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Economic News Release
CE CES Program Links


For release: 10:00 a.m.	(ET), Thursday, April 29, 2021							USDL-21-0724

Technical Information:	(202) 691-6900  *  *
Media Contact:		(202) 691-5902  *


Average expenditures per consumer unit(1) for July 2019 through June 2020 were down 1.1 percent compared with the 
previous midyear average (July 2018 through June 2019), the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. 
During the same period, the Consumer Price Index (CPI-U) rose 1.6 percent, and average pretax incomes increased 
3.3 percent.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Consumer Expenditure Surveys (CE) measure how consumers allocate 
their spending among the various components of total expenditures. According to the BLS, most major components 
of household spending decreased.(See table A.) The 15.5-percent decline in miscellaneous spending was the largest 
percentage decrease among all major components, followed by a 14.0-percent drop in apparel and services. Food 
away from home (-12.8 percent) and entertainment (-10.1 percent) spending also had notable declines. The largest
increase over the period was a 9.9-percent rise in cash contributions. The next largest was a 4.2-percent increase
in food at home, followed by a 3.1 percent rise in healthcare.

| Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Impact on July 2019 – June 2020 Consumer Expenditure Surveys Data                 |
|								                                                    |
| Data collection by personal visit for the CE program was suspended March 19, 2020. Instead, data were             |
| collected either online or by phone. Data presented in this release reflect the early months of the COVID-19      |
| pandemic. It should be noted that the midyear average is an average of four quarters since July 2019, only one    |
| (April-June 2020) of which was fully affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. More information about the impact of the  |
| pandemic on the CE is available at |
| expenditure-surveys.htm                                                                                           |

Selected spending patterns, July 2019 – June 2020 compared with July 2018 – June 2019

Many of the changes observed in this period are likely from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the onset of which
occurred while these data were being collected:  entertainment, transportation (especially public transportation), 
and apparel and services all experienced declines, many sharp. Food away from home also declined, while food at home
expenditures rose. Healthcare expenditures rose, but only modestly during the period. Specific changes include:	 
      --Miscellaneous spending decreased 15.5 percent, compared to a 3.1-percent decrease in the previous midyear 
        period. Miscellaneous spending includes safety deposit box rentals, checking account fees and other bank 
        service charges, credit card memberships, legal fees, accounting fees, funerals, cemetery lots, union dues,
        occupational expenses, expenses for other properties, and finance charges other than those for mortgages
        and vehicles.

      --Apparel and services spending decreased 14.0 percent to $1,598, after increasing 0.5 percent during the
        previous midyear period. Decreases were spread throughout this category.  

      --Spending on entertainment decreased by 10.1 percent to $2,864. This was driven by a 30.1-percent drop in
        fees and admissions. 

      --Cash contributions increased 9.9 percent. This category incorporates a wide array of giving and financial
        obligations such as charitable contributions, support for college students, child support, alimony, and
        other gifts of cash and financial instruments to individuals and organizations not part of the household.

      --Healthcare spending rose 3.1 percent to $5,204 for July 2019 through June 2020 compared to a 2.5-percent 
        increase in the prior midyear period. The largest changes in components of healthcare were a 4.8-percent 
        increase in health insurance spending and a 7.5-percent decrease in average medical supplies spending.

      --Spending on food decreased 3.1 percent. This decrease was driven by food away from home, which fell 12.8 
      	percent; in contrast, food at home increased 4.2 percent.
      --Transportation expenditures decreased 2.4 percent, to $10,160. Within transportation, average expenditures
        for public transportation were down 26.1 percent, and average household expenditures for gasoline and motor 
        oil decreased 13.6 percent over the period. Vehicle purchases (net outlays) increased 5.1 percent. 
      --Personal insurance and pensions spending decreased 2.0 percent, compared to an increase of 6.5 percent in 
        the previous midyear period. This was due to a 2.3-percent decrease in contributions to pensions and 
        Social Security.

Spending by income quintile
Income quintile is based on the pretax income reported by the consumer unit. To obtain each quintile, the 
population of consumer units is divided into five equal groups after sorting from lowest to highest income. In July
2019 through June 2020, the lower bounds for each quintile were: $23,750 for the second quintile; $44,894 for the
third quintile; $74,895 for the fourth quintile; and $123,747 for the highest quintile. (See table B.)

Overall, pretax income rose 3.3 percent over the 12 months ending June 2020. All income quintiles showed increases
in pretax income. The lowest quintile increased the most, 14.2 percent. The highest quintile increased the least,
1.5 percent. For the middle three quintiles, the increase ranged from 4.4 percent to 8.0 percent. The percent 
change in pretax income decreased with each increasing income quintile.  

Regarding spending patterns, the highest income quintile showed a decrease in total average household expenditures
(-4.3 percent) across the 12 months ending June 2020, despite an increase in income before taxes (+1.5 percent). 
The third quintile had a larger increase in income (+5.0 percent), but a smaller decline in expenditures (-1.5 percent).
The lowest, second, and fourth income quintiles showed an increase in both total average household expenditures and
income before taxes, and in each case, income rose more than expenditures. For the lowest quintile, the difference 
between the percent change in income before taxes and percent change in average annual expenditures was substantial.

The lowest income quintile allocated larger shares to food and housing than all other quintiles. The highest income
quintile allocated a larger share to personal insurance and pensions (including payments for life insurance, other 
nonhealth insurance, pensions, and Social Security) than any other group. Apparel and services allocations and
transportation allocations show little variation among the groups, while households in higher income quintiles 
allocate less to healthcare. (See table C.)

Table A. Average income and expenditures of all consumer units
                                                                        Percent change      
                                           July 2018-    July 2019-   July 2018 - June 2019
Item                                       June 2019     June 2020            to
                                            Average       Average     July 2019 - June 2020
---------------------------------------    ----------   -----------     ----------------
 Number of consumer units (in thousands)     131,772	   131,370	
 Income before taxes                         $81,220	   $83,886	       3.3
 Average annual expenditures	              62,438	    61,749	      -1.1
 Food	                                       7,967	     7,718	      -3.1
    Food at home	                       4,533	     4,725	       4.2
    Food away from home	                       3,434	     2,994	     -12.8
 Alcoholic beverages	                         553	       541	      -2.2
 Housing	                              20,506	    20,973	       2.3
 Apparel and services	                       1,859         1,598	     -14.0
 Transportation                               10,410	    10,160	      -2.4
 Healthcare	                               5,049	     5,204	       3.1
 Entertainment	                               3,185	     2,864	     -10.1
 Personal care products and services	         776	       701	      -9.7
 Reading	                                 108	        93	     -13.9
 Education                                     1,398	     1,391	      -0.5
 Tobacco products and smoking supplies	         332	       317	      -4.5
 Miscellaneous	                                 995	       841	     -15.5
 Cash contributions	                       1,946	     2,139	       9.9
 Personal insurance and pensions	       7,354	     7,208	      -2.0
    Pensions and Social Security	       6,857         6,701	      -2.3
Note: Subcategories may not sum to their respective major item category.

Table B. Average annual expenditures and income before taxes by income quintile, 
July 2019–June 2020 compared with July 2018–June 2019 
                    Average annual expenditures            Average income before taxes    
                 July 2018-   July 2019-     Percent    July 2018-  July 2019-    Percent
Income quintile  June 2019    June 2020      change     June 2019   June 2020      change
----------------------------  ----------     --------   ----------  ----------    -------
All consumer       $62,438      $61,749       -1.1        $81,220     $83,886        3.3
Lowest 20           27,680       28,141        1.7         11,358      12,968       14.2
Second 20           39,731       40,191        1.2         31,721      34,245        8.0
Third 20            52,708       51,902       -1.5         55,870      58,648        5.0
Fourth 20           69,819       71,777        2.8         92,224      96,311        4.4
Highest 20         122,042      116,784       -4.3        214,373     217,501        1.5

Table C. Shares of average expenditures on selected major components by 
income quintiles, July 2019 through June 2020
                                      Income quintiles
                  Lowest      Second      Third       Fourth      Highest
Item                20          20          20          20          20
                  percent    percent     percent     percent      percent
Housing            41.2        37.6        35.0        32.3        31.6
Transportation     16.2        16.1        18.0        18.2        14.9
Food               14.8        14.3        13.5        12.5        10.9
Personal insurance  2.0         5.3         9.0        12.4        16.9
 and pensions
Healthcare         10.0        10.2         9.2         8.5         7.0
Apparel and 	    2.6         2.5         2.6         2.5         2.6

Additional information

Data Products

This release includes CE public use microdata (PUMD) along with the midyear tables. PUMD cover the 2nd
and 3rd quarters of 2020 for the Interview Survey and the 1st and 2nd quarters of 2020 for the Diary Survey.

Standard CE midyear tables can be found at Data tables with the most detailed
subcategories of expenditures sorted by demographics can be obtained by sending a request to
Documentation regarding how to interpret the CE tables can be found at

The BLS also provides the 1980 through 2019 annual CE PUMD; Interview Survey files, Diary Survey files,
and paradata (information about the data collection process) are available at
The Interview Survey files contain expenditure data in three different formats: MTBI files that present 
monthly values in an item-coding framework based on the CPI-U pricing scheme, FMLI files that present 
user-friendly summary expenditure variables, and detailed data files that organize expenditures by the section
of the Interview questionnaire in which they are collected. Expenditure values on detailed data files cover
different time periods depending on the specific questions asked, and the files also contain relevant 
non-expenditure information not found on the MTBI files. The Diary Survey files contain expenditure data in 
two different formats: EXPD files that present weekly values in the same item-coding framework based on the 
CPI-U pricing scheme, and FMLD files that present user-friendly summary expenditure variables. Documentation
of the CE public use microdata, its conventions, files, sample code, and methodology can be found at

For those interested in learning more about the PUMD, the BLS hosts a free workshop each July providing
“hands on” training in the use of these data. The event is open to all, but registration is required.
(See Upcoming Events for more information about the workshop.)

The 2020 annual news release, data tables, LABSTAT database, and public use microdata are planned for 
release in September 2021.


Recent CE-specific articles are available in the Beyond the Numbers publication series at, and the CE Data Comparisons section of
The BLS Beyond the Numbers publication series provides analyses of topical economic issues and long-term 
spending trends, and the data comparison articles examine CE data benchmarked to other sources. Additional 
methodological and analytical articles using CE data will be published in these series as they become available. 

The BLS also produces occasional articles for publication in the Monthly Labor Review (MLR) and 
Spotlight on Statistics series. The flagship publication of the BLS, the MLR publishes scholarly articles
on many topics in labor economics. Items in the Spotlight series are meant to be shorter pieces accessible
to the general public. A Spotlight generally includes a series of charts or graphs accompanied by a brief 
explanation of their relevance to the analysis. At the time of publication of this release, the most recent
MLR article that focuses on CE expenditure data (September 2020) is “Comparing characteristics and selected
expenditures of dual- and single-income households with children” (
the most recent Spotlight (April 2020) is “Meal Appeal: Patterns of Expenditures on Food away from Home”

The midyear 2020 Data Quality Profile, which reports quality metrics and indicators for the Interview and
Diary Surveys regarding measurement, nonresponse, and processing error, will be available shortly after
this release at  

The 2019 Annual Report, which includes more detailed information on spending patterns, is available 

For a listing of links to other published reports featuring CE data, see the CE publications page at

Survey Forms

Also available are the Diary Survey questionnaire and a modified version of the computer assisted 
personal interview (CAPI) instrument used to collect the Interview Survey data at


The change in the CPI-U cited in the text (1.6 percent) was calculated as the percentage change 
between the 12-month average CPI-U for all items from July 2018-June 2019 (253.268) and the 
12-month average CPI-U for all items from July 2019-June 2020 (257.230).

Information on the methodology used to calculate and collect CE data is available at General articles and research papers using CE data are in
the CE research library at

Upcoming Events

Each July, the BLS sponsors two events, each free of charge: a symposium and a microdata users’ 
workshop ( 

The CE Symposium focuses on survey methodology, and typically features invited presenters from the CE 
program, other BLS programs, and researchers who are not affiliated with the BLS. The symposium typically
meets on one day.

Held over three days, the workshop starts with presentations designed for those who have never used the data
and builds to expert topics. The workshop also features presentations from researchers not affiliated with 
the Bureau of Labor Statistics, who describe the nature of their projects, specific files and variables they
use, the problems (and solutions) they have encountered working with the data, and any other relevant topics
they care to share.  The workshop also features opportunities to meet with an expert from the CE program 
staff to discuss any aspect of a current or potential project, general or specific, about which the attendee
has questions or concerns.

The next CE Symposium will be held July 20, 2021. The next CE Microdata Users’ Workshop will be held 
July 21-23, 2021. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both events will be conducted virtually. Registration for each 
event (required, but free of charge) is open through July 14, 2021 (
The call for presenters at the 2021 workshop, open through May 7, 2021, is available here:  Information about meeting with an expert is available here:  Additional information, such as links to the 2020 program
( and to reports on past workshops 
(, is also available on the workshop homepage. The most recent report
available at the time of publication of this news release describes the 2019 events 
workshop-2019.htm). Reports on subsequent events (2020 onward) will be posted at a later date. 

Contact Information

For further information, contact the Consumer Expenditure Surveys, Office of Prices and Living 
Conditions at (202) 691-6900 or by email at Information in this release will be made 
available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (202) 691-5200;
Federal Relay Service: 1 (800) 877-8339.

(1)Consumer units include families, single persons living alone or sharing a 
   household with others but who are financially independent, or two or more 
   persons living together who use their income to make joint expenditure 


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Last Modified Date: May 03, 2021