Living Standards

From Carpe Diem:

1. The material well-being of families in the United States improved dramatically, as demonstrated by the change over time in the percentage of expenditures allocated for food, clothing, and housing. In 1901, the average U.S. family devoted 79.8 percent of its spending to these necessities. By 2002–03, allocations on necessities had been reduced substantially, for U.S. families to 50.1% of spending (see top chart above).

MP: As I wrote in a previous post: Teenagers today can afford products today like cell phones with cameras, digital cameras, GPS systems, CD players, DVD players, laptop computers, and iPods that even a billionaire couldn’t have purchased 2 0 years ago. As much as we might complain, just by being alive in the 21st century America, even if you’re earning the minimum wage, you’ve already “won first prize in the lottery of life.”

 

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63 Responses to “Living Standards”


  1. 1 David Perez November 15, 2009 at 1:09 PM

    I agree 100% with this article. We Americans have so much, yet we are still hungry for more. We can text or call or friends via cellphones, and catch a Jamba Juice with them in town. Food is plentiful, even if you are among the lower class, since various shelters and foodbanks can provide even the miniscule of sustenance. On a lighter note, America is also blessed to have a dollar that is worth something. I remember when I was working, I hated the minimum wage. As I grew older, however, I realized that I was making far more than most workers in other countries. Not only that, I mostly blew my money on games, movies, etc. These were items I wanted for luxury, not to survive.
    The younger generation needs to stop taking things for granted. Shows like the Hills and Keeping Up With The Kardishians are great for entertainment, but they don’t make us look good to the rest of the world. Furthermore, these lavish lifestyles can be attained because of the the blood of our men and women fighting for America. Never forget how America became America.

  2. 2 Alejandro Plascencia November 15, 2009 at 6:23 PM

    I agree with David that the youth take things for granted because being a college freshmen I have my tuition payed for by my parents. I have a job but the money that I make all goes to luxuries. I don’t have to worry about food because that is provided by the school as well as housing. I only spendmy money on clothes, gas, and other luxuries because the necessities are provided without my money. I forget about how hard my parentswork for me and that I shouldnt blow my money on unecessary things.

  3. 3 Amanda Chow November 16, 2009 at 3:56 PM

    I think that we are very fortunate that we can but these luxury items even though they are not necessary. I feel that we do think that these items are necessary to our everyday lives. On average a college student has to have a some kind of computer or laptop, or a businessman needs cell phone that can send text messages and receive e-mail. We take these things for granted though because we do not actually need these luxury items they just make our lives a lot more convenient. Food is something that we definitely abuse so often. When I go out with my friends and family at least half the table and the people around us waste so much food. Sometimes I think we should go back to the days when a family could only get a turkey on Thanksgiving or special holidays which it more special because you do not take it for granted.

  4. 4 Amanda Herrera November 16, 2009 at 4:53 PM

    After reading this article i immediately attributed the easily accessible luxuries to technology. The biggest difference i think from 1901 to now is the continuous advancement of technology. Without the advancements of technology cell phones such as the iPhone would not be bought by half its users. The advancements in technology allow for cell phones to be sold at a more affordable price. Just think of hen the first iPhone was made. Only a few users had them but now a vast majority of AT&T users have them. My twelve year old cousin has one and i just think that is ridiculous. Yes i am thankful for technology but i still keep in mind how grateful we teenagers should be. Are parents would have never dreamed of having nearly as many luxuries as we can afford now in the 21st century.

  5. 5 Kaitlin E November 16, 2009 at 7:48 PM

    People today most definitely are better off from the strictly financial and material point of view, than were people in the United States 100, even 50 or 20 years ago. Technology has developed very rapidly, at the rate that even I can recognize in my 19 years. It seems like just yesterday that if I wanted to listen to a song when not at home, I had to carry around my portable CD player and CDs, now I have every song I could ever want on my iPod. Technology today continues to fascinate me.

  6. 6 yvonne November 16, 2009 at 10:52 PM

    Yes the teens in this country are very fortunate. I have never seen so many kids with cellphones, just to have not for any specific use. Just to text or listen to music or even email a friend. How wonderful technology has been to this country. As soon as my kids turned 10 they felt they deserved cellphones when asked for what reason because “everyone has one.” As a parent i think we have lost sight on teaching our kids how to earn and appreciate things. Now the kids today take things for granted and feel everything is a given. We need to lead by example and teach our kids values and morals . We need to start helping those less fortunate than us.

  7. 7 Nicole Hernandez November 17, 2009 at 9:07 AM

    I agree with this article because even though we have so many things, we already have the things we need, and we just keep wanting more. Our society is never satisfied with what we have. We just want better and bigger things. Technology has increased so rapidly and when something new comes out, everyone wants it and goes out and buys it. A lot of people take things for granted, but we need to remember that there are other people out there that don’t even have the necessities of everyday life which we take for granted.

  8. 8 Mike Beretta November 17, 2009 at 11:48 AM

    I find it interesting that the article states that in 1901, 80% of earning was spent on necessities but in 2003 it is at 50%. We’re talking necessities here, the things we need to live. It sounds like people are more interested in spending on luxury items and non-necessities than on food. High school and college students can’t get by unless they have a computer, cell phone, and copy machine. Technology is great, but there is a backlash to it also. Buying all this stuff helped the economy at one point, but now it’s become a slug on the market. There is always something new and better, but do we really need it. People need to start realizing they can do without and be mindful of what they really need.

  9. 9 Alex Stauffer November 17, 2009 at 12:58 PM

    I have thought this same exact thing for some time now. Everyone seems to be down about what they don’t have but really that’s just people taking for granted all the things that are seen as necessary items now a day. I remember when everyone didn’t have an iPod, or when the iPhone was still something of a incredible possession. And now people are pissed because of the economy because they are short on money when maybe the truth is they are upset because they now cant purchase the “NEW iPhone” or the 20010 car. What happened to being happy with what you have?

  10. 10 Remy Smith-Lewis November 17, 2009 at 3:49 PM

    I find this very true,we take alot of things for granted that could be takin from us in a hart beet. and i think teens are the worst ones.

  11. 11 Alanna Heaney November 17, 2009 at 9:02 PM

    i really like this article its so true. we all are very lucky with what we havebut we do take things for granted and always want more. we only need the little things but people want the most expensive things and we blame it on the economy. “even if you’re earning the minimum wage, you’ve already ‘won first prize in the lottery of life.'” i like this quote from the article. its true so many people live of minimum wage and they make by with it. so many people are desperately looking for jobs and how much you get paid doesnt matter anymore. its just having a job is what is most important in peoples lives right now.

  12. 12 Samantha Vavricka November 18, 2009 at 2:32 PM

    I really like this article. It’s so true. I grew up in a single family home and most of my mom’s paycheck went to food and rent. There was no frivolous spending. If I wanted a new outfit or nonessential item I had to buy it myself. I was working at the age of 12, babysitting, delivering papers, etc. I want to provide for my daughters and hope that they don’t have to work until they are done with school, but I also want to keep them grounded and make them realize that cellphones, computers, etc are not necessities, but luxuries.

  13. 13 Maria Rogan November 19, 2009 at 6:53 PM

    We all take things for granted, especially teenagers. I think its funny how someone gets a phone and 3 months later, something new comes out and they want that. We are all lucky to be able to buy these expensive things such as cameras and cell phones. 20 years ago people did not have access to things like a cell phone. I think that food and clothing are definitely more important than electronics, however, I still have more “wants” than “needs”. I find myself trying to hold myself back when I see something new in the store. I try to think of the things I really need. America needs to start realizing that we are all fortunate to have such luxuries. We must come to believe that food, clothing, and housing items are more important than anything else.

  14. 14 Jennifer Tarbell November 20, 2009 at 10:56 PM

    Im 19 years old, have my college paid for by being Native american, Im and only child with all the amenities and my fist car was a lexus. And yet I still dont consider myself a rich kid just because of the world we live in. everybody wants bigger and more. weve become a materialistic world and this article really exposes that by breaking it down and showing the cold hard figures.

  15. 15 Carling November 21, 2009 at 4:13 PM

    As the times change, people change. Elementary school aged kids have laptops, iPhones, and cameras at their disposal. I agree with Maria, people need to separate their “wants” from their “needs” (which might help people not get in debt!) I have found that when people want something, they do everything to get it. Once they get it, they are over it and transition to wanting a new thing. The list will never stop.

  16. 16 Karla Martinez November 21, 2009 at 9:49 PM

    On several occasions my mom and I have had conversations about the lifestyle she had growing up in Mexico in the 70’s versus my siblings and I growing up in the US. She remebers suffering some poverty, but also acknowledges that there were families that were worst off. Her family was considered to be middle class in comparison to others. I am not sure where my family would be considered nowadays in our society, but I know that we have more things than what any family needs to survive. In the event that my mom’s family growing up and mine were to fall under the same category (with adjustments made based according to the two different time periods), there is no way that my mom had half of the things we do now. I believe that the root of all this is society’s pressure to have the best of everything, which blinds people from making smart money decisions and acknowledging what is a “need” and what is a “want”.

  17. 17 Melissa Alexander November 22, 2009 at 6:05 PM

    This is a very interesting article. I agree with the point being expressed in this article, but the reality of it is: What is the solution? Our television shows have become so ridiculous that I have forbid my kids to watch some of them. How are we to teach them that need to work hard to earn their money and then spend it wisely? When your young you think you are spending wisely becuse you “really” need a new ipod or phone or whatever….but our youth want what they see on the television shows. The nice clothes and fancy cars expensive jewelery and so on. As Karla mentioned it is the pressure in our society for us to have the best of everything…that we don’t see what we have in front of us.

  18. 18 Ciara Pedroncelli November 26, 2009 at 12:30 PM

    This article was very interesting. I never really thought about going through to see, percentage wise, how people’s money is spent. We are making more money today than people 100 years ago did and yet we probably complain more about how “horrible” are life is than people back in the early 1900s did. I feel like our country has become ungrateful for everything that we do have. These tough times have caused people to only spend money on what is needed but what is wrong with that? Why do we really need all the extra luxury items to be happy? Does no one remember the quote, “Money can’t buy happiness”? We should be happy with what we have. The majority of us in the United States have a place to live, food to eat, and clothes to wear. No one needs a cell phone or a DVD player. Everyone just needs to keep things in perspective.

  19. 19 Genine Lobo November 27, 2009 at 12:06 AM

    It simply is amazing to see such a change in lifestyle from past decades. Just 20 years ago life for many Americans was completely different. Few had cell phones and computers then and now kindergarteners in America carry around cell phones! America is exapnding at such a rapid rate. We do not realize some of the material possesions we own are what only the upper class people in some countries own. I couldn’t agree more with Bob Wright’s comment from the Carpe Diem blog when he said, “I was in Bombay and Bangalore India a little over year ago. The poorest American has truly won the ‘lottery of life’.”

  20. 20 Nubia Cazares November 29, 2009 at 12:32 AM

    I completely agree with this article. Many people complain about not having the latest cell phone model or new shoes. But the reality is that as teenagers we are taking so many things for granted. We never actually think about our daily necessities that long time ago only the privelaged had acess to. We are given absolutely everything almost in a golden plate we hardly have to work for anything. In comparison to long time ago when people were paid pennies to barely feed themselves.
    As being a part of the 21st Century we should be more grateful for everything we have. Past generations have given all of us the easy way of living. All teenagers as young as 10 already own a cell phone. Ipods are everywhere and with the technology changing day after day the standards of living will only continue to rise and teenagers will have to work even less.
    I definitely feel extremely grateful for all the things I have in my life. There are people who don’t have the daily necessities to get by everyday from water to toilet paper while most of us never even think of those things. As a society we should take a few seconds to thank everything and everyone around us.

  21. 21 Hyo Kim November 29, 2009 at 1:48 AM

    The article is so true, and I also strongly agree that
    the Living Standards have went up very high.
    But, like Mike said, it’s kind of funny now we only
    spend 50 percent of earning for the necessisity, which
    used to be approximately 80 percent before.
    The definition of necessisity has been changed, also.

  22. 22 JoAnn Reynolds November 29, 2009 at 11:29 AM

    This article hits home with many of the posters. Mostly because the majority of them are the people that have benefited from society’s change from necessity to want. The kids today have benefited from the fact that society has turned to luxury and keeping up with the neighbors. Most parents want their kids to have the things they were not able to when they were children. So as a society we do things for our children that were not afforded to us as children. When I was a kid and wanted a luxury item, such as a name brand piece of clothing, my parents made me work for it. The middle class Americans tried to instill the value of the dollar to their children by doing this to make them realize you have to earn what you get. Today kids are handed these things without that value, is this the way we should do it? I am not sure but I am just as guilty as the next person in the fact that I want my kids to have what I did not. I work hard to provide for my family but I also pay for my own education and my husband pays for his. We would like for our children to have more and not be in that same situation so we work harder so that they don’t have to! This has been the way since the start of America and that is why articles such as these are posted and hit so close to home.

  23. 23 Evan Schlinkert November 29, 2009 at 11:50 AM

    I find this article to be very true. When it talks about how are living standards have risen too high I completely agree. I found it funny when the article pointed out that we only spend fifty percent of our earnings on necessity, and it used to b e eighty percent in the past. It seems to me in this high standard of living the idea and the definition of necessity has changed which has caused this parentage change.

  24. 24 Vince Kaehler November 30, 2009 at 10:44 AM

    This article was very eye opening to me. Although some things that we need today would be considered a luxury back then. for example. a car is a necessity for people who commute on a day to day basis. back then the car would not be considered a necessity but a luxury. However, I do agree that we Americans take too many things for granted. But I also believe that it is unfair to compare necessities and luxuries in two different time periods as large a gap as these. Back in the day, if you were a hard worker, you could work your way to the top. You can still do this, but it has become a lot more difficult. Thus college has become a kind of necessity if you want to obtain a decent paying job.

  25. 25 Fr,K November 30, 2009 at 1:25 PM

    The majority of what we buy are not necessities: the pack of gum, the name brand instead of the store brand, that brand new 2010 oversized SUV. Americans are addicted to the price tag, value of life determined by how much you can spend. The 80 percent versus 50 percent spent on necessities is tricky, we now earn way more than we did in the 18th century, having more money to spend on “wants.” Cell phones, GPS, laptops– they all cost near to, at or way above hundreds of dollars, and the fact that our teenagers can purchase these things, without parents help, is amazing and testament to how wonderful America really is.

  26. 26 Kathryn Koller December 1, 2009 at 1:25 AM

    Wow I’ve never thought of it that way before. We are buying hardcore items that was once considered rare and just new like cellphones. My dad is always saying he never would have guessed this is where we would be with technology. Like the first computer took up a whole room and now i have one on my lap. And i got it for a good deal and i’m pretty sure almost every single person at this school has one too. And when it first came out it was one. We definitely have a more luxurious life than several centuries ago. Like if you take the value of the dollar back then and ours and how much people were making then compared to what now we are making and then take prices of the same items now and then I’m sure there wouldn’t be an equal correlation. x would not equal y in this situation. and it has always been hard for me to see that because i have grown up with these technologies and other luxuries that i just considered a given

  27. 27 Michelle Benton December 1, 2009 at 9:45 AM

    I most definately feel that I have “won first prize in the lottery of life” by living in the United States (and in California for that matter). Not only do Americans have the luxury to spend more money on objects they want instead of objects they need, we also have the luxury of the boundless opportunities these objects provide us. For instance, having access to a computer can increase your job search, college research, or knowledge of available opportunities therefore increasing all that we have by that much more. Our quality of life in the US is unsurpassed at the moment. It is too bad that people most times use their gains to gain even more for themselves instead of investing their time into humankind. The more we attain the farther away we seem to get from what really matters.

  28. 28 Jacqueline Guerrero December 1, 2009 at 3:59 PM

    I really enjoyed this articles. I agree with this article when it states that the living standard in America has increased. The luxury items that Americans spend there money on today are things that they take for granted and in most cases are unneccesary. I think it’s interesting how the article brings up how Americans use to live compared to today. I think the definiton of america’s necessities and priorites has changed.

  29. 29 Remy Smith-Lewis December 1, 2009 at 4:32 PM

    It is funny when u set back and look at are living standers to every one ealse, and how dumb we can be

  30. 30 Cole Norton December 2, 2009 at 4:35 PM

    This article definitely shows how many things we have today that we take for granted. WE often confuse needs with wants and therefore we have the latest technology we can get our hands on. The younger generations I feel are worse because we have grown up with all of this stuff in our lives and we feel we need these things, rather than want them. Our parents do a better job with this stuff because they grew up without a lot of it so they feel like they do not need it. I think it is important for us today to not get carried away with all these new technologies, and realize that many of the technologies available today are not something we necessarily need to live.

  31. 31 nicholas joy December 2, 2009 at 7:53 PM

    Americans are exposed to so much everyday it is new product after new product presented before us in every possible advertisement form possible. i feel like it has increased peoples wants, always being in a constant state of envy towards someone else over a new product. it has taken many people especially children away from core values that use to be at the core of this country. has people continue to want more it will only raise the inequality level between Americans and other poor nations.

  32. 32 eldiel December 2, 2009 at 10:52 PM

    I grew up in Hawaii all my life, I am fortunate to live in America. It sickens me that some people take it for granted. They show no respect to the opportunities that lay in front of them instead they are lazy and just get by. We can afford these luxury goods, some items that other people only dream of, or work their entire lives just to own.

  33. 33 Ben Petersen December 3, 2009 at 8:35 AM

    Looking at the charts, this is amazing. We complain about not having money in this time of the recession, but are we really being smart with our money. Do we really need every little thing that we buy? Probably not. With all of the ads that we are exposed to in the paper or between our favorite tv shows, there is no wonder that we feel that urge to spend, spend ,spend to keep up with the person next to us. We have become increasingly dependent on material well-being that we have forgotten what is really the best thing for us to do.

  34. 34 Rene Martinez December 3, 2009 at 6:04 PM

    This is sad… i mean come on people!! We say how we don’t have money. Yet we are spending money we don’t have. It’s ridiculous.In this light, we are never going to get out of this recession.

  35. 35 Britany Linton December 3, 2009 at 9:20 PM

    I feel like everyone takes things for granted. Having luxuries is great and i am guilty just like the majority of people but we need to be smarter with our earnings and buy what we need and not what we want. this will cut back debt amongst society and overall people will have more money. We for sure take things for granted.

  36. 36 Francine Zumbo December 5, 2009 at 2:57 PM

    I really enjoyed this article. It was interesting seeing how people spent their many years ago. I very much agree that we take all of our luxuries for granted. In society now we strive to have the best of the best even if it puts us in debt. We always want more and don’t know when too much is too much.

  37. 37 Justin Castro December 5, 2009 at 8:55 PM

    This article was very interesting to me. I agree that teenagers today take way too many things for granted. We are all so fortunate but at times seem to forget it. Every teenager i know has a cell phone and their own computer. There is no other time in history where luxuries like this were so common, especially among the youth. Since the U.S is in such economic times, it would benefit us all to cut down on spending money on unnecessary luxuries this holiday season.

  38. 38 Jorge Clavijo December 6, 2009 at 6:06 PM

    Living standards are values that we all try to improve in our daily basis. We have to agree that when we said that it is easier for a young student, who works and study, to find a style of life that many others don’t have the opportunity to acquire around the World.

  39. 39 Anna Chkhikvishvili December 6, 2009 at 8:31 PM

    I agree with the comments above. Yes we are not doing too well right now but people have to keep their chins up and see that we are alive and healthy. It is not important to have the newest version of something, like the new ‘Iphone’ or the news BMW. Those are all material things that are not necessary for happiness.

  40. 40 Lukas Bradvica December 6, 2009 at 11:00 PM

    This is an interesting article as the author is comparing families in 1901 to today’s teenagers. The currency in 1901 and today are by far different and so are the prices for the necessities. I find it hard to compare between the two. However the standard of living has increased due to the increase wages over time.

  41. 41 Sarah Reddell December 6, 2009 at 11:04 PM

    Although i do agree that we are all better off than those before us, i still think we should strive for more. Why should we settle for just having more than other did when it could be possible to have even more than that. I am not talking about the frivolous things such as an elementary school kid with a cell phone but major advancements in our quality of life. Things like computers and medical advancements may not have been possible if we had settled because we were simply better off than those before. I think we should always aim for more.

  42. 42 Yolly T. December 7, 2009 at 7:42 AM

    Living standards for most people these days are pleasurable. It is not the essential/ necessities to one’s life. We are all spoiled in that way. Growing up, I remember having a cellphone when I was 9. I didn’t need it but I had it. We definitely take a lot of things for granted!

  43. 43 Chris Griffiths December 7, 2009 at 8:03 AM

    This article demonstrates as said before that we are much more well off then many others because of our luxries, however we should also consider the idea that if we have been hit hard by an economic downturn how hard have some poorer countries been hit? We could probably not comprehend some of the strugles that people in other countries are facing. However we should always remember, no matter how bad it is here we are better off than if we were living somewhere else.

  44. 44 Josh Highness December 7, 2009 at 8:36 AM

    Comparing how we spend our consumerist paychecks over the past hundred years is quite interesting. I’m curious however to see if the amount of money households spent, with inflation corrected of course, would equal more or less than its predecessors. This is indeed a sign that we are a nation blessed with many luxuries and an ease of access to necessities.

  45. 45 Luke Napier December 7, 2009 at 10:09 AM

    This piece is quite interesting because it shows the drastic difference in the importance people take in to consideration for their bare necessities. It shows that as a society, we are only focused on the things that make us appear more wealthy or popular than the next guy. We are concerned with what kind of car we drive instead of worrying about the well being of one’s family health and prosperity.

  46. 46 wallacej December 8, 2009 at 4:38 PM

    As americans we love to buy luxury items and it is nice to see that we are able to but them. Even though we dont need them. You must understand that during a recession somethings are more important than others and you have to get your priorities straight in terms of whats a luxury and whats a neccesity.

  47. 47 Stephen Cassinelli December 8, 2009 at 7:16 PM

    I agree with what many people above are saying about our current standard of living. I do find it interesting that only fifty percent of our earnings go towards spending. The reason why our economy is struggling, is because people are not spending enough money to stimulate it and get it back up to normal. In this time we are in,everyone’s standard of living is lower than usual, Americans love to spend money on things that are luxurious rather than necessities.

  48. 48 Vina Giang December 8, 2009 at 7:49 PM

    Wow this really makes me appreciate what have, i mean you hear it from your parents all the time that when they were young they didn’t have the things we have and how they have to work hard to get what they wanted. However if you really think about because our parents didn’t get to have the things they wanted, they spoil their children which can be one reason why we can afford the things we have now.

  49. 49 Christopher Morris December 8, 2009 at 8:45 PM

    This kind of shows how greedy we are as a country. People would have killed for the stuff we have years ago, some people in 3rd world countries would still. I understand there’s a problem with the economy right now but we still have to be thankful for what we have because we have so much more than any generation before us. This article kind of made me open my eyes to all that I have and even though I can’t get every little thing I want I still have a lot and am thankful for it. I think people do need to see stats like these to realise how lucky we really are.

  50. 50 Jamie B December 8, 2009 at 9:00 PM

    Its funny because as a society and even more specificaly the younger generations, we have turned luxury items such as cell phones and computers into neccesities. We are an on the go culture who wants to be connected to everyone at all times. It is true that we have a sense of entitlement and are generaly ungreatfull

  51. 51 Kyle Ray December 9, 2009 at 12:22 AM

    I feel like technology has come so far in the past 20 years that you cant qualify what was luxury then as the same now. Whatever new gadget teens has in the 80s im sure was also completely new and luxurious compared to what people were sporting in the 50s. Technology has just changed so much in the past 20 years.

  52. 52 Kirstie Scott December 9, 2009 at 4:27 PM

    This article is very conflicting for me. I agree that people today have become way too materialistic. But to say that just being alive in the 21st century is a blessing is a bit naive and simplistic. “just by being alive in the 21st century America, even if you’re earning the minimum wage, you’ve already “won first prize in the lottery of life.” I think that if you were to ask anyone living off of minimum wage in america they would agree with me. Take Barbara Ehrenreich’s book “Nickel and Dimed” for example, in it she proves that it is impossible to support yourself, let alone a family on a minimum wage salary. I am a college student working a minimum wage job and even with support from my parents I am struggling. I cannot even imagine trying to support a whole family.

  53. 53 Heinrick Devera December 11, 2009 at 9:05 PM

    I really like this article and I agree with almost everything mentioned here. I think that the main reason behind the decrease in food and clothing expenditure is technology. People back then couldn’t spend on vacations because they didn’t have good commercial airlines like we do now. They also couldn’t have bought iPods because there was no such thing as those. Even CDs weren’t invented then. People today were introduced to a different way of living with new technology. The thing is that we might be a little too dependent on electronics today and we ignore the most important thing that we should be spending our money on – the basic necessities like food and clothing.

  54. 54 Charles McNeil December 12, 2009 at 4:34 AM

    If you are making minimum wage in this country, you’re quality of life is no prize. I understand that the purpose of this article is to illustrate the fortune bestowed upon us all for living in a time of such profound technological affluence. I guess I just object to downplaying the plight of the modern lower class. Especially when the figures given explain so little.

    So in 1901 an American family would dedicate about 80% of its spending to necessities, compared to 50% today. Isn’t the real value of the average household income, during these two time periods, essential to the discussion then? Sure technological advancements in manufacturing have made necessities more affordable today– obviously 80% > 50%. But that means nothing essentially, if the terms of actual purchasing power are unknown. If the average American family made 1000 real dollars per year in 1901, and only 400 real dollars in 2002, those percentages mean something totally different. Purchasing power remaining after necessities is what should interest us.

    The poor are poor, in any era. Their situation ought not be patronized. Particularly since they are likely the last to benefit from economic growth (I direct you to the red and green lines): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:United_States_Income_Distribution_1967-2003.svg

  55. 55 Taylor Smith December 12, 2009 at 9:27 PM

    This shows how more and more the United States is becoming the “I want it now” generation. Kids younger and younger are wanting and getting cell phones and ipods and it is becoming a standard, a must have for many people. The standards have really changed over the years, from vhs to dvd now blueray. tapes to cds to mp3s. The articles makes you stop and really think about what you have and how so many other people in the world can only dream of owning an ipod or cell phone.

  56. 56 Anna Hernandez December 17, 2009 at 12:50 PM

    Truthful article. Simply being born in the Western world, U.S. and Europe, brings several opportunties to its residents. Although the Western world has its wealth, there are still those who struggle financially. Financial struggles occur in households that earn 30000 and even 3000000. Both incomes, however, can be disposible and be used for purchasing luxuries that perhaps, people in other countries could not afford unless they had the income to buy it and could afford the inflated prices due to shipping, tax, and government fees.

    All in all, we are lucky to live in a country that has a hefty amount of businesses, that have to provide somewhat liveable wages, and business that offer somewhat affordable products so that we can survive.

  57. 57 Nathan Couch December 17, 2009 at 1:17 PM

    Consumerism in America is crazy it pushes the idea onto kids that they never have enough toys and to adults that they need the latest technology. If you compare living in the United States on minimum wage to living in another less developed country of course it is great living but if you compare it to other situations within the United States it is crap.

    In California working 20-30 hours a week on minimum wage will not cover your rent, food, and insurance, not to mention tuiton and book costs for school (go go grants).

  58. 58 Logan C. Songer January 20, 2010 at 1:47 PM

    It’s called keeping up with your friends/neighbors/peers. Why was someone buying a $800,000 house with a $40,000 a year income? It doesn’t make sense. America has become the land of glut. People want things bigger and better than their friends have. However, they can’t afford these things. So, what do they do? They pay for it with credit cards, or pull out equity in their primary residence to buy a boat, new car, or vacation house.

  59. 59 Econ Consumer February 3, 2010 at 5:47 PM

    Wow! Isn’t that the truth. I have a teenager. They want what others teens seem to have. It’s amazing how spoiled children are today. When the latest and greatest cell phones, ipods, games come out into the market, parents are running to the stores to buy their child the gadget. I have several kids I just have to say “No.” Even when the economy is good I don’t always buy the best. I try to teach my children that tomorrow they will have another gadget that everybody wants. Many people live on credit and get into debt just to have the best. It’s nice the buy the best but only when you can truly afford it and it is reasonably priced.

  60. 60 Ryan Moura May 2, 2010 at 4:41 PM

    I couldn’t agree with this article more. As Americans it almost seems as though we are inherently materialistic and are always looking for more and more luxuries. Being a college student, living away from home, I have experienced the struggles with this firsthand. Living at home, having food, laundry, and a clean house to come home to when I was in high school is something that you really take for granted when you don’t have it anymore. Not having many of these luxuries when you are a struggling college student living on top ramon, it really makes you appreciate what you have, or what you parents have done to get you where you need to be to succeed.

  61. 61 Tiffany Hagewood May 2, 2010 at 9:28 PM

    I have to say that I really agree with this article. Just growing up in the United States today is a privilege. My family was by no means wealthy and yet I was still able to purchase a cell phone and car while in high school. I had a couple friends that I met while working in a local restaurant who were from Poland. They were simply amazed that even working in a lower end job that needed no education, an individual could afford an apartment and food and still have left over money for luxuries like a laptop or digital camera. You should have seen them, they were so happy. Sylvia told me that over in Poland without an education, the jobs that one can get pay very very little. You can work all month and still barely be able to pay rent and feed yourself.

    When you think about it, we are currently coming out of the great recession of 2009 and yet you look outside and you wouldn’t be able to tell. I think sometimes as American’s we need to put things into perspective. Think about the Great Depression of the 1930’s can one really compare this current recession with that one? Times have changed and I’m sorry to say it, but Americans have as well. I believe we’re spoiled and more materialistic than ever!

  62. 62 Kelsey Zeller May 17, 2010 at 10:39 PM

    This is very true. everything is expected now. Even if it is way to expencive you are expected to have nice things. It has to do with staus. The little things don’t make us happy anymore. We need the big, expencive things to feel important and happy. Money has become to much of an issure in todays socity.

  63. 63 Stephanie Boyle May 18, 2010 at 8:42 PM

    America is always about bigger and better. People moved here to achieve the American dream which is living to the fullest. Also our nation is all about consumerism and individualism which leads to capitalism. There is really no way to reverse this or change this drastically because of the politics and such, but I think it is a good thing to have competition. People will always want more and I think this can be good as long as they also appreciate what they have. Living standards may be high, or they may not be, but don’t we want them high. Do we not want to be known as a luxurious nation. There are bad things about this thinking, but I think we should be optimistic about it.


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