How Has The Recession Changed What We Buy?

Since so many households around the country have been hit hard by the recession, people across the country have had to radically transform their spending habits. This means that expenditures for luxury or expensive goods goes down, while that spending is replaced in cheaper substitutes. This week, The Economist published a nifty infographic that details all the different ways that Americans have changed their consumption habits in the past four years.

For starters, there are a lot of not-very-surprising trends: huge drops in eating out, new clothing, smoking, drinking alcohol (covered on Care2 here), and automobile purchases. Basically, luxury items and unnecessary expenditures have completely fallen off a cliff. Likewise, investment in necessary durable goods — like cars and clothes — has dropped off as well, likely to pick up again either as stocks wear out or when the economy recovers at some point.

The infographic, though, also points to some other disturbing trends in American consumption habits. For example, although the total expenditures on food have gone down, the amount spent on processed vegetables have gone way up. This means that households are shifting their diets away from healthy, fresh vegetables and moving towards cheaper processed foods, which are not nearly as healthy.

There are a lot other significant problems in the data: private investment in education has fallen along with expenditures in private insurance. Healthcare spending is stagnant. Given these drops, it looks like many households have had to choose between future health and productivity and spending just enough to scrape by today.

Unfortunately, this means that households have been dipping into their savings to stay afloat, if they haven’t already fallen into poverty. These numbers just underscore the fact that the effects of the recession are still lingering — and could have even farther-reaching effects if the politicians fail to step in to safeguard families’ health, education and nutrition.

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US Household Income Won’t Recover For Another Decade

Photo credit: Jerry's Flickr stream.

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federico bortoletto

grazie per l'articolo.

Sandra L.
Sandra Lewis3 years ago

I've hiked the Appalachian Trail twice so I'm used to living out of a backpack. We really don't *need* as much as we think we do. I'm not a young, modern hippy type either. I'm a 56 year old grandmother and on my last thru-hike I was 49. Reuse, recycle, make do, do without. What really bums me out is how people claim to be going hungry, that is the middle class folks who have lost their jobs. They still have furniture in their homes that could be sold to buy beans, rice, vegetables, and the seeds to grow a garden. I was exposed to a much older generation who lost everything in The Great Depression and they grew their own food, made their own clothes, and never let anybody they knew starve off of twinkies and warm soda pop. I'm a one dollar a day vegan--I hold dinner parties that cost less than $1 a head to feed people very well. I do not understand why people can't get themselves off of this dependence they have for processed food that comes in bottles, jars and boxes. With $28 I can buy enough food to feed a family of 4 well for a week, and that includes meat. $1 per person per day. This recession is really all in how we look at wants versus needs.

Past Member
Past Member 3 years ago

Polticians are all useless they are still all peddling the economic model that failed so catastrophically. The corporations have bought politicians, the newspaper barons threaten them with bad publicity, all useless. Why bother to vote? You get the same people whatever you vote, only the faces change.

Holly Lawrence
Holly Lawrence4 years ago

I'm sure not spending what i once did! Thanks much for the article!

Bill K.
Bill K.4 years ago

it hasn't effected my buying habits. i stopped buying long before the recession

Faith Billingham
Faith Billingham4 years ago

great article, thanks for sharing :)

Julija S.
Julija S.4 years ago


Ernie Miller
william Miller4 years ago

Even thought the economy has not hit me and my family much I find myself looking real hard before spending any money. You just never know when you will be next. As for processed food I processed the last of my garden over the weekend into frozen beans and Peppers I have enough untill the spring harvest comes along.

Carol P.
Carol P.4 years ago

I never spent money I didn't need to so the recession hasn't changed much. But I have noticed drastic differences in the cost of food, and I don't have any more ways to cut back there without skipping health or nutrition. But that isn't so much the economy as climate change causing droughts and floods and oil companies jacking up the cost of transportation in the name of record profits.

Dolores M.
Dolores M.4 years ago

No, I never spent beyond my means in the first place. I never cared what the Jones had and still don't. The latest fads are of no importance in my life. Caring about the planet and repecting others always came first.