Back-to-School Spending

School days, school days
Dear old Golden Rule days
Reading and ‘riting and ‘rithmetic
Taught to the tune of a hick’ry stick
You were my queen in calico
I was your bashful, barefoot beau
And you wrote on my slate, “I Love You, Joe”
When we were a couple o’ kids
— Chorus of the popular American song School Days written by Will Cobb and Gus Edwards in 1907

While reading, writing, and arithmetic are still part of the curriculum, back-to-school supplies have changed quite a bit over the past century or more. Slates have been replaced by notebooks, laptops, and tablets, supplies that are on many a child’s back-to-school shopping list this year along with clothing, shoes, calculators, folders, pencils, backpacks, and lunchboxes.

Today’s market size shows the amount spent on back-to-school items for children in kindergarten through 12th grade in 2007, 2016 and 2017. Figures for 2017 are projected. While parents and guardians do most of the back-to-school spending, the National Retail Federation found that preteens and teenagers plan on spending more of their own money on school supplies in 2017 than they have in the past.

Geographic reference: United States
Year: 2007, 2016 and 2017 projected
Market size: $18.48 billion, 27.38 billion and 29.58 billion respectively
Sources: Smith, Ana Serafin, “Back-to-School and Back-to-College Spending to Reach $83.6 Billion,” National Retail Federation Press Release, July 13, 2017 available online here; “School Days (1907 song),” Wikipedia, December 2016 available online here.