How Americans spend their money

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Americans spent slightly more than 15 percent of their income on food last year, and nearly 17 percent of their income on transportation. Those statistics, and much more, come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and provides a unique look at how Americans spend their money.

In a series of articles for, Jacob Goldstein and Lam Thuy Vo compared how spending on various items has changed over time. Specifically, the authors compared statistics from 2011 with those from 1949 and found food spending had decreased dramatically.

While the 2011 total for food spending was 15.3 percent of income, Americans in 1949 spent 40 percent of their income on food.

Americans’ largest expense in 1949 was food, but in 2011 the largest money drain was housing at 41 percent. By comparison, Americans spent 26.1 percent of their income on housing in 1949. The housing breakdown in 2011 included: 31.5 percent for rent and mortgages, 5.4 percent for utilities, and 4.1 percent for furniture and other household items.

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