New Consumer Survey on Electric Bills

Deck: 

Friday’s data release from Labor Dept.: Westerners pay $3.27/day for electricity, Midwesterners $3.44, Easterners $3.73.

Today in Fortnightly

Like Christmas in April, we're surrounded by sumptuous surprises. On Friday, the Labor Department came down the chimney with how much American households spent on pork, postage, pets, personal care products, pensions, and everything else during the year ending June 2015, including electricity.

The semi-annual Consumer Expenditure Survey is the source for understanding Americans' electric bills by region, income, age, urban/rural, etc. The government actually asks many thousands of households each quarter to track every single purchase. The credibility and detail, especially through mining the micro-data, is unequalled. 

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But now, let's open some of our presents. The average electric bill of the nation's 127.8 million households was $1,467 for the year. That comes to $4.02 per day.

The average is highly biased by the effect of Southern households who tend to use more air conditioning and electric heat in their generally newer larger homes. Southerners are 37.6 percent of all US households.

Households in the West, Midwest and East pay significantly less than the national average for grid electricity. 

Westerners' electric bills average $3.27 per day. That's just 2.00 percent of their total expenditures and 1.62 percent of their income before taxes.

Midwesterners' electric bills average $3.44 per day. That's just 2.35 percent of their total expenditures and 1.86 percent of their income before taxes.

Easterners' electric bills average $3.73 per day. That's just 2.29 percent of their total expenditures and 1.75 percent of their income before taxes.

Tomorrow's column will look at how electric bills are trending in the Consumer Expenditure Survey, and the significant differences between income levels of households. 

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Public Utilities Fortnightly dives below the surface of the data from multiple sources to show how Americans really use electric and natural gas utility service, and how much they really pay and value it.

Steve Mitnick, Editor-in-Chief, Public Utilities Fortnightly

E-mail me: mitnick@fortnightly.com