The findings, researchers say, “debunk many conventional wisdoms about the new-age consumer.” Millennials, they contend, are putting off home-buying and marriage not because they want to but because rising costs are making it difficult for them to afford down payments and weddings.

“The narrative out there is that millennials are ruining everything, from breakfast cereal to weddings, but what matters to consumers today isn’t much different than it was 50 years ago,” Lobaugh said. “Generally speaking, there have not been dramatic changes in how consumers spend their money.”

Overall, U.S. retail spending has grown about 13 percent since 2005, to roughly $3 trillion a year, but researchers say much of that growth is tied to population growth, not consumers spending more.

In the past decade, the nation’s highest earners — households making $100,000 or more — watched their incomes rise 1,305 percent more than those in households making less than $50,000 a year.

There is one area, though, where consumers are spending less than they once did: clothing. Shoppers are spending half as much on apparel as they did a decade ago, even as they buy more items, the study found.

Lobaugh said the reasons for that shift are both economic and cultural. Retailers are churning out cheaper clothing and selling it at lower prices as they try to compete with fast-fashion chains like H&M and Zara. At the same time, American are buying more casual and athletic wear, which tends to be cheaper than business suits and formal wear.

 

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