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October, 1986, Vol. 109, No. 10
Spending patterns of older persons
revealed in expenditure survey
Interest in the characteristics of older persons is flourishing 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 constitute 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 (CE) program are likely to be an important tool for trend assessment and policy formation. To date, "65 and older" has been the oldest age class for which expenditure data have been published. (For study purposes, consumer units are assigned to the age category of the householder, or "reference person," as reported on the survey questionnaire.1) In recently released 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.
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1 The terms "household" and "consumer unit" are used interchangeably throughout this text. However, the consumer unit definition is the accurate one for this survey. The Consumer Expenditure Survey is described in detail in BLS Handbook of Methods, 1982, ch. 6. Survey results are presented in annual reports and bulletins, the most recent of which is Consumer Expenditure Survey Results from 1984, USDL 86-258 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 22, 1986).
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