The Value of Researching Consumption

Skylar Scott, Senior Researcher
August 12, 2020

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In the upcoming weeks a new research report will be released, “Increased Spending from Post-Secondary Graduates in Utah.” This study investigates wages from recent graduates in Utah, and consumption patterns by educational attainment. Prior to releasing a new paper at UDRC, studies go through both internal and external review. One question a reviewer asked as part of this process was “why is this important to your partners and audience?”

I think often, as a researcher, a framework of how a study can be used is at the forefront in deciding what should be researched, your methods, and analysis. Unfortunately, these reasons sometimes don’t make it from your initial thought process to the paper. So, prior to the release of this paper I wanted to list a few reasons of why I feel research in consumption and spending is important to many groups.

Economic Growth - One of many ways to measure regional growth in an economy is to study consumption. Personal consumption represents nearly 70% of perhaps the most popular measure of economic growth, gross domestic product. Marginal propensity to consume (MPC) is defined as the annual change in consumption patterns in a given year (Romer, 2012). The rate of marginal consumption in Utah has been increasing over the past five years. From 2016 to 2017, Utah’s MPC increased by 5.6%. This figure increased again from 2017 to 2018, where Utah had a nation leading percentage growth of 7.3% (Utah Department of Workforce Services, 2019). To understand this growth it is important to understand the wages behind the consumption, and where that money is being spent.

Policy Decisions – I have always felt that good policy starts on the foundation of good data. Utah’s current continuous unemployment claims are still above 68,000, which is far from the norm. When corona virus is no longer making headlines, an understanding of wages, spending, and education is important to create policy to get Utah back on a path of stability.

Education Decisions - George Washington Carver once said, “Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.” One conclusion from this report is that higher education leads to higher wage, which in turn, leads to more disposable income, consumption, and savings. I hope this report and the associated interactive data dashboard will help both educators and students understand the importance of education.

Entrepreneurial Decisions - One of the many factors influencing the decisions of a new business is how various groups of individuals spend. This report will break down consumption patterns across five groups of different educational attainment. An entrepreneur can use this research to see where their target group spends and pinpoint what product to sell based on this data and other market trends.

I look forward to those interested in economic growth, policy, education, and entrepreneurship to dive into the upcoming research. If you’re not part of one of these groups I still feel you’ll find value in understanding wage patterns, educational attainment, and consumption.


Romer, David. (2012). Investment appraisal. Advanced macroeconomics. New York :McGraw-Hill/Irwin

Utah Department of Workforce Services. (2019). Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) by State. https://