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Last Updated: Monday, 28 January 2008, 13:37 GMT
House costs up as food bills drop
House keys

UK households spend more of their budget on housing and less on food, while the opposite was true 50 years ago, official statistics show.

Mortgage interest payments or rent accounted for 19% of spending in 2006, up from 9% in 1957, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

Meanwhile spending on food and non-alcoholic drink fell from a third of the average weekly budget to 15%.

The comparisons mark the ONS Family Expenditure Survey's 50th anniversary.


The survey - now known as the Expenditure and Food Survey - gathers information on household income and spending on a range of goods and services.

This is then analysed according to an internationally-agreed system known as the Classification of Individual Consumption by Purpose (CIOCOP).

The data feeds into calculations for the Retail Price Index (RPI), and is widely used by government departments, business and academics.

Housing pressures

Using a slightly broader measure of housing costs, which includes mortgages and home improvements, UK households spent an average of 143 a week on housing-related costs in 2006, out of an average weekly expenditure of 456.

Graphic of family spending breakdown
That is 22% of household income, up from 127 a week (or 21%) in 2004/5.

And the average figure conceals big regional differences.

The average rent across the UK - ignoring the effect of rebates or benefits - was 60 per week.

The regional breakdown revealed London had the highest average rent at 94, while Scotland had the lowest at 30.

The average weekly mortgage cost across the UK was 132, with households in the South East, London and the East of England all exceeding the national average.

As with rent, mortgage bills were highest in London, where the weekly average was 174. Average mortgage costs in Northern Ireland were the lowest at 96.

Growing affluence

The research ranked the top 50 items of spending in 1957 and 2006. On both lists, housing-related costs were at the top of both lists.

In 1957, top 50 list included 20 food and drink items, with four in the top 10. By 2006, the top 50 list included just 10 food and drink items, with meals eaten out the only one in the top ten.

Despite recent increases in energy prices, the research also revealed that spending on fuel and power halved from 6% of spending in 1957 to just 3% in 2006.

Over the same period, clothing and footwear expenditure halved from 10% to 5% of the average weekly budget.

Motoring and travel costs have doubled from 8% of spending in 1957 to 16% in 2006.

Spending on alcoholic drinks accounts for the same proportion of spending as it did 50 years ago at 3%.

But the proportion of the average budget spent on tobacco has fallen sharply from 6% in 1957 to just 1% in 2006.


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