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Americans Spend Less Now Than in ’73

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By Walter Hamilton

That may seem counterintuitive given that smartphones, Internet access and ubiquitous pay TV didn’t exist in the era of Watergate and the Arab oil embargo.

Americans spend about the same percentage on phone service today (2.4 percent) as they did in 1973 (2.2 percent), according to the report. Phone companies have raised cellular rates, but that’s been offset by consumers scrapping their land lines.

Overall housing costs have risen to 32.8 percent of income from 30.8 percent.

But the cost of so-called shelter, an owned or rented dwelling, has jumped to 19.2 percent from 15.9 percent. That’s due partly to an increase in average home size, to 2,700 square feet from 1,400 square feet in 1970.

A notable cost reduction has come in food, according to the report.

The average family shells out 12.8 percent at grocery stores and restaurants today, versus 19.3 percent in 1973. Smaller average family size — 2.5 people today versus 2.9 people in 1973 — explains part but not all of the difference.

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