100 Years In The Life Of The American Family's Budget

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Photo: Flickr / adrigu

You can learn a lot about somebody by looking through his receipts. Is he rich? Is she poor? Where does he shop? What does she value?Alas, the U.S. economy doesn’t come with a receipt. GDP tells us how much stuff we produce. GDI, or gross domestic income, tells us how much money we make.

But these numbers don’t tell us what the economy looks like from the viewpoint of a typical household.

Fortunately, we have something that’s very close to an aggregate receipt for the American family going back more than a century: “100 Years of U.S. Consumer Spending”, a report from the Bureau of labour Statistics.

This is our story today: It is a story about how spending on food and clothing went from half the family budget in 1900 to less than a fifth in 2000.It is a story about how a nation that feels poor got so rich. Here’s the big picture in one chart showing the share of family spending per category over the 20th century. The big story is that spending on food and clothes has fallen massively while spending on housing and services has gone up.

Read the rest of the article on The Atlantic > 
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