How Do Southerners Spend Their Money?

How Do Southerners Spend Their Money?

  • July 26th, 2019

How Do Southerners Spend Their Money?

The three biggest items on which Southerners spend their money are, in order, housing, food, and transportation. This is true for the United States as a whole, but Southerners are paying bigger portions of their incomes on transportation and smaller portions on housing than the national average. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics conducts a Consumer Expenditure Survey every year. The results for 1997 were recently released.For this analysis, “Housing” includes what people spend for their dwellings (mortgage or rent), property taxes, and utilities and public services (gas, electricity, water, telephone, etc.), but not housekeeping supplies, household furnishings and equipment, or appliance and furniture repair, pest control, housekeeping services, or lawn care services. Southerners use about 23 percent of their total expenditures for housing; the national average is 25 percent.

We include in “Transportation” the purchase and maintenance of new and used cars, trucks, campers, motorcycles, etc., as well as the gasoline, diesel fuel, and motor oil needed to run those machines. Southerners allocate 13 percent of their total spending for those things, as opposed to 11 percent as a national average. Most of the difference is because Southerners buy lots of cars, trucks, and gasoline to run them. Public transportation is in a different category. Although the average dollars spent for public transportation is higher nationally ($393 per year) than in the South ($243), those amounts represent about 1 percent of spending for both groups.

Nationally, Americans, including Southerners, allocate about 14 percent of their budget for food, not counting alcohol. These expenditures include food at home and in restaurants. How people decide to spend their food dollars, whether in fast food restaurants, traditional restaurants, supermarkets, health food stores, etc. tends to relate more to their age, family situation, and lifestyle than the part of the country they live in. A single person under age 25 anywhere in the country is likely to spend a bigger portion of his income in restaurants than a married couple with small children.

Interestingly, Southerners spend about the same amount of money on clothes ($1,507) as they do on entertainment ($1,561). Southerners spend 5 percent of their budgets for entertainment and another 5 for clothes, jewelry, and shoes. “Entertainment” expenses are things such as fees and admissions, televisions, radios, or sound equipment, and also money spent on pets, toys, and playground equipment.”Health care” includes health insurance, medical services, drugs, and medical supplies. Southerners are spending a little bit more on health care, both in dollars ($1,902) and as a percent (6%) of total spending, than the national average ($1,841 and 5%).

Southerners give 3 percent of their budgets for cash contributions, and 9 percent for insurance and pensions. They spend 2 percent for personal care products, 1 percent for tobacco, 1 percent for alcohol, and 1 percent for education.

The Department of Labor’s expenditure data should be used with care. The amounts are averages. An individual household may spend more or less than the average, depending on its particular characteristics. In any geographic region, income, age of family members, and taste influence expenditures. Nevertheless, the Consumer Expenditure Survey gives us a fascinating view of how the South is similar to, and different from, the rest of the county.

Annette Jones Watters

For more information: Contact the Bureau of Labor Statistics Regional Office in Atlanta at (404) 331-3415 to ask for Report 927, Consumer Expenditures in 1997