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When It Comes to Proms, Poor Outspend the Wealthy

Poor families pay more for their kids to go to prom, not just as a percentage of their income, but in absolute dollars, a new study finds.

Visa’s annual Prom Spending Survey found that although overall spending on proms has fallen by $59 from last year and is the lowest it’s been since 2011, the average family will still spend $919. Compared to last year, much more of that total is being shouldered by parents rather than the prom-goers themselves. In 2014, parents expected kids to pay 44 percent of their prom costs, but that’s fallen to 27 percent this year.

There are regional variations in spending around the country, with families in the top-spending Northeast shelling out an average of $1,169, with their counterparts in the more frugal Midwest spending an average of $733.

But an even bigger discrepancy emerges when prom spending is compared to income — and it splits along unexpected lines. While more affluent families with annual incomes of $50,000 or more plan to spend an average of $799 on this year’s prom, those with incomes between $25,000 and $50,000 expect to spend $1,109. Families with incomes under $25,000 will spend a staggering $1,393 — for those just under the income threshold, that’s nearly 6 percent of their yearly income.

4 deserving teens ‘Say Yes’ to beautiful prom dresses 4:13

IN-DEPTH

-- Martha C. White