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In U.S., young adults report spending less than before

Staff Writer |
Young adults seem more hesitant to spend than did people of the same age group nine years ago.

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Among 18- to 29-year-olds, daily spending self-reports averaged $74 in 2016, down sharply from an average of $93 in 2008.

Spending reports of other age groups were similar in 2008 and 2016.

The results are based on analysis of Gallup U.S. Daily tracking data. It compares 2008 to 2016 (rather than 2017 year-to-date) to ensure seasonal patterns in spending do not bias the estimates.

Since 2008, Gallup has asked U.S. adults to report how much they spent "yesterday." The measure, based on more than 175,000 interviews annually, gives an indication of discretionary spending.

The full question wording is: "Next, we'd like you to think about your spending yesterday, not counting the purchase of a home, motor vehicle or your normal household bills. How much money did you spend or charge yesterday on all other types of purchases you may have made, such as at a store, restaurant, gas station, online or elsewhere?"

Healthy consumer spending is key to sustaining the U.S. economy, and a slowdown among a key demographic group - one often coveted by advertisers - can hamper economic growth.

U.S. adults' self-reports of spending were relatively high in 2008 before falling sharply in 2009 after the financial crisis and as unemployment rose.

Americans' reported spending remained low until late 2012 and has gradually increased since then, to the point that the average recorded in 2016 ($92) nearly matched the average in 2008 ($96).

So far in 2017, spending is on pace to match or exceed the 2008 average.

But spending among young adults has not recovered as it has for other age groups. Young adults' spending is now similar to that of senior citizens, many of whom live on a fixed income.

Spending usually is highest among middle-age groups, who tend to be in their peak earning years and may be spending more to support young children.

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