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Study Examines Spending Habits of All the Single Ladies

Single women spend less than single men, but not by much.

That’s according to a Consumer Expenditure Survey (CES), which found that the average annual expenditures of single women totaled $38,800 in 2021 versus the $41,200 average of single men.

Both groups remain increasingly important sources of consumer spending, according to economists at Wells Fargo Economics, who did a deep dive into the spending habits of single women.

The Wells Fargo team in their report included a bar chart on data from the CES study and the U.S. Department of Labor showing the percent change on spending growth from 2011 to 2021 for apparel and services, with single women at roughly 7 percent and single men at just over 10 percent. But in terms of the share of total expenditures in 2021, single women spent a bit more on apparel at roughly 2.6 percent than their male counterpart at 2.3 percent, according to data from Wells Fargo Economics and the U.S. Department of Labor. Housing and transportation were the top two spending categories for both single men and women. Coming in third for single women was healthcare, while third for single men was insurance and pensions.

CES found that the pay gap still persists for single women. Despite the lower salaries and overall expenditures, spending has grown at an even clip of around 3 percent each year on average over the past decade for single women, matching the same rate of growth for single men. That’s consistent with a similar rate of wage gains that have kept the pay gap little changed over the same period.

The Wells Fargo economists in their study found that single women have become increasingly important in the workforce.

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“The number of never-married women in the labor force is growing three times as fast as the broader labor pool, making them an important source of labor as employers are struggling to hire today,” the Wells Fargo study concluded.

While women now still remain more financially fragile than other segments of the population, the economists found that the gradual improvement in single women’s labor market prospects could position them better to build wealth and gain spending power in the years ahead.