The Consumer Expenditure Surveys (CE) program provides data on expenditures, income, and demographic characteristics of consumers in the United States. The CE program provides these data in tables, databases, news releases, reports, and public-use microdata files.
CE data are collected by the Census Bureau for BLS in two surveys, the Interview Survey for major and/or recurring items and the Diary Survey for more minor or frequently purchased items. CE data are primarily used to revise the relative importance of goods and services in the market basket of the Consumer Price Index. Researchers and government agencies also use CE data to study consumers' spending habits and trends. Here is an overview of the CE program and its methods.
To be notified when new datasets become available, sign up for CE updates. The menu will prompt you to select Consumer Expenditures. If you have comments or questions about this page and its contents, contact us.
- NEW Explore how you can easily use the Public Use Microdata (PUMD) for your research with the new Interactive CE Visualization Tool.
- NEW Registration for the annual CE sponsored Survey Methods Symposium and Microdata Users' Workshop is open. https://www.bls.gov/cex/csxannualworkshop.htm.
- NEW On March 31, 2017, three CE economists will present research at the Midwest Economics Association (Cincinnati, OH). Topics are Expenditures on children; demand for restaurant dining; trends in food expenditure patterns for SNAP (formerly food stamps) beneficiaries; and trends in the economic status of young adults. See https://www.bls.gov/cex/ceconferences.htm#midwest.
- NEW On April 23, 2017, three CE economists will present research at the American Council on Consumer Interests (Albuquerque, NM). Topics are expenditures on children; demand for restaurant dining; trends in food expenditure patterns for SNAP (formerly food stamps) beneficiaries; and trends in the economic status of young adults. A senior economist will also describe CE data in a panel session on Federal government data sets. See https://www.bls.gov/cex/ceconferences.htm#west.
- NEW How do United States consumer expenditures compare with the United Kingdom and Japan? (HTML) (PDF)
What kind of data do you need?
CE provides you its data in five formats:
- News releases and reports
These publications provide analysis of CE data and overviews of major spending trends.
You do not need statistical software to use these publications. They are available in two formats: News releases and reports.
- Tables of major expenditures, incomes, and demographic characteristics
These products provide data by region, income categories, age, race, education, occupation, or other household characteristics. In addition, CE provides tables that cross tabulate variables of interest by two characteristics, for example age and income.
You do not need statistical software to use these tables. They are available in two formats: Published tables or a database.
- Tables of detailed expenditure, incomes, and demographic characteristics
Provide additional expenditure detail and related reliability measures, such as standard error.
You need to take into account that some data points may be subject to significant sampling error causing a coefficient of variation of over 25 percent and thus should be used with caution. These tables are available on the experimental research tables page or upon request from CE.
- Public-use Microdata (PUMD) with edited survey responses
The PUMD contain edited data derived from the survey instruments. The data have been edited to meet strict confidentiality requirements set in place by BLS and the Census Disclosure Review Board. The PUMD include an extensive list of variables that allow in-depth analysis. CE staff edit these data in two main ways:
- Anonymizes the data to protect the respondents' identities.
- Imputes components that respondents did not report in sufficient detail or were unwilling to share. These include types of income and income taxes.
You may need to use PUMD with caution because some data points may have a large coefficient of variation and you should be proficient with a statistical software package, such as SAS or R to use these files.
They are available on the PUMD data page. To get started, you may want to explore the data availability with the NEW Interactive CE Visualization Tool, and the methodology with the Getting Started Guide.
- Data files with unedited survey responses
This product contains the same information as the Public-use Microdata files (PUMD) except that the confidentiality measures to protect respondents' identities have not been applied. Thus, these data provide slightly more demographic, income, and expenditure data. You have to come to the BLS national office to use this product.
You may need to use these data files with caution because some data points may have a large coefficient of variation and you should be proficient with a statistical software package, such as SAS or R to use these files.
In addition, accessing these files is more involved than accessing the above alternatives. For onsite access at the BLS national office, you need to fulfill the following requirements: Be affiliated with a government agency, academic institution, or nonprofit organization, be a U.S. citizen or legal resident, be able to fund travel to Washington D.C., demonstrate to BLS that your research is in the public's interest and will be publically available, and receive clearance from both BLS and the U.S. Census Bureau to access the unedited data (Title 13). The process to access these files normally takes at least six months, and may take longer. For more information about onsite access, see the BLS restricted data access page.
Average expenditures in 2015 were $55,978, a 4.6 percent increase from 2014 levels. In 2014,
spending increased 4.7 percent. Average pre-tax income per consumer unit increased at a slightly
slower pace than expenditures, up 4.1 percent from 2014 to $69,629.
Average expenditures per consumer unit for July 2014 through June 2015 were up 5.9
percent compared with the July 2013 through June 2014 midyear average. Average incomes
also increased, up 6.6 percent.
Archived CE News Releases
- Series Report--Already know the series identifier for the statistic you want? Use this shortcut to retrieve your data.
- Text files (FTP)--For those who want it all. Download a flat file of the entire database or large subset of the database.
Current Survey Forms
All CE Survey Forms »
CE is Coming to Your Town!
As part of ongoing outreach efforts, CE staff attend conferences outside the Washington, DC area when circumstances permit. You may be interested in attending their presentations, or in arranging for a CE staff member to visit your organization. To see a list of upcoming or past events, click on the links below.
Other BLS Programs
- Consumer Price Indexes --monthly data on changes in the prices paid by urban consumers for a representative basket of goods and services.
- Price and Index Number Research experimental poverty measures -- CE data are used to estimate National Academy of Sciences (NAS) based poverty measures and a Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM)
Other Useful Links
Methods of Contact
Consumer Expenditure Survey program staff are available Monday through Friday to respond to inquiries.
Please use any of the methods below to contact the CE program. Inquiries should include your name, and phone
number, fax number, mailing address, or email address, along with a brief message.
Incoming calls are connected to the office's voice mail and answered promptly.
Bureau of Labor Statistics
Consumer Expenditure Surveys — Branch of Information and Analysis
Postal Square Building, Room 3985
2 Massachusetts Avenue, N.E.
Washington, DC 20212-0001