Survey: Americans Spend Most on Housing, Healthcare

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, consumer spending habits vary widely across the globe.


Since home prices took a nosedive following the nation's financial meltdown, it's easy to think that housing costs have plummeted along with battered the housing market. After all, we live in an era of "unprecedented affordability," right?

Maybe not.

According to a new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics comparing consumer spending in the United States, Canada, Japan, and the United Kingdom, Americans spend a bigger chunk of their budgets on housing than those in any of the other countries surveyed. Here in the United States, 30 percent of our budgets go toward housing expenses compared to about 24 percent for the United Kingdom and Canada, and just about 22 percent for Japan.

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It's worth noting that the BLS data comes from 2009—right around the trough of the recession--so consumer spending habits might have shifted since then. Still, other data offers interesting comparison points when it comes to how consumers across the world spend their money.

Unsurprisingly, Americans pay a pretty penny for healthcare, devoting the most moolah to staying healthy of those in any of the countries surveyed. That's likely due to the government healthcare options available in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Japan, which help reduce out-of-pocket expenses.

But where Americans are slammed on housing and healthcare, they get a break when it comes to food, booze, and clothing.

[Read: Real Estate Recovery: Are We There Yet?]

Consider this morsel: In Japan, consumers fork over almost 22 percent of their total expenditures on food, and Brits spend nearly as much, at nearly 20 percent of expenditures. While Americans spend more eating out than those in most countries surveyed—about 6 percent compared to Canada's 4 percent and Japan's 5 percent—groceries eat up only 14 percent of our budgets, the lowest share among the countries surveyed.

When it comes to getting around, the two most auto-dependent countries show that owning your own set of wheels can be costly. Canadians plunk down about 20 percent of their budgets for travel-related expenses—thanks in large part to higher fuel costs--followed by Americans and Britons. The Japanese spend more than Americans and Canadians on public transportation, but spend the least overall on transportation at just under 10 percent of total expenditures.

Twitter: @mmhandley