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Mr. Ralph J. Lee, Director
601 Union St., Ste 3800
Seattle, WA 98101-1074
Telephone: 206-381-6200


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

     SEATTLE — In July 2009, 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) 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 for those expenditures that occur on a regular basis (such as rent and utilities).
  • The Diary Survey — During the year, another 12,500 households will 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.

     “The findings are invaluable to businesses and policymakers in our communities," said Ralph J. Lee, director of the Census Bureau's Seattle Regional Office. "They use the data to evaluate consumer needs and track changes in consumer spending.”

     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 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 food are an example of CE results.

Household Expenditures for Food: 2006-2007

Area Average annual amount spent for food Percentage of total expenditures
United States $6,122 12.4
Northeast $6,320 12.5
New York 7,023 12.4
Boston 6,700 12.1
Philadelphia 5,600 11.5
South $5,715 12.6
Washington, D.C. 7,533 11.4
Houston 6,547 11.8
Baltimore 6,222 11.7
Dallas-Fort Worth 6,160 11.3
Miami 5,728 12.4
Atlanta 5,646 12.1
Midwest $5,778 12.3
Chicago 7,202 12.6
Minneapolis-St. Paul 6,848 11.4
Detroit 6,550 13.5
Cleveland 5,514 11.5
West $6,981 12.2
San Francisco 8,369 12.0
Los Angeles 7,785 12.8
Phoenix 7,156 12.4
Seattle 6,486 10.9
San Diego 5,312 9.7

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Public Information Office | | Last Revised: September 09, 2014