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Spending on 9 of the 14 major components of household spending decreased from 2019 to 2020

September 15, 2021

The onset of COVID-19 in 2020 led to reduced spending at retail outlets, entertainment venues, and even transportation providers, as those working from home stopped commuting. Average household spending decreased 2.7 percent from 2019 to 2020, compared with an increase of 3.0 percent from 2018 to 2019.

Percent change in average household spending for selected items, 2018–2020
Item Percent change from 2018 to 2019 Percent change from 2019 to 2020


3.0% -2.7%


3.1 -10.4

Food at home

4.0 6.4

Food away from home

1.9 -32.6

Alcoholic beverages

-0.7 -17.4


2.9 3.5

Apparel and services

0.9 -23.8


10.1 -8.5

Gasoline, other fuels, and motor oil

-0.7 -25.1

Public and other transportation

-4.5 -66.3


4.5 -0.3

Medical services

8.3 -12.2

Medical supplies

12.8 -12.4


-4.2 -5.8

Fees and admissions

14.9 -51.7

Personal care products and services

2.3 -17.8


-14.8 23.9


2.6 -11.9

Tobacco products and smoking supplies

-7.8 -1.6


-9.5 0.9

Cash contributions

5.7 14.4

Personal insurance and pensions

-1.8 1.1

Average spending on 9 of the 14 major components of household spending decreased from 2019 to 2020. Among the major components, the largest decrease in spending was on apparel and services (−23.8 percent), followed by personal care products and services (−17.8 percent). The 23.9-percent increase in spending on reading was the largest percentage increase among all major components, followed by a 14.4-percent rise in cash contributions spending,

Average spending on food decreased 10.4 percent from 2019 to 2020. The decrease was driven by food away from home spending, down 32.6 percent, as consumers curtailed visits to restaurants and similar venues during the pandemic. This was offset by an increase in food at home spending, up 6.4 percent. 

From 2019 to 2020, transportation spending decreased 8.5 percent. This decrease was largely driven by a 66.3-percent decline in public and other transportation as well as a 25.1-percent decline in gasoline, other fuels, and motor oil. Entertainment spending decreased 5.8 percent over this period, driven by a 51.7-percent drop in fees and admissions.

These data come from the Consumer Expenditure Surveys. To learn more, see “Consumer Expenditures — 2020.” Consumer units include families, single persons living alone or sharing a household with others but who are financially independent, or two or more persons living together who share expenses.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Spending on 9 of the 14 major components of household spending decreased from 2019 to 2020 at (visited June 21, 2024).

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