The "Good Old Days" Are Now and It Gets Better All the Time, Thanks to Free-Market Capitalism
From the BLS report "100 Years of U.S. Consumer Spending":
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).
2. The continued and significant decline over the century in the share of expenditures allocated for food also reflected improved living standards. In 1901, U.S. households allotted 42.5% of their expenditures for food; by 2002–03, food’s share of spending had dropped to just 13.2%.
3. Over the 100-year period, expenditure shares for clothing steadily declined. In 1901, the average U.S. household allocated 14% of total spending for apparel. By 2002–03, spending shares for clothing had decreased to 4.2%.
4. In 2002–03, the average U.S. family could allocate about 50% ($20,333) of total expenditures for a variety of discretionary consumer goods and services, while the average family in 1901 could allocate only 20.2%, or $155, for discretionary spending (see bottom chart above).
Conclusion: Perhaps as revealing as the shift in consumer expenditure shares over the past 100 years is the wide variety of consumer items that had not been invented during the early decades of the 20th century but are commonplace today. In the 21st century, households throughout the country have purchased computers, televisions, iPods, DVD players, vacation homes, boats, planes, and recreational vehicles. They have sent their children to summer camps; contributed to retirement and pension funds; attended theatrical and musical performances and sporting events; joined health, country, and yacht clubs; and taken domestic and foreign vacation excursions. These items, which were unknown and undreamt of a century ago, are tangible proof that U.S. households today enjoy a higher standard of living.
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 20 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."
HT: Lyle Meier