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May 13th, 2003, 08:16 AM
May 13, 2003

New York Pays for the Steak, Boston the Cigar


New York area residents spend more on meat and poultry than those in other large metropolitan areas in the United States, a new federal survey reports.

San Franciscans spend more on alcohol and books.

Bostonians spend more on tobacco products and smoking supplies, Washingtonians more on entertainment, Chicagoans more on utilities and fuel.

Those are among the many intriguing findings of a two-year national survey of consumer spending released yesterday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics a survey that alternately confirms and confounds well-worn stereotypes about the proclivities and priorities of residents of six of the country's largest metropolitan areas. Los Angeles was the sixth area featured in the report.

Those in the New York area ranked second only to San Franciscans in many categories: household income, average annual household expenditures, spending on housing and spending on food (except for spending on meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products, where the New York region ranked No. 1).

But New Yorkers spent less on household furnishings than the residents of any of five other metropolitan areas studied except for Boston. They spent less on entertainment than people in Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, and less on reading than Washingtonians and San Franciscans.

New Yorkers spent more than anyone else on clothes. And only Boston-area residents spent less than New Yorkers on buying cars.

The study was based on interviews with a rotating sample of 7,500 households in 2000 and 2001, and on diaries kept by an additional 7,500 people for two consecutive one-week periods. The interviews covered large purchases, like appliances and cars, and regular payments, such as rent. The diaries tracked small, frequently purchased items like food and household supplies.

"These numbers are the best out there," said Michael L. Dolfman, New York regional commissioner for the bureau, a division of the Department of Labor. "We put our imprimatur on them. "Any time you sample, there's always sampling error. But in terms of the expenditure categories, we believe they accurately reflect the expenditure characteristics of American households."

The survey found that households in the New York metropolitan area spent on average $48,237 a year in 2000 and 2001, a period that Mr. Dolfman said included the beginnings of the current economic downturn and recession.

That figure was 9.6 percent higher than the average for New Yorkers in 1998 and 1999 and 24.3 percent higher than the national average for 2000 and 2001.

Housing was the largest part of the New Yorkers' spending, eating up 37.1 percent of their budget, compared to 32.6 percent nationally.

But New Yorkers spent only 15.1 percent of their budget on transportation less than the national average. Their out-of-pocket health care spending was almost equal to the national average, but represented a smaller percentage of New Yorkers' budgets.

"One would have expected the percentage of expenditures for health care to be larger in New York than in the country as a whole," Mr. Dolfman said, pointing to the concentration of academic medical centers and top specialists. "To me, it may be indicative that there is a large percentage of people in New York who don't have health insurance. They're not seeking health care."

San Francisco, with average annual household expenditures of $56,112, ranked No. 1 among the six metropolitan areas in spending for fruits and vegetables, vehicle purchases and education. Chicagoans spent the most on housekeeping supplies. Washingtonians led the list in spending for health care and personal care products and services, followed closely by Angelenos.


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