

$50,581 $57,706

Percent distribution:

100.0 100.0


12.9 12.3

Alcoholic beverages

0.9 0.9


33.3 34.9*

Apparel and services

3.4 3.6


17.1 15.0*


6.8 7.6


5.1 4.9

Personal care products and services

1.2 1.2


0.2 0.2


2.2 3.7*

Tobacco products and smoking supplies

0.7 0.4*


1.6 1.6

Cash contributions

3.6 3.0*

Personal insurance and pensions

10.9 10.7

* Statistically significant difference from the U.S. average at the 95-percent confidence level.
Note: Numbers may not add to 100 due to rounding.

Table 2. Average annual expenditures and characteristics, United States and Chicago metropolitan area, 2011-2012
Category United States Chicago

Consumer unit characteristics:

Income before taxes

$64,649 $74,390

Age of reference person

49.9 49.8

Average number in consumer unit:


2.5 2.6

Children under 18

0.6 0.7

Persons 65 and over

0.3 0.3


1.3 1.4


1.9 1.8

Percent homeowners

65 67

Average annual expenditures

$50,581 $57,706


6,529 7,122

Food at home

3,880 4,187

Cereals and bakery products

534 596

Meats, poultry, fish, and eggs

843 878

Dairy products

413 400

Fruits and vegetables

723 862

Other food at home

1,367 1,451

Food away from home

2,649 2,935

Alcoholic beverages

454 503


16,846 20,124


9,858 12,762

Owned dwellings

6,101 8,221

Rented dwellings

3,109 3,540

Other lodging

648 1,001

Utilities, fuels, and public services

3,687 3,897

Household operations

1,141 1,452

Housekeeping supplies

612 584

Household furnishings and equipment

1,547 1,429

Apparel and services

1,738 2,059


8,649 8,656

Vehicle purchases (net outlay)

2,942 2,729

Gasoline and motor oil

2,706 2,754

Other vehicle expenses

2,472 2,388

Public transportation

529 785


3,436 4,380


2,589 2,812

Personal care products and services

631 678


112 123


1,130 2,147

Tobacco products and smoking supplies

341 233


802 948

Cash contributions

1,818 1,755

Personal insurance and pensions

5,508 6,167

Life and other personal insurance

335 425

Pensions and Social Security

5,173 5,742

Table 3. Percent share of average annual expenditures for housing, transportation, and food, United States and 18 metropolitan areas, Consumer Expenditure Survey, 2011-2012
Area Housing Transportation Food

United States







31.8* 14.8*


34.9* 15.0*









Los Angeles

37.7* 16.0* 13.6*





New York

39.7* 13.7*


37.9* 14.4*



San Diego


San Francisco

35.2* 14.2* 11.5*




35.3* 15.0* 11.6*

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

Chart 2. Expenditure shares spent on housing in 18 metropolitan statistical areas compared to the U.S. average, Consumer Expenditure Survey, 2011-2012

Chart 3. Expenditure shares spent on transportation in 18 metropolitan statistical areas compared to the U.S. average, Consumer Expenditure Survey, 2011-2012


Last Modified Date: March 10, 2014