Laura Bliss is CityLab’s West Coast bureau chief. She also writes MapLab, a biweekly newsletter about maps (subscribe here). Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Los Angeles magazine, and beyond.
What do people in major U.S. metros buy with what’s left?
D.C. is bookish. Miami is vain. Houston loves to eat.
Terrible stereotypes, yes. But perhaps there’s some truth to them, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data handily charted by DataLensDC.
Drawing from the BLS Consumer Expenditure Survey, DataLensDC founder Kate Rabinowitz looked specifically at how average spending in the Washington metropolitan statistical area (MSA) compares to other major metros. But you can easily get a sense of how other cities rank—in terms of absolute numbers and percent of annual expenditures—with Rabinowitz’s neat, hover-over graphs.
The charts don’t examine housing or childcare costs—we’ve already seen that D.C. and New York City top those charts. Instead, Rabinowitz considers things like dining out, entertainment, and books, as well as car costs and public transit.
People argue about the usefulness of MSA measures to gain a good sense of average expenditures: Costs can differ a lot within MSAs, from suburb to exurb to city core. But Rabinowitz’s charts make an “apples to apples” comparison: These are all MSAs of over two million people.