We're not spending our money the same way we were several decades ago. This Brief uses data collected between 1917 and 1990 by the Consumer Expenditure Surveys to examine how spending patterns have changed over the years. The surveys are conducted by the Bureau of the Census and sponsored by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In this Brief, we use two spending measures: current consumption spending is the average annual spending of the Nation's consumers, minus cash contributions (like donations to charity) and personal insurance and pension expenditures; total spending, on the other hand, includes these items.
For the purpose of comparability over time, we use only the current spending measure in the historical comparisons (the first section); data on total spending weren't published until the last decade. Additionally, the historical comparisons include spending by urban wage and clerical workers only; current data include spending by all consumers.