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Tuesday, November 07, 2017


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Consumer Expenditures for the Baltimore Metropolitan Area: 2015–16

Households in the Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, Md., metropolitan area spent an average of $68,974 per year in 2015–16, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Regional Commissioner Sheila Watkins noted that this figure was significantly higher than the $56,648 average expenditure level for households in the United States. Baltimore-area households allocated their dollars similarly to the nation in half of the eight major categories, with the remaining four differing significantly from the U.S. average. For example, the share of expenditures for personal insurance and pensions, which accounted for 14.3 percent of the average household’s budget in the Baltimore area, was significantly higher than the national average of 11.6 percent. (See chart 1 and table 1.)

Highlights of the Baltimore area’s 2015–16 spending patterns:

  • Housing: This was the largest expenditure category for Baltimore-area households and averaged $23,798. Housing accounted for 34.5 percent of the area’s household budget, not significantly different from the 32.9-percent U.S. average. (See table 1.) Housing expenditure shares among the 22 published areas nationwide ranged from 40.3 percent in San Francisco to 30.3 percent in Detroit. (See table 2.)
  • Transportation: A Baltimore-area household spent 16.6 percent of its budget on transportation, not significantly different from the national average of 16.4 percent. Of the $11,418 in annual transportation expenditures in Baltimore, 93.9 percent was spent buying and maintaining private vehicles; this compared to the national average of 93.1 percent. Among 22 metropolitan areas nationwide for which data were available, Baltimore was 1 of 8 areas to have a transportation expenditure share that was significantly lower than the national average; only Houston had a significantly higher-than-average share. Among the 22 published metropolitan areas, transportation expenditure shares ranged from 21.0 percent in Houston to 11.4 percent in New York.
  • Personal insurance and pensions: Baltimore households spent 14.3 percent of their annual budget on personal insurance and pensions, the third-largest expenditure category for the area’s consumer units. The portion a local-area household spent on personal insurance and pensions was significantly above the national average of 11.6 percent.
  • Food: The portion of a Baltimore household’s budget spent on food, 12.1 percent, was not significantly different from the 12.6-percent U.S. average. Baltimore-area households spent $4,440 or 53.3 percent, of their food dollars on food at home and $3,892 (46.7 percent) on food away from home. The average U.S. household spent 56.7 percent of its food budget on food at home and 43.3 percent on food 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, 2015 and 2016.

A household in the CE survey is defined as a consumer unit which includes families, single persons living alone or sharing a household with others but who are financially independent, or two or more persons living together who share 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 Data for the nation, the four geographic regions of the U.S., and 22 metropolitan areas nationwide are available at Metropolitan definitions used in the survey are available at metropolitan area discussed in this release is the Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, Md. Metropolitan Statistical Area, which comprises Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, Howard, and Queen Anne’s Counties and Baltimore City in Maryland. Metropolitan area news releases for the Consumer Expenditure Survey are available at

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 distributions, United States and Baltimore metropolitan area, 2015–16
Category United

Consumer unit characteristics:


Income before taxes

$72,516 $94,984

Age of reference person

50.7 51.5

Average number in consumer unit:



2.5 2.6

Children under 18

0.6 0.7

Adults 65 and over

0.4 0.3


1.3 1.4


1.9 2.0

Percent homeowner

62 70

Average annual expenditures

$56,648 $68,974*

Percent distribution



100.0 100.0


12.6 12.1

Alcoholic beverages

0.9 0.9


32.9 34.5

Apparel and services

3.2 2.6


16.4 16.6


7.9 7.0*


5.1 4.4*

Personal care products and services

1.2 1.3


0.2 0.3


2.3 2.0

Tobacco products and smoking supplies

0.6 0.3*


1.6 1.3

Cash contributions

3.4 2.5*

Personal insurance and pensions

11.6 14.3*


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 22 metropolitan areas, 2015–16
Area Housing Transportation Food

United States

32.9 16.4 12.6


31.7 19.1 11.8


34.1 18.3 10.2*


34.5 16.6 12.1


39.2* 12.4* 11.2*


35.2* 14.5* 13.2

Dallas-Fort Worth

34.2 16.0 11.9


32.9 16.5 11.3*


30.3* 16.4 12.9


36.3* 14.2 15.4*


31.8 21.0* 14.2*

Los Angeles

36.2* 15.6 12.4


36.4* 14.8 12.3

Minneapolis-St. Paul

30.9 15.4 11.0*

New York

38.8* 11.4* 10.7*


33.8 14.4* 11.7


32.2 15.1 12.1

San Diego

35.1* 13.7* 11.4

San Francisco

40.3* 11.9* 11.5


33.4 13.4* 13.6

St. Louis

31.7 16.1 13.2


33.7 17.7 12.6

Washington, D.C.

35.7* 12.8* 10.8*


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


Last Modified Date: Tuesday, November 07, 2017