Spending patterns of older persons
revealed in expenditure survey
New estimates point up differences
in characteristics, incomes, and expenditures
of younger and older populations
within the larger group of persons
age 65 and over
Interest in the characteristics of older persons is flourish-
ing due to the increasing size of the population age 65 and
over . According to projections by the U.S . Bureau of the
Census, presented in table 1, every fifth American will be
over 65 by the year 2040 . This reflects the aging of the
postwar baby boom and declining birth rates during the later
decades of this century. Clearly, older persons will consti-
tute a rapidly growing political, social, and economic force
for many years to come .
Within this environment, new estimates from the Bureau
of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey (C E) pro-
gram are likely to be an important tool for trend assessment
and policy formation. To date, "65 and older" has been the
oldest-sge crass fad which expenditure data have been pub-
Beth Harrison is an eco omist in the Division of Consumer Expenditure
Surveys, Bureau of L.or Statistics .
lished . (For study purposes, consumer units are assigned to
the age category of the householder, or "reference person,"
as reported on the survey questionnaire.') In recently re-
leased estimates, however, that class has been divided into
two groups, ages 65-74 and 75 and over . The results reveal
that, although persons 65 and over are often viewed as a
homogeneous group, the characteristics, incomes, and
needs of the younger and older populations within the larger
group are actually quite different.
Expenditure differences .
Tables 2 and 3 summarize the
differences in the 1984 characteristics and spending patterns
of the two major subgroups of older Americans .z Consumer
units in the 65-74 age group spent almost 22 percent more
on housing than those in the 75-and-over group. However,
housing accounted for a higher share of the older group's