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Consumer Expenditure Survey

The economy of a country is largely dependent on four factors: human resources, physical capital, natural resources, and technology. However, another very important factor of an economy is the consumption function of its populace.

I would first like to understand what consumer expenditure stands for.

Consumer expenditure, in other words, consumer spending, is the total money spent by individuals and households on goods and services for personal use.

Why is it important to understand this concept?

Understanding where consumers are spending more enables businesses to make changes to their products and services. It helps them gauge the changing demands of the public and which aspects of their products or services should they upgrade as per those trends.

It is also important at the country level to understand where and how its citizens are spending; it guides the policymakers in their course of action when it comes to Budget and other decisions. In the US, it is used to measure the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is one of the most important measures in understanding the economy of a country. It helps in giving an idea about the cost of living of a country.

How do we collect the consumer expenditure information for a year?

The most common way to gather the required information regarding consumer expenditure is through a consumer expenditure survey. This is usually conducted by the government and the survey is made up of questions pertaining to the current trends. It keeps changing from time to time. The reports related to the survey are then published in the public domain. Anyone who is a resident of the country can fill the form by accessing it from the website of the concerned body.

Businesses usually send shorter surveys to understand which of their products are being consumed more and where their consumers like to spend the most.

How do you calculate consumer expenditure?

With the information gathered, the first order of things is to plot a graph and understand the trends in consumer expenditure by comparing data collected in the past.

Next, one can calculate the aggregate expenditure using the following formula:

AE = C + I + G + NX
where, C= household consumption; I= investments; G=government spending; NX=net exports.

This can also be used to calculate the GDP of the country, which is another very important index. A decrease in consumer expenditure leads to detrimental effects on the economy of a country. Economic growth slows down, Hence, governments have tie-ups with special organizations and bodies that conduct consumer expenditure surveys annually. It plays a huge part in forming state policies. Studying the consumer expenditure trend helps in keeping up with the demand dynamics of the country. Therefore, small surveys are also conducted by these bodies more frequently throughout the year. The economy is a different ballgame and a lot of factors including this are important to be kept in check. After all, it is not easy to develop a country without sufficient data.

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