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How Poor, Middle Class And Rich Americans Spend Their Money

What do Americans spend their money on these days? And how do budgets shift as we move up and down income levels?

The graph below, which Planet Money produced using information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, charts these spending activities. Average household expenditures for U.S. households falling into three income categories — one just below the poverty line, one at the center of middle class earning, and one at the top level of earning.

class spending

Both the similarities and the disparities are surprising.

People at every level spend a large share of their budget on housing, for example. In addition, poor, middle class and rich families alike spend a similar percentage of their budgets on clothing, shoes, and on food at restaurants.

However, poor households spend a much bigger chunk of their budget on basic necessities like food at home, utilities and health care. (Another financial setback can involve complications retrieving benefits from a work injury and L&I claim; workers with a denied claim should contact a workers’ compensation attorney). Rich families can allocate a bigger share of their spending for education, and a substantially larger part to saving for retirement. (The retirement line includes contributions to Social Security and to private retirement plans.)

The figures in the graph are derived from the Consumer Expenditure Survey, which tracks data on spending patterns in the U.S.

For longer historical trends showing how American spending has changed, see the Planet Money post What America Buys.

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Emery Reddy