Every year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us what the typical American spends on everything from his rent to his reading material. There's just one problem. In a country with growing income inequality, the typical American leaves out a lot of Americans.
For example, the poorest quintile of Americans spends about $22,000 each year. The richest spends about $100,000 each year. (The richest 1 percent spends hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.) So to understand how Americans really spend our money, it helps to break us down into groups. And, since the BLS has been producing this spending survey for nearly 30 years, it's even more helpful to track those groups over time to see how the American budget is changing.
The biggest difference between the lowest- and highest-earning Americans is what they spend on housing. Less than 40 percent of the bottom quintile owns a home, compared with 90 percent of Americans at the top. As a result, the top quintile outspends the bottom on housing by $21,000 a year (remember: that gap alone is basically the entire budget of a lower-income family) and $13,000 more on transportation. At just about every income level, we spend about half our income on living and getting around.