Characteristics and Spending Patterns of Consumer Units in the Lowest 10 Percent of the Expenditure Distribution
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Bureau of Labor Statistics
How do poor consumers differ from the average consumer? Typically, consumers’ ability to purchase goods and services is measured by their income, and consumers are classified as “poor” if their income falls below some standard level, such as the poverty threshold. However, income is often mismeasured due to nonresponse or underreporting. Although the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE) was designed primarily to collect expenditure data, it also collects income and assets data for participating consumer units (CUs). To utilize the strength of the CE—its expenditure data— and the positive correlation observed between income and expenditures, this study uses total expenditures instead of income as the classifying variable. This report highlights the characteristics and spending patterns of CUs in the lowest 10 percent of the expenditure distribution in 1999.
spending patterns; consumers; poor; survey; expenditure