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Research

Spending habits of rich and poor might surprise

poorvsrichviz.jpg
Lam Vo
/
NPR

Ever wondered what the poor and the rich spend their money on? Well, thanks to Lam Vo at NPR we now have a picture, literally.

Vo’s pictogram, which breaks Americans into three income brackets, pools some data collected from the Consumer Expenditure Survey. The photo makes it easier to see some of the everyday differences between being poor and being rich.

The poor spend more than half of their income on basic necessities: shelter (29.2%), food (14.9%), and utilities (11.1%). Another 20 percent of the poor’s income is spent on transportation, five percent more than what the rich spend.

The rich invest more into their future and the future of their children. Those with incomes above $150,000 spend approximately 4.4 percent of their income on education, compared to the 1.5 percent the poor spend. It also seems that the rich save a lot more for retirement. Almost 16 percent of their income is directed towards retirement, compared to less than 3 percent of the poor’s income.

There are a few similarities across all income groups. Everyone seems to spend around a quarter of their income on housing. Transportation is also a big for everyone, being the second biggest expenditure for the poor and middle class and a close third for the rich. All income groups also seem to spend just a small percentage of their total incomes on clothing and entertainment.

The pictogram by Vo is part of NPR’s Graphing America series. 

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