The Carbon Footprints of United States Consumers: A microdata analysis of expenditure and time-use surveys

Event: Climate Change Symposium: Changing By Degrees Multidisciplinary Approaches to Climate Change
Date: May 3, 2019

Household consumption in the United States has significant impacts on climate change through the consumption of food, mobility, housing, consumer goods, leisure, and others. Consumer lifestyles and their climate change impacts vary significantly across consumer segments due to their household characteristics, and how they spend money and time. In this study, the carbon footprints of over 25,000 US households were estimated based on the 2013 Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE) microdata, and the effects of sociodemographic and time-use characteristics on carbon footprints were examined. The CE households were statistically matched with the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) microdata for an integrated analysis of time-use and consumption patterns. The results revealed the determining factors of high-carbon lifestyles including expenditure, family composition, urbanity, housing, transport, education, and work–life balance. The time-use measured by the hours spent on shopping, eating, sports, and transport, alone and with friends and coworkers, and in the workplace and outside also characterize high-carbon lifestyles. The study demonstrated the importance of analyzing carbon footprints from time-use aspects and of consumer segments within the country. It provided insights on the characteristics of high- and low-carbon lifestyles, which are useful for consumer-oriented mitigation policymaking including more targeted awareness-raising programs.