Health and Housing are the Largest Spending Categories for all Families

Share your story with your lawmakers—are health and housing your largest spending categories?

Health, housing, food, and transportation account for a majority of personal spending. However, for many categories, the amount spent varies by income level. The wealthiest 20% of American families and individuals spend more than two-and-a-half times as much on housing and transportation as the lowest 20% of income earners, and 69% more on food (Fig. 47). In total, the top 20% spend an average of $16 per person each day for food and $2,319 each month per household for housing, compared to the bottom 20% who spend on average $9 per person each day for food and $488 per household each month for housing. Spending on health, the largest category of spending across income groups, differs less, with the top 20% spending only 7% more per person than the bottom 20%. Health spending is much more equal across income groups compared to other categories of expenses, as private and government health insurers pay a large portion of healthcare costs for the 91.2% of the population with insurance coverage.

The total amount of per-capita non-mortgage debt, adjusted for inflation, held by Americans, has declined by 15% since 2003, from $14,376 to $12,216 in 2017. Non-mortgage debt includes student loans, credit cards, auto loans, and other borrowing. While overall non-mortgage debt has decreased, the composition has shifted. Debt from auto loans and credit cards have both decreased (Fig. 48). Home equity loan debt increased following the 2008 recession and has remained at recession levels. Student loan debt has also increased since 2008.