The very rich, said F. Scott Fitzgerald, "are different from you and me*." Today's ONS report on family spending helps us see how different.Table A6 shows spending by income decile. From this, I've measured the ratio of the highest decile's spending to the lowest decile's for various items; the highest decile has weekly income of over £1405, the lowest has an income under £173.
For all significant items bar two (rent and tobacco), the rich spend more than the poor. At this level of aggregation, there are few inferior goods. Adding up all spending, the richest decile spend 5.7 times as much as the poor. Among the highest ratios are:
Computer software & games = 48.0
Sports equipment & admissions = 32.7
Cinema = 30.0
Rail & tube fares = 20.8
Vehicle purchase = 17.9
Package holidays = 14.2
Wine = 10.2
Men's underwear = 10.0
Among the lowest ratios are:
Electricity & gas = 2.3
Newspapers = 1.6
Gambling = 1.5
Bus fares = 1.3
Sugar & jams = 1.3
Now, these figures are skewed by the fact that richer households are larger than poorer ones, with an average of 3.1 members rather than 1.3, which means the rich are more likely to have kids. And the poorest decile are more likely to be women - which goes some way to explaining the weird fact that the rich spend a lot more on men's grundies than the poor.
One thing that stands out here is the high ratios for rail fares and petrol, which suggests that these travel expenses are luxury goods. By contrast, the low ratios for electricity and gas and for bus fares suggest that price rises for these have regressive effects.
One other thing. The above numbers miss out some other expenses. The richest decile pay 176.6 times more in income tax than the poorest, 466 times more in National Insurance, and save 110 times as much.
* Hemingway's famous retort - "yes, they've got more money" - is apocryphal.