Consumer Expenditures

The Consumer Expenditure database covers most major household expenditures in a multi-level hierarchical classification. Expenditures can be expressed either as aggregate expenditure or per household expenditure for any geographic level from the block group to national.

Most of these categories include two or three levels of sub-category detail. For example, a typical classification for an item in the food group is:

Total Expenditure
  • FB Food and Beverage
  • FB1 Food At Home
  • FB106 Dairy Products
  • FB10604 Cheese

This structure permits ready analysis of expenditures at any level of detail and between levels of detail. It is possible to analyze any individual category within the context of its parent category (e.g. cheese expenditures as a share of total dairy product expenditures or total food at home expenditures).

The major categories represented are:


• Total Expenditure
• Food and Beverages
• Shelter
• Utilities
• Household Operations
• Household Furnishings / Equipment
• Apparel
• Transportation
• Health Care
• Entertainment
• Personal Care
• Reading
• Education
• Tobacco Products
• Miscellaneous Expenses
• Cash Contributions
• Personal Insurance
• Gifts

The Consumer Expenditure database consists of a multi-level hierarchical classification of household expenditures, which covers the majority of annual household expenditures. It is derived from an extensive modeling effort using the latest available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The BLS survey is a comprehensive survey that averages over 7,500 households four times a year using a rotating sampling frame. The use of several consecutive years of data provides a rich base of expenditure data from which to build expenditure models based on household demographics.

The database consists of a total of 396 base variables, which are aggregated in up to four levels of detail. A hierarchical structure is utilized throughout, so that it is possible to aggregate or disaggregate categories as required for analysis.

In total, there are 396 detail categories that can be aggregated using the field name. The field name will in all cases begin with the three-character sequence XCY (for an average expenditure) or TCY (for total geographic area expenditure) in order to distinguish these variables from those of other databases and from other years. The next two characters are the major group (e.g. AP for apparel). The primary detail level is a one-digit number (e.g. AP1 is men’s apparel). Two sequences of two digits then follow to indicate the remaining two levels of potential detail. To view all the variables in the Consumer Expenditure database, please see the AGS Variable List.

Methodology and Data Sources

AGS uses a wide range of data sources in constructing its estimates and projections, please refer to the full methodology link below for details.

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