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One and a Third Percent

On August 30, the U.S. Commerce Department published detail on July’s gross domestic product. Including detail on its largest component, personal consumption expenditures. In July, one and a third percent of personal consumption was for residential electric bills. 

Is that a lot or a little? One way to answer this question is to look at what other categories of personal consumption were near one and a third percent in July.

Exactly one and a third percent was also spent on higher education.

A little less than one and a third percent was spent on motor vehicle maintenance and repair. Similarly, a little less was spent on women’s and girl’s clothing. 

A little more than one and a third percent was spent on professional services. This category includes legal, accounting and funeral home fees, and union and association dues.

Some households spent far more than one and a third percent in July on the costs of college. Some spent far more than one and a third percent fixing the car or clothes shopping or on a lawyer. Though this is offset by a majority of households who spent less in the month in these categories. Many households spent nothing in the month in these categories. 

While virtually all households paid electric bills.

In my household, in July, we spent nothing on education, vehicle maintenance, or professionals. And only a small amount on clothing. But we did of course pay the monthly electric bill.

Should the aggregate amount spent on electricity by U.S. households be lower or higher or roughly equivalent to what was spent on college, or on maintaining cars, or on women’s and girl’s clothes purchases, or on professionals’ fees and dues? 

To me, paying your kid’s tuition, or keeping the car running, or buying clothes, or having your taxes figured out, is important. But having electricity in your home? That’s priceless.