Americans Spend More Than Other Countries on These 10 Things

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By Brittany Lyte

In America, we're known for our indulgences — home appliances, electronics, vacations, cars. So how does our spending stack up against Europeans, or folks in Asia? Read on for our analysis of the most uniquely American spendings habits out there.

1. The Lottery

Americans spend more money playing the lotto than on books, video games, and movie and sporting event tickets combined. In 2014, lottery spending in the U.S. totaled a whopping $70 billion. (See also: 6 Ways of Improving Your Lottery Odds)

2. Doctors and Dentists

The U.S. spends more public dollars on healthcare than all but two countries. There are a couple of reasons for that. First, healthcare services are notably higher in the U.S. than in most other nations. And secondly, Americans are greater users of expensive medical treatments and technologies, such as MRI machines.

3. Housing

Americans spend more money on housing than people in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Japan. In a 2009 study, Americans funneled an average 26% of their expenditures toward shelter.

4. Taxis, Planes, and Trains

The same study showed Americans also spend more on private transit, other than automobiles, than folks in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Japan.

5. Education

The U.S. spends more on education than any other developed nation, and most of the funding comes from the pockets of parents and private foundations. Total spending per student in the U.S. tops $15,000. For perspective's sake, Switzerland spends nearly $15,000 and Mexico pays about $3,000. Despite big spending, American students still lag behind comparable nations on international tests.

6. Prescription Drugs

Americans spend far more on prescription drugs — almost $1,000 per person per year — than residents of any other country. For some perspective: Americans spend 40% more than the next highest spenders, Canadians.

7. Politics

Americans spend more on political campaigns than any other country. To compare, India spent $5 billion in its last general election. That's one billion dollars less than Americans spent in the 2012 general election.

8. Tourism

When traveling abroad, Americans outspend vacationers from most other countries. In 2014, Americans abroad spent $112 billion — more than Germany, the United Kingdom, and Russia. The big out-spender, however, was China. Chinese abroad spent $165 billion that same year.

9. Christmas

Americans are more likely than residents of any European nation to go into debt to pay for Christmas presents. One in five Americans used credit to cover holiday spending in 2014.

10. Chocolate Bars

The U.S. leads global spending on chocolate bars, topping out at nearly $3 billion per year. That shakes out to an average annual chocolate expenditure of $57 per American.
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