Food, Clothing, Housing Costs at All-Time Lows?
Median priced existing single-family home in the Midwest (January 2010): $127,200
Monthly payment with 20% down payment and 5.1% mortgage: $553
Qualifying annual income required to buy a $127,200 home: $26,544
Median annual family income in Midwest: $59,961
Midwest Housing Affordability Index: 225.9%
MP: I'm not sure if that's a record high for Midwest home affordability (most recent data here), but it seems pretty amazing that: a) the typical Midwest family has more than twice the income necessary to purchase a median priced home, b) the median priced home in the Midwest is so low ($127,200), and c) it's possible to purchase a median-priced Midwest home with less than $27,000 of household income (assuming a 20% down payment of $25,440).
That would mean that a married couple both working at Wal-Mart full-time (34 hours per week), at an average hourly wage of $9.68, would have household income of about $33,000, almost $6,000 more income than the $27,000 required to buy a median-priced house in the Midwest. Of course, the Wal-Mart couple very likely wouldn't have the $25,000 down payment, but they wouldn't necessarily have to buy the median priced home and they wouldn't necessarily have to put 20% down.
With all of the talk about stagnant or declining wages, increasing income inequality, the disappearing middle class, etc. the fact that the typical household in the Midwest has more than twice the income necessary to buy a typical house suggests that it really can't be all that bad. As I reported recently, clothing is cheaper than ever before in history (less than 3% of disposable income in 2009), and food is cheaper than ever before (9.6% of disposable income in 2008). With home prices and mortgage rates so low, it's also likely that housing costs as a share of disposable income are also at historical lows (update to follow).