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Mr. George Grandy Jr., Director
101 Marietta St., NW, Ste 3200
Atlanta, GA 30303-2700
(404) 730-3832


Census Bureau to Survey Nation's Spending Habits (Regional)

ATLANTA — In April 2010, U.S. Census Bureau field representatives will collect information about how much Americans spend for groceries, clothing, transportation, housing, health care and other items from a sample of households across the country. The Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE) is not to be confused with the separate 2010 Census. The decennial census questionnaires were mailed to households in mid-March.

The CE program consists of two parts:

  • The Interview Survey — During the year, about 15,000 households will be interviewed each quarter to obtain data on relatively large expenditures and also those expenditures that occur on a regular basis (such as rent and utilities).
  • The Diary Survey — During the year, another 12,500 households will be asked to keep two consecutive one-week diaries of smaller, more frequent purchases that may be difficult for respondents to recall later (such as a fast-food purchase at a drive-through window, a soda or candy bar from a vending machine, or a carton of eggs from the supermarket).

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics then calculates and publishes integrated data from the two surveys — providing a snapshot of our nation's economy and spending habits. Government economists use the survey results to update a "market basket" of goods and services for the Consumer Price Index, our nation's most widely used measure of inflation.

"Findings from the Consumer Expenditure Survey permit policymakers to assess the impact of governmental policy changes on spending patterns of different socioeconomic groups," said George Grandy Jr., director of the Census Bureau's Atlanta Regional Office. "These data also help business owners track consumer spending trends, so they can better respond to the needs of their customers."

Before the CE interviews begin, households will receive a letter from the Census Bureau director informing them of their selection to participate in the survey. Census Bureau field representatives will visit these households to conduct the interview. The field representative conducting the CE interviews must display an official photo identification before proceeding with the interview. Federal law ensures survey respondents' personal information and answers are kept confidential.

The following data on the amount spent on transportation are an example of CE results.

Household Expenditures for Transportation: 2007-2008
Area Average annual amount spent for transportation Percentage of total expenditures
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
United States $8,680 17.3
Northeast $8,455 15.9
Philadelphia 8,658 15.5
New York 8,249 13.9
Boston 8,067 14.4
South $8,484 18.4
Houston 10,880 19.5
Washington, D.C. 10,452 14.8
Dallas-Fort Worth 10,140 19.1
Miami 8,506 18.1
Baltimore 7,793 14.8
Atlanta 7,316 15.7
Midwest $8,550 17.8
Minneapolis-St. Paul 9,678 16.6
Detroit 9,200 19.1
Chicago 8,947 15.4
Cleveland 8,365 17.2
West $9,314 16.7
Phoenix 11,630 20.5
San Francisco 10,591 15.4
Seattle 9,643 15.2
Los Angeles 9,227 15.6
San Diego 6,556 12.8
Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Public Information Office | | Last Revised: September 09, 2014