A look at how Americans spent their money in the past 100 years

Published: Friday, April 6 2012 10:43 a.m. MDT

This circa 1900 photo provided by the U.S. Library of Congress shows a group of Western Union Messengers in Norfolk, Va. One hundred fifty years ago, as the nation was being ripped apart by Civil War, it was being knitted together electronically by what was arguably the world's first high-tech gadget, the humble telegraph. On Oct. 24, 1861, with just the push of a button Stephen J. Field would send a message from a telegraph office in San Francisco to President Abraham Lincoln in Washington, telling him the first transcontinental telegraph line was up and running. (AP Photo/Library of Congress)

, AP

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Spending isn’t what it used to be.

Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows consumer spending over the past 100 years, according to The Atlantic. The findings draw a then-and-now contrast between families in the years 1900, 1950 and 2003.

Food and clothing combined made up more than half of a family’s budget in 1900. That changed to 42 percent in 1950 and plummeted to 17 percent in 2003.

By 2003, food production innovations made food cheaper, and other countries began making clothing at lower costs.

The modern family experiences low food and clothing costs, but pressure from housing and cars expenses is something a turn-of-the-century family wasn’t experiencing.

In 1900, 80 percent of families were renters, whereas 60 percent own homes today, according to the Atlantic. There are still renters in the new millennium, but rent costs are also higher because of constrictive urban policies and a scarcity of multifamily homes.

Practically no one owned a car a century ago, and now cars are commonplace.

Health-care costs remain seemingly unchanged in the data, with 5 percent in 1900 and 6 percent in 2003. Regardless, health care is more expensive for families in the new millennium because they are paying for health care indirectly through taxes and borrowing. Out-of-pocket expenses remain the same.

EMAIL: jferguson@desnews.com

TWITTER: @joeyferguson

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