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News Release Information

Wednesday, December 09, 2020


Technical information:
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  • (415) 625-2270

Consumer Expenditures for the San Francisco Area: 2018-19

Households in the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA, metropolitan area spent an average of $87,287 per year in 2018–19, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Assistant Commissioner for Regional Operations Richard Holden noted that this figure was significantly higher than the $62,395 average expenditure level for households in the United States. San Francisco-area households allocated their dollars similarly to the nation in five major components, with three differing significantly from their respective U.S. averages. For example, the share of expenditures for healthcare, which accounted for 5.6 percent of the average household’s budget in the San Francisco area, was significantly lower than the national average of 8.1 percent. (See chart 1 and table 1.)

Highlights of the San Francisco area’s 2018-19 spending patterns:

Housing:  This was the largest expenditure component for San Francisco-area households and averaged $31,960. Housing accounted for 36.6 percent of the area’s household budget, significantly higher than the 32.7-percent U.S. average. (See table 1.) Among the 22 metropolitan areas nationwide for which data were available, San Francisco was 1 of 11 areas to have a housing expenditure share significantly higher than the national average. Housing expenditures shares among the 22 published metropolitan areas nationwide ranged from 38.0 percent in New York to 30.3 percent in Detroit. (See table 2.)

Transportation: San Francisco-area households spent 12.7 percent of their budget on transportation, significantly lower than the national average of 16.8 percent. Of the $11,103 in annual transportation expenditures in San Francisco, 84.4 percent was spent buying and maintaining private vehicles; this compared to the national average of 92.4 percent.

Food: The portion of a San Francisco household’s budget spent on food, 13.2 percent, was not significantly different from the 12.9-percent U.S. average. San Francisco-area households spent $5,713, or 49.7 percent, of their food dollars on food at home and $5,773 (50.3 percent) on food away from home. In comparison, the average U.S. household spent 56.6 percent of its food budget on food at home and 43.4 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, 2018 and 2019.

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 component, 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 The metropolitan area discussed in this release is the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area which comprises Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo Counties in California. 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 San Francisco metropolitan area, 2018–19
Category United
San Francisco

Consumer unit characteristics:

Income before taxes

$80,750 $138,041

Age of reference person

51.3 52.1

Average number in consumer unit:


2.5 2.3

Children under 18

0.6 0.4

Adults 65 and over

0.4 0.4


1.3 1.4


1.9 1.7

Percent homeowner

64 54

Average annual expenditures

$62,395 $87,287*

Percent distribution


100.0 100.0


12.9 13.2

Alcoholic beverages

0.9 1.1


32.7 36.6*

Apparel and services

3.0 2.8


16.8 12.7*


8.1 5.6*


5.1 4.4

Personal care products and services

1.2 1.0*


0.2 0.2


2.3 3.1

Tobacco products and smoking supplies

0.5 0.1*


1.5 1.7

Cash contributions

3.1 5.0

Personal insurance and pensions

11.6 12.6

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, 2018–19
Area Housing Transportation Food

United States

32.7 16.8 12.9


30.5* 17.3 13.4


33.1 15.4 12.8


31.7 17.1 10.9*


36.1* 14.1* 12.0


36.5* 14.0* 13.7

Dallas-Fort Worth

37.6* 15.6 11.4*


33.5 16.2 11.5*


30.3* 17.3 12.7


36.4* 13.2* 18.9*


32.1 16.4 11.4*

Los Angeles

35.3* 15.7 13.1


35.6* 19.0 11.0*

Minneapolis-St. Paul

31.7 13.2* 11.6*

New York

38.0* 12.5* 13.3


35.3* 15.4 12.2


32.3 18.8 12.4

San Diego

35.8* 15.1 13.8

San Francisco

36.6* 12.7* 13.2


36.0* 14.2* 12.7

St. Louis

32.8 17.2 12.0


33.9 18.1 15.3*

Washington, D.C.

33.2 14.3* 12.2

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


Last Modified Date: Wednesday, December 09, 2020