April 1, 2013

"A generation ago, families could live better on one income than most of us live today on two incomes."

"Except for the very highest earners, life is just harder now than it was for our parents."

True or false?
  
pollcode.com free polls 

154 comments:

Jay said...

False.

There are fewer people working in America than there were in 1984, which certainly is a "generation ago"

Given that the non-workers enjoy smartphones, flat screen tv's, and two years of unemployemnt "benefits" I can say with certainty that homes with 2 earners are doing quite well.

CEO-MMP said...

Hard to vote on that. Yes, these are hard times for many. But it's also because people want so much more junk--there's so much more junk to want--but also things were better when there was a cohesive family unit and for the most part life is far easier today than ever before.

OTOH I know a plumber--a plumber!--who just managed to sell his house before it went into foreclosure, and this was a guy who worked full time for a plumbing company (for the insurance) and then full time again for himself. A plumber (or any Master tradesman) should be able to support himself on the high end of the scale if he's any good at all.

So much more stuff to want.

Friend of mine has a 6 foot flatscreen TV. He uses it to surf the web and play Skyrim (whatever the hell that is). I have a 30 something inch tv and don't play video games and use my old lappity toppity box to surf the web.

Years ago you could have any stereo in a car you wanted, as long as it was AM and you paid for it as an option. Now my SUV has a 5 CD changer (I bought it used and cheap) and friends of mine have the little in seat DVD players in theirs.

Too much junk to want.

LarsPorsena said...

Record number of people on food stamps hints at something terribly wrong.

Ann Althouse said...

@CEO-MMP You shouldn't find the poll hard. You're obviously saying what the second option says.

Jeff said...

The biggest sink for money is housing, which is relative. Our lower middle class has fallen apart, and our popular culture has turned incredibly violent. If you don't want your kids in school with thugs and more general bad seeds, you need to be able to afford a house in a good neighborhood. We're more urbanized now, which means a higher density of crap school districts than otherwise.

Shouting Thomas said...

I grew up in the 50s and 60s is a Dad is The Head of the Household family. We didn't focus on always acquiring more stuff, because my dad's masculine, religious ethic put other things above that.

Slowly, slowly, Althouse, you are beginning to understand that the feminist indoctrination was just evil and wrong.

And, at the same time, you're making the same mistake by falling prey to the gay indoctrination.

You just don't seem able to make the connection. Yes, you can twist your intellect into knots for the purpose of providing yourself with novel ideas about "equality."

You're making the same damned mistake again that you made in your youth. Is there any way that you can swallow your pride? Your desire for intellectual novelty is not necessarily sane or decent.

CEO-MMP said...

It's true, Professor, but I could also pick any of the other choices. I'd split the vote about 50% to B and divide the rest up among the other three choices were I able.

MadisonMan said...

I think you could live quite nicely -- for the mid-60s -- on one income. That would mean: a B&W TV, no cable, no computer, no iPhone, one car.

We spend $100s of dollars (I know that's redundant) monthly on things people in the 60s didn't spend on. Maybe you "need" them to live in the '10s. Maybe not.

Lyssa said...

I was torn between 3 and 4, because I'm not sure how to define "live better." I assume that we're talking mainly about material things, and, in that, I would certainly choose 4. The difference is, of course, that people didn't miss not having a 2500 square foot house or high speed internet, because they didn't expect them.

But is the modern lifestyle "better" - not sure. It certainly can be, IMO. I treasure our ability to share information and communicate quickly, and I love my mc-mansion, and I don't have the struggles many dual earning families have (my husband is either staying home or going back to work in a less demanding job). Of course, perhaps I fall into that high earner range, at least in my extremely low cost of living part of the country.

AllenS said...

There's fewer and fewer jobs out there that pay well. There's also fewer and fewer people who can do very much in a way that lets them live cheaply.

I dug a basement under this house by hand, built cement forms and poured the walls using my cement mixer. I tore out the lath and plaster, installed insulation, re-wired the house and put in new windows. When I was 63 years old, I put a steel roof on my two story house.

As you can imagine, I didn't vote on the poll.

Gabriel Hanna said...

People didn't live better in the past. They didn't have as much stuff, and they didn't have as much free time, it was much more difficult to travel, and far higher percentages of people did agricultural work or were in domestic service, and people had a harder time keeping their teeth, and getting clean water to drink...

Queen Anne of Great Britain was pregnant seventeen times. Only five of those children were born alive and not one lived to puberty. She had the best of everything money or power could provide.

CEO-MMP said...

ST says: "You're making the same damned mistake again that you made in your youth. Is there any way that you can swallow your pride? Your desire for intellectual novelty is not necessarily sane or decent."

Is it novelty or consistency? Can't it just be that she looks at things differently than you do? Possibly because of complications like life circumstances and gender issues?

Men and women are different. You say that over and over. Yet you want Ann to think close to how you think.

I don't agree with her on a lot. But I've had far different experiences than she's had.

Not to get off-topic too far.

Mitchell the Bat said...

It is the best of times, it is the blurst of times.

Pettifogger said...

I read an analysis of historical spending trends. Certainly we're buying things that did not exist 50 years ago. But many categories of expenses are largely comparable. As the study showed it, some categories cost more and some cost less, mostly balancing out. But what was significantly higher and was not balanced out by reductions elsewhere was the the combined local, state, and federal tax burden. That was proffered as the primary explanation for needing dual incomes.

Shouting Thomas said...

Net result of 60 years of feminism...

Destruction of the patriarchy that emphasizes religious and family values.

Enshrinement of female greed for more stuff and the drugging and relentless browbeating of young boys.

Martha said...

Almost impossible to live on one income today and live in a nice house --forget about sending your kids to private school. Then there is college --tuitions are outrageously high. My parents paid $3,300 for room AND board for my Wellesley tuition in 1970. Wellesley tuition and board is $57,042 for 2012-2013.

My mother did not work outside the home. I stopped working as a physician when my first child was born. There is no doubt that in order to have lived my parents' lifestyle, we would have needed a second salary.

i think my lawyer son and lawyer daughter-in-law will both have to work forever to maintain an upper middle class lifestyle should they have children.

Craig said...

Are multi-CD players still sold in the U.S.? Can't buy them or get them repaired in the Philippines anymore for love or money. Would cut into I-Pod sales.

Henry said...

A generation ago, families could complain better on one income than most of us today complain on two incomes.

( ) True
( ) False

As for the Althouse poll, the economics of the single-earner family approach are just as valid now as then. People didn't live better in the past, in almost any terms.

Except for 1999. That was a pretty awesome year for everyone.

sydney said...

People lived in smaller houses a generation ago. No one expected ot live in a McMansion when my parents were raising a family. Now, these huge houses are the norm. And yes, all the technology stuff makes it much more expensive, but no one really needs all of that. There are more choices in fresh foods today, too, also more expensive. When my parents were raising a family in Ohio in the 60's and 70's, the only lettuce available at the grocer store was iceberg. Green peppers were only available in the summer, and there were never any fresh hot peppers. Most vegetables were sold in cans. There also weren't as many restaurants to choose from, and certainly not as many fast food vendors. Cars had motors that anyone with a decent knowledge of mechanics could work on. Now they are computerized and even motorheads have trouble working on them as a hobby.

Jay said...

Then there is college --tuitions are outrageously high. My parents paid $3,300 for room AND board for my Wellesley tuition in 1970. Wellesley tuition and board is $57,042 for 2012-2013.


I don't understand this obsession with parents paying for college.

If you're an adult and you want to go to college, you should work or take out loans, or both.

MikeDC said...

It's a little hard to say because choice 2 (wanting/having more) and choice 4 (we weren't better off in the past) aren't exclusive.

If I wanted to live to a 1984 standard of living, it would obviously be much more possible to do it today.

That being said, there are some pretty legitimate things we have now we should be willing to work more to get.

Shouting Thomas said...

The question, as always, is: Do you want money and stuff or do you want to own your own life and time?

As I scale down in retirement, I'm finding that I can live on 1/5 of what I formerly earned without any particular pain or suffering, pay my bills, buy the stuff I need to do my music, and reserve my time for myself.

My wife and I chose to live on less income than we could have earned when my children were young, too. One of us was always home. I spent my summers with my children, taking them to the lake and playing with them every day.

You'd rather be in an office?

TosaGuy said...

Common mistakes in comparisons between today and the past are:

1) overly nostalgic about the positive things in the past
2) transplanting modern values and perceptions to the past.

Alexander said...

It depends on how you define "live better," doesn't it? If you mean live better in material terms (as the statement suggests) then I think that the answer is clearly "false." If you mean live better as an overall evaluation of quality of life, then I think that we might be worse off (it's hard to say, since I'm generalizing for hundreds of millions of people), and but then I'm divided between 2 (people want too much) and 3 (we've sacrificed the advantages of the single-earner household). I wouldn't want the old order of things, when women were limited to nursing, teaching, and typing. I've had female students who I would fight tooth and nail for in order to help them get the opportunities that their talents deserve. To limit the chances of such individuals is a serious injustice. (Can you imagine a world in which Ann was limited to being, say, a typist?) But we shouldn't exaggerate the contribution made by careers to happiness, especially when these careers aren't really all that sexy: some careers are pretty awesome, but a lot of jobs aren't so great, and I don't see the point of shoving more and more people into the clerical work force, as if that would make them happy.

Shouting Thomas said...

I wouldn't want the old order of things, when women were limited to nursing, teaching, and typing.

And, yet, after 60 years of feminist indoctrination, this is still precisely the work that the vast majority of women do.

(Can you imagine a world in which Ann was limited to being, say, a typist?)

The whole world should be upended so that a few women at one end of the bell curve don't have to suffer from occasional intellectual boredom?

This is exactly the error that Althouse made in her youth. She thought that the whole world should be remade to satify her 140 IQ and her desire for intellectual novelty.

She never foresaw the damage that feminism would do to all those women who were going to spend their lives nursing, teaching and typing. (In fairness, neither did I.)

exhelodrvr1 said...

Martha,
You seem to be confusing the living standard of "upper middle class" today with the living standard of "upper middle class" a generation ago. There's a difference between the actual standard of living, and the relative standard of living.

TosaGuy said...

Common mistakes in comparisons between today and the past are:

1) overly nostalgic about the positive things in the past
2) transplanting modern values and perceptions to the past.

Martha said...

Students taking out loans to pay for college is a tremendous burden today.

My point was that in 1970 the burden to pay for college was less--much less--regardless of whether the parents or the student was paying the bill.

bpm4532 said...

Gee, if you're a single mother with a couple of kids, the benefits add up to $50k+ per year. She can live in a relatively nice place with air conditioning, heat, cable TV, internet access, good inexpensive computers, plus good food at all times of the year, plus healthcare.

We have so many things that didn't exist years ago or are so cheap today that it's hard to compare.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Well, first of all "our parents" generation time frame depends on how old you are. Being almost exactly the same age as Althouse, that time was the 50's and 60's.

Then you have to decide what you mean by living harder. Less stuff? Less food? Starving? No medicine?

As many have already said. Houses were smaller. People didn't expect/demand so much stuff. A new car was an amazing thing. The first color television on the block....WOW!!! Hand-me-down and home made clothing was common. Dinners were home cooked and basic foods with smaller portions.

The biggest difference between being able to live successfully on a single income or to live large like now on two incomes is the difference in expectations. In my parent's generation it was deferred gratification and frugality. Credit cards were something exceedingly rare. Credit itself was exceedingly rare. If you wanted to buy something, you saved up to buy or at least put a significant down payment. Now, with easy credit (at 24%) impluse buying is a snap. Nevermind that you will never get out of debt...you have STUFF!!!

So..was life easier? Not if you value life by the stuff you have. But if you value it by quality time with family, principled living, working towards common goals as a family and appreciating the things that you have and have accomplished....then life was better.

Shouting Thomas said...

My point was that in 1970 the burden to pay for college was less--much less--regardless of whether the parents or the student was paying the bill.

My tuition and fees at the University of Illinois in 1968 were less than $250 a semester.

I graduated without a penny in debt. Student loans are such a great thing, right?

AllenS said...

Things are way better today for a lot of poor people, especially women. Look how fat the ones on welfare are.

JAL said...

Growing up we would have roast beef on Sundays. Sometimes lamb. (When -- when? have we ever been able to afford lamb for a normal family dinner for my family?)

Growing up family also were the last on our block to get a TV (used) and when I left home we probably had two (used). Dad has his truck or van (for work) and we had one other car. We did have a cottage on a lake which was bought from my grandparents!

We were a one income family. House was maybe 1200 sf -- (1600 sf with an addition that was put on over 10 years). Housed parents, 3 kids, a dog and a slew of cats. Yet I was able to go to a private college (scholarships, loans, parents. worked) but it was less than what my dad's income was, for sure. (~$3000 / year ... now close to $50,000. What is *that* about?)

No cell phones, no cell phone bills. One record collection for the family. One record player, & amplifier. No DVDs, VHS, iPods iPads, cable bills, computers, internet bills, PlayStations ....

Stuff makes the world go round these days. If we didn't have stuff how would anyone make a living and pay the bills to buy more stuff?

(It appears that the education bills nowadays are a HUGE suck and totally out of line. Fire all the damned administrators and "Diversity Provosts".)

Roy Lofquist said...

Scenes from my childhood:

Black & White 7" TV got 5 channels.
A single 45RPM record cost $10 in today's dollars.
Tires lasted 10,000 miles.
Cars lasted 75,000 miles, if you were lucky.
Long distance phone calls were for marriages, births and deaths.
Nobody you knew had flown in an airplane.

Materially we are orders of magnitude better off today. Spiritually we are in crisis. Personal solution: Turn off the TV, read only the comics and bridge column in the newspaper and love the one you're with.

Larry J said...

Martha said...
Almost impossible to live on one income today and live in a nice house.


Part of the problem, IMO, is that the definition of a 'nice house' has been inflated somewhat. My parents graduated high school in 1946. My father was a carpender and my mother a seamstress. Together, the raised 5 kids. They didn't own their first house until 20 years after they were married (about the time my mother took her first job outside the home) and it was a pretty basic place. IIRC, it was less than 1200 square feet. My father converted the one car garage into a bedroom and we boys lived there together. My sister had a small bedroom for herself until she moved out and my parents had the other room. There was one bathroom for all of us and the rest of the house was equally basic. Our house was a place to live, not a lifestyle statement.

My wife like to watch a lot of "home improvement porn" shows. It seems today that children must all have their own bedrooms, the kitchens must be showplaces with high end appliances and granite countertops, and a host of other expensive features even for starter homes.

MadisonMan said...

Queen Anne of Great Britain was pregnant seventeen times. Only five of those children were born alive and not one lived to puberty. She had the best of everything money or power could provide.

Everything but the best genes.

Abdul Abulbul Amir said...


It depends on time frame. Real median incomes have notched down a bit of late, but still above those of 20 or more years back.

BDNYC said...

True, but it's because we have become so spendthrift. On the bright side, we have a larger workforce and more incentive for innovation. Unfortunately, we outsource domestic responsibilities and still spend to our limits.

Lyssa said...

Martha & Jay said: Then there is college --tuitions are outrageously high. My parents paid $3,300 for room AND board for my Wellesley tuition in 1970. Wellesley tuition and board is $57,042 for 2012-2013.

I don't understand this obsession with parents paying for college.


My parents, neither of who went to college, never contributed anything (financially) towards my education. I earned a scholarship for a state undergrad that paid for tuition, books, and room & board. Honestly, I think that I was better for it - my classmates who's parents footed the bills seemed far less invested in their educations than those of us who were paying or earning our ways. Though perhaps I'd have had better opportunities available if I'd went for a partial scholarship somewhere more prestigious. (I went to law school late in life, still at a state school, and footed the bill entirely, with some help from Sallie Mae, which I'm working off now.)

I'm sort of torn about what to do for my kid(s), since we will have far more ability than my parents did. I'm considering opening a secret account, and not telling them a thing about it until after graduation.

Lyssa said...

Larry J said: Part of the problem, IMO, is that the definition of a 'nice house' has been inflated somewhat.

I agree with what you're saying, but bear in mind that it's not just about the house itself, but, as they say, location, location, location. You might be fine with raising your kids in a crappy house (my family growing up was), but many crappy houses also come with neighborhood crime and horrible schools, which is a much less appealing compromise.

It's better if you live in a rural area, though, as we did.

TosaGuy said...

"I'm sort of torn about what to do for my kid(s), since we will have far more ability than my parents did. I'm considering opening a secret account, and not telling them a thing about it until after graduation."

I am in my 40s and if we have children (we met later in life), I told the Mrs. that we will not be able to swing college tuition while we are that close to retirement. I will set up a college savings account though when the kid is born and hand that over when it is time.

Shanna said...

read only the comics and bridge column in the newspaper

LOL.

AprilApple said...

People cannot live without gadgets. I see so many people who are addicted to spending and debt.
People will ruin their lives for material things.
Technology has improved our lives in certain ways but in other ways it has inspired laziness and lethargy. Children don't go out and play all day, instead they are inside, sedentary, glued to the technology.

Anglelyne said...

It depends. On what aspects of life you're talking about, and on what you value. And how far back in time are you going? "Single earner family" goes well into the era of modern dentistry, indoor plumbing, potable water, serious household labor-saving machinery, and low infant and maternal death rates.

It's remarkable how often people trot out "flatscreen TVs" when this topic is brought up. Yeah, I like my electronic stuff (like this laptop I'm wasting time on the internet with right now) too, but what is it with the "flatscreen TVs" as the exemplar of Why Life is So Much Better Now? That in itself seems to show a real impoverishment in understanding of what constitutes the good life. It's not like there's much worth watching coming through the cable, anyway. (And yes, I own a small flatscreen for watching select DVDs. No sewage aka cable connection. Get off my lawn.)

Some things are better, some things are worse. How you answer that question depends on which of those things matter more to you.

Material objects (if that's what Matters Most) - mixed bag. Longevity and reliability of say, cars in recent decades - much better. Electronic communication gadgets of all sorts - lots more and cheaper. Quality of everyday objects targeted to the middling-spender demographic - in my experience, much worse. I cannot hope, for example, to afford (or even find) the quality of clothing or furniture that my (much poorer) parents had.

Moving out to the less tangible if still material goods - how much one has to earn and spend just to raise a few kids (let alone my parents' large brood) in a modest, safe neighborhood with a decent public school - that's much harder to do. We had to move much farther afield to have what our parents had on that score, and that's with fewer sprogs, and ostensibly more wealth. My own children? Well, we just hope they can learn how to maneuver in the corrupt kleptocratic banana republic taking shape now, without loss of honor and integrity.

So yeah, it depends.

Fr Martin Fox said...

This reminds me of the rant by Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, about wages not rising enough over the years. In her fantasy, all that money just goes to Mitt Romney and his fellow moneybags.

Well, let's look at it.

Actually, people do have significantly higher wages than years ago; however, a growing portion of the wages people get comes in non-cash forms that are hard to count and appreciate.

First among this is of course health care. It costs a lot more, obviously, but for two reasons, one good and one bad: the good reason is that we get a lot more in health care. Anyone want to get only what you got in 1980?

The bad reason is that you also have a lot of poor policy built into our third-party system, and this keeps getting worse. Obamacare makes it worse, hence costs will escalate, without anyone really feeling better off.

A second non-cash component of our wages is the the taxes withheld before the money gets to us. I don't consider it a good deal, but the money you're paying in taxes buys something. And this is important to point out when the politicians complain about flat wages as a prelude to adding to gov't spending and debt.

A third non-cash "benefit" we all get is the increasing cost of lawyers and bureaucrats protecting us from the big, bad world. Compliance with regulations, and avoidance of lawsuits, is a real cost any and every employer has to deal with.

None of these are things Senator "You Didn't Build That" wants to call attention to, because they are all things she is utterly invested in continuing and aggravating.

lemondog said...

In addition to the ‘stuff’ people accumulate, there are life-saving medical technologies unknown decades ago to which there is a general societal cost.

As an example, decades ago, if one had a heart attack, that was pretty much it.

Now there are 911 ambulances with EMT’s to respond, pace-makers, heart/valve replacements, etc.

We get so used to, and take for granted, things seemingly free or relatively inexpensive that the cost spread is not appreciated.

edutcher said...

Went with 1.

Prices were lower, but there was some inflation. Consumer goods were pretty much what they are now. The digital and wireless revolutions have made things more immediate, but not necessarily better.

The tone of society was better; as someone noted when Ann did a post on hippie clothes, notice how nobody was fat back then? The lotus eaters abound.

You wanted a job, you could get one. And the hoodla behaved.

Broomhandle said...

Bollocks. The average two income couple with average jobs have far more materially than their parents at the same age did. Provided, of course, they're reasonably prudent and fiscally responsible and don't have 3 children before they're 22.

ricpic said...

Is there any gayety in the world today? Not gay, gayety. The answer to that question answers whether the quality as well as the standard of living has risen or fallen. The world doesn't have to be carefree for there to be gayety, but it does have to be less anxious than is the case today.

bagoh20 said...

The difference that I see that is glaring is that government was much more effective then. They actually built things, improved things, maintained things, and did these things relatively well. Government employees were paid average wages and benefits, and we were all on the same side.

Now due to public employee unions, the government is mostly ineffective, very expensive and now the enemy of the people, and a drag on the whole system. In the past many more people were working, contributing, and self supporting. It's really all just one simple thing: There are just too many takers, and they are taking too much.

Even is life is better now, it's all being borrowed on a credit card. That's different, and it will be tragic for the yungins.

Craig said...

My parents bought a five bedroom house near Seattle in 1965 for $35k. They sold that house for $35k in 1970 and bought a five bedroom house near Houston for the same price. They sold that house in 1974 for $35k and bought a five bedroom house near Seattle for $35k and sold it in 1997 for $200k. I don't think they ever had 30% equity in the first three houses, but they owned the fourth one outright when they sold it and used the proceeds to pay my brother to build them a two bedroom house.

.

Paddy O said...

Except for my internet bill I pretty much do live like it's a generation ago.

Verizon packages cable with internet for cheaper than internet alone, so we have that too, I suppose. But we did just dandy without cable for four years previously--LA has about 90 channels you can get over the air. Sure, 75% are not in English but that makes things more interesting.

1 income, 1 car, 1 wife (a woman), 1 baby, an old weird house that makes it feel like I'm living 2 or 3 generations ago.

bagoh20 said...

When I was born, my family was near destitute, renting a rat-infested house, that we were forced to move out of because it was condemned when I was 3. Within 5 years we buying a big new car every two years and taking long family vacations to the shore, owned our own home, and were constantly upgrading it. We had a lot of leisure time to go on fishing and camping trips, and to party with friends and relatives. Christmases were good, and I wanted for nothing, and they were saving money to send us kids to college.

My parents were able to make that incredible transformation without any college, by working blue collar jobs in small town USA. That's pretty hard to pull off today, but not impossible. I have people working for me who are doing the exact same thing today, but it is all about attitude, work habits, and drive. Those things might be more rare today.

Paddy O said...

what exactly is a 'generation' ago, anyway?

That's like the 1980s. I'm not sure people could live better in the 1980s on one income. I'm thinking they really mean 3 generations ago and are thinking about the WW2 generation having it all.

bagoh20 said...

Oh, and the biggest reason for our family finances turning around were that Mom went to work as a welder in the same steel plant as dad. Two incomes is pretty much required then or now to make a big move like that with a family.

Gusty Winds said...

The manufacturing company I worked for, for 13 years would let the Mexican immigrants, paid on temp payrolls, work 7 days a week from September through March each year. I resigned last year.

The "temps" were there often 3 or more years and never put on the company payroll to avoid giving them health insurance.

Best part was the owners were North Shore Chicago Obama voters. The wife was on the board of the United Way.

The American Dream is alive and well if you can live with yourself to obtain it.

Lem said...

False. People didn't live better in the past.

That's a cloaked vote for gay marriage.

Sneaky Althouse.

galdosiana said...

I do believe it is harder today to live on one income, and I'm basing it on my personal experience. I'm one of four children. My father was a professor in the humanities, and my mother stayed at home to raise us. With just his salary (which was the lowest of his department, and among the lowest in the university), my parents were able to buy a nice house in the suburbs, raise us, send me to private elementary school, and help all of us out with college tuition.

I am now a professor in the humanities making a salary similar to that of my dad when he started out (adjusted for inflation, of course). My husband and I just purchased a house of the same size as my parents' at the bottom of the market, so we got a great deal on it and it was well below our max affordability. However, I don't see how it will ever be possible for one of us to stay home. My salary alone--equal to that of my father at this point in his career--is enough for both of us and our dog to live on, but adding children into the equation leaves no extra cash. Student loans for grad school are a big part of that.

Ann Althouse said...

"I think you could live quite nicely -- for the mid-60s -- on one income. That would mean: a B&W TV, no cable, no computer, no iPhone, one car. We spend $100s of dollars (I know that's redundant) monthly on things people in the 60s didn't spend on. Maybe you "need" them to live in the '10s. Maybe not."

The houses were much smaller. 2000 square feet seemed huge by those standards. And people had more children, but people spent little money on these kids. They were expected to go out and play. You could play with no toys at all -- games like tag. There were games where the only equipment was a rubber ball -- games like monkey in the middle and four square.

People made life much more difficult, and much of it grew out of the supposed problem of a woman left at home in the house. The existential dread of finding yourself alone with yourself. The solution was to obliterate that situation.

Everyone goes to work and works all the time, and even play will be like work.

bagoh20 said...

The important thing to understand is that then or now a person or a family can greatly improve their lifestyle if they make the right choices, and put in the effort and sacrifice. That's what I see holding people back, they aren't willing to do what it takes. They have sacred cows they won't give up, and often those cows are worthless.

William said...

I had some dental work done a generation ago. Nuff said....Look at your grandchilden. When they're your age, dollars to donuts, they won't be worrying about Alzheimer's and many types of cancer.....The disease that leads you to your painful, sordid death they will be treated for in an office visit. The past is a foreign, third world country.

Broomhandle said...

They have sacred cows they won't give up, and often those cows are worthless.

That's pretty profound for a Monday morning. And very true.

Colonel Angus said...

A generation ago, you didn't have the additional expenses of things like, cable tv, internet connection, cell phones, data plans, school athletic costs. Add those costs up and you might be surprised how much we are paying for these services. None of which are vital to our day to day lives.

Broomhandle said...

Don't discount the possibility that the future may be a foreign, third-world country as well.

bagoh20 said...

"And people had more children, but people spent little money on these kids. They were expected to go out and play. You could play with no toys at all -- games like tag. There were games where the only equipment was a rubber ball -- games like monkey in the middle and four square. "

This is very true. My parents didn't spend much time either on their kids. Today kids are treated like paying clients, with their own schedules, property, and lives that parents have to mange for them. My parents lived their lives, and we were just along for the ride unless we did all the work to create something else. They weren't going to make it happen for you just because you wanted it. I can remember then saying a hundred times: "Well, who's stopping you?" Which basically meant, if you want it, go do it, but we're busy.

n.n said...

It will get worse as progressive inflation, especially in medical care, which remains unaddressed, will take a greater toll on private income.

bagoh20 said...

Cable TV used to mean no commercials. So yea, life was better then, just on that alone.

Pastafarian said...

I think we're at the high water mark right about now, for quality of life.

The generation graduating college right now faces bleak job prospects while bearing $100,000 student loan debts.

I'm trying to hire someone who graduates in May; but the pay I'm offering isn't enough for them to meet all their bills, the largest of which is a student loan payment. They'll have to either turn down the position, or get a second part-time job.

Fr Martin Fox said...

As our genial hostess points out, people had larger families in smaller homes, with smaller yards.

Yesterday, I drove across Cincinnati to offer Mass at a parish there. I passed once-thriving neighborhoods with houses just like that. The people are mostly gone, the houses are boarded up, and the neighborhoods are dying. Where did all those people go? Their children and grandchildren are living in larger homes, with larger yards, with fewer kids.

It makes me think of the meetings I used to attend, at my prior parish, where folks would complain to me about school enrollment being down and fewer children at first communion.

I finally said, look, I keep explaining what the Church teaches on contraception. I promote opennness to children. But that's as much as I'm supposed to do to bring more children into the world.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Also, you can save a great deal by cooking and eating at home. Really, it's true!

Palladian said...

LOL. I'm nearly amused that I can open the comments of nearly any thread here at Althouse and invariably find Shouting Thomas whining about how everything is the fault of some queers stamping on the flattened remnants of his fictive "Father Knows Best" youth.

Nearly amused, I said.

edutcher said...

Paddy O said...

what exactly is a 'generation' ago, anyway?

That's like the 1980s. I'm not sure people could live better in the 1980s on one income. I'm thinking they really mean 3 generations ago and are thinking about the WW2 generation having it all.


Good point. A generation is the time it takes for someone to be born, grow up, and start having kids. In that sense, we're talking 15 years anymore, but usually it means about 25 years or so. 40 at the most.

About a generation and a half puts you in the late 50s & early 60s when things were pretty good materially and societally.

X said...

""A generation ago, families could live better on one income than most of us live today on two incomes.""



you can actually live better today on no income than you could a two person income a generation ago.

Synova said...

Without our cell phone and cable (computer) bill we'd have a comfortable amount of free cash every month. My parents were poor, but you didn't have to be poor to be watching the 3 or 4 dollars on the phone bill because someone made a long distance call. And people didn't expect elaborate meals and snacks and sodas all the time. Having one car and one car payment instead of two wasn't seen as dire poverty.

That all said... life has changed and not having a cell phone is difficult. No computers? How would that work. Not having transportation is worse. With everyone working (if you're lucky or persistent enough to have work) means grabbing more meals "out" and buying stuff that easier to make.

Yes, yes, First World Problems, but it's not so easy to down-size because the economy has taken an extended down-turn.

Back when people did with less it was reasonable to expect to get a crap job and an apartment and move out of the house. Now, not so much.

Shouting Thomas said...

@Palladian...

I'm writing a song about the wisdom of old men. First two lines:

An old man remembers
What the young men don't want to know

Synova said...

"As our genial hostess points out, people had larger families in smaller homes, with smaller yards."

Oh yes. My father's family had a pretty big house but it held mom, dad, and nine kids. Three girls in one room, three boys in another, two girls in the last bedroom, and the youngest, James, got a "Harry Potter" attic dormer. Most of the time they all shared a bed, too.

When I was a kid we had all the kids in one room, boys and girls and my cousin who lived with us for a while, until we were teens and Dad built a new house with more bedrooms.

There was none of this business about each kid needing to have their own room and space to express him or herself and privacy. Privacy?

Shouting Thomas said...

@Palladian...

Believe me, I'm not suffering from ED!

Bender said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mitchell the Bat said...

People live better today but gratitude sex is a thing of the past.

Bender said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shouting Thomas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bender said...

I keep explaining what the Church teaches on contraception. I promote opennness to children.

At some point, Father, it becomes a death spiral. The birth dearth due to an anti-child contraceptive culture reduces the number of people that contribute to society and by their contributions make life easier for everyone. Without those contributions, life is harder for everyone.

Life is harder, one must do more for himself as things are made more expensive. At some point, even if one wants children, the fear sets in that kids are not affordable. Even if one has a job today, that is no guarantee that he will have one tomorrow or for the next 18 years.

I'm not married, and hence do not have children, but I look at family and friends who do and I am terrified for them looking at the mountain of debt that is being piled upon our childrens' shoulders.

What was once self-centered hedonistic reasons for not having children is becoming more and more an economic issue. And so, even less children are in our future. Which will only make things even worse, leading to fewer children still. A death spiral.

Darleen said...

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as "bad luck."

~~Robert Heinlein

Lyssa said...

Patty O said: what exactly is a 'generation' ago, anyway?

That's like the 1980s. I'm not sure people could live better in the 1980s on one income. I'm thinking they really mean 3 generations ago and are thinking about the WW2 generation having it all.


That's a good point. I'm younger than most of the commenters here, and this stuff is really aimed at me and my peers, since we're having kids and making work/family decisions now.

That said, my husband and I grew up in the 1980's, both with (mostly) stay at home moms. Both of our families struggled a lot, though, especially when we were little - older homes, barely running cars, "vacations" to visit family in another state. But we had what we needed, and I think that we're better for it.

My grandparents, pushing 80, still live in the house they raised my dad and his two siblings in, in the 60's and 70's. If it's 1200 feet, I'd be surprised. And one bathroom for five people seems unthinkable today.

Shouting Thomas said...

What was once self-centered hedonistic reasons for not having children is becoming more and more an economic issue.

The only good reason ever for a man to have a child is because he meets a girl and falls in love with her.

Forget the other shit. Let it take care of itself.

Darleen said...

And people had more children, but people spent little money on these kids. They were expected to go out and play. You could play with no toys at all -- games like tag.

That's BECAUSE there were SAHMs. When you got out of school, you went home, put on your play clothes and dashed outside with your friends who had done the same, to play until dinner time.

All within eyesight of all the neighborhood's moms.

in the 1980s I was only one of 2 SAHMs on my block and my girls had a tough time finding kids to play with after school because everyone was in daycare until 6 pm. So kids playing outside was a weekend thing.

tim maguire said...

Taxes.

We need two incomes to support one family because only one person is working for the family; the other is working for the government.

Outside of taxes, the balance has shifted all around. Real estate is higher, food costs are lower, we have lots more gadgets, but they are less expensive(in constant dollars), etc. The one unavoidable budget killer is taxes. Every year, tax freedom day comes a little later, and it doesn't fully account for the costs of government.

Lyssa said...

Bender said: What was once self-centered hedonistic reasons for not having children is becoming more and more an economic issue.

We've got an infant, and are trying to decide what my husband should do (stay at home or get a job that pays less but has better hours). But one major long-term consideration is what will happen when we have a second - day care is $1000 bucks a month. Multiply that by two (or more!), and you're looking at more than a lot of people can make, all things considered. If he's already home, though, the cost of a second seems negligble.

My brother and sister in law make less together than I do on my own, and are expecting twins, along side their three-year old. They have no idea what to do.

Darleen said...

Lyssa

My #1 daughter is expecting her 2nd (her first is 16 mo old). During this time both daughter and SIL worked full-time (she's an RN, he works ER) and their schedules were shifted enough that watching Z was an occassional thing for extended family to help out.

But with #2 due in May, they are going to significantly downsize their lifestyle ... she's going to stay-home and shift to occasional per diem work.

Shouting Thomas said...

@Lyssa...

In the Philippines, people still say what my family said when I was growing up...

"God will find a way to provide."

Birches said...

I'm so tired of the lie of that its impossible to live on one income. I do it. We're not poor at all. We have a very nice home and send our kids to good charter schools. Don't have any debt besides the mortgage. Did this require planning? Yes. Did my spouse find a job that would pay for a graduate degree so we didn't have to? Yes. Were cars we paid cash for more than four years old? Yes. Do we have smart phones? No. Is my house cleaner than yours? Probably. Do we eat from scratch meals every night? Yes. Do I have time to save money on groceries? Yes. Are my kids happier with me than in day care? Probably.

kimsch said...

Synova and Lyssa,

About twenty years ago I was a SAHM and looking at getting some work to add to our income. With two small children, day care costs were $350 a week. That meant that to be cost effective, I would need to net more than that. More clothing (business clothes), more convenience food, expenses for another car, a job that would allow me to be gone when kids were sick and day care wouldn't take them. So I'd have to net about $18,000 a year just to break even on the day care costs. Reception and clerk type jobs just didn't pay that then.

The government requires so many bedrooms for children. I tried to rent a one bedroom apartment for myself, my husband, and two small kids (boy and girl). Couldn't do it. I was prepared to sleep in the living room and give the bedroom to the kids.

Public housing in Vermont said boys and girls couldn't be in the same room, and if there was an age gap of 4 or more years children of the same sex couldn't share a room.

A friend of mine adopted identical triplets 13 years ago. She was required to provide each girl with a room of her own before they'd approve the adoption.

My husband's family was four boys and a girl in a two bedroom house in northern California. When his sister was born, the boys' two bunkbeds were removed to the detached garage.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

@ Lyssa and Darlene

Re: child care, the second child, the costs.. My daughter is facing this right now too.

This is what extended families were all about in the old days we are all discussing. Larger families, closer relatives, maybe even living in the same house with you made it easier to find child care. Lots of brothers, sisters, cousins to watch some of the younger kids and less worries about what they were doing. "Go outside and PLAY. We'll call you for dinner". This doesn't happen today.

I would love to be closer to my grandchildren and be able to lend a hand. However, they are hundreds and hundreds of miles away. Since families tend to be scattered the parents either end up working to hire some stranger to do all the things you should/could be doing if you were a stay at home mom/dad. At some point you realize that all that time and effort in working outside the home is not benefiting you or your children. It might even be more cost effective to not pay someone thousands of dollars a month to take care of your kids and just scale back your life a bit and do it yourself. Not to mention, you are fulfilling a vital role in your children's lives and your own.

Birches said...

@ Lyssa.

Tell your brother, make sure your SIL breastfeeds (which will be a challenge with twins), drop cell phone coverage. Get a VOIP phone at home. Sell off the cars that have a car payment, and buy a cheap commuter car for the worker and an even cheaper car for the SAH parent. If you're not driving that much, car repairs don't happen too often. We budget in about 1K a year for car repairs, which even when we hit is still cheaper than a car payment.

Freeman Hunt said...

Aside from the technological expenses others have mentioned, I think cars are another inflated expense. Often someone will say both parents have to work in their family because they couldn't make it otherwise, but they have two $35,000 or $40,000 cars. You can get a great used car for $10,000 or less, so some families could save a lot there.

Freeman Hunt said...

I know lots of stay at home parents with small incomes. They sale shop, buy in bulk, use hand me downs, garden, cook from scratch, drive old cars, and have basic phones with prepaid service.

CEO-MMP said...

@ Palladian:

To be fair, ST blames as much on the feminist boot as he does on the queers.

Birches said...

Also, when downsizing to one income, don't forget the income "boost" you'll get from Uncle Sam (plus adding the dependent). Suddenly, the government stops confiscating your wealth.

Birches said...

@ Freeman

Yes, We buy flour, sugar, rice, beans, oats, oil, butter, and canned tomatoes and cheese(in bulk. We supplement with fresh veggies and meat (that I buy in bulk when it comes on sale). I would say almost all of our meals are made from those ingredients. And they are delicious. My spouse's co workers often gather round to see what last night's meal was because the crap they buy doesn't look or taste as good. And its pretty cheap.

Nathan Alexander said...

Thoughts, not conclusions:
There are many more people in the world. That means that while we have (hopefully) learned from the past and are more prepared for life than previously, there is also more competition for resources, jobs, benefits, etc.
Technology has improved so much that we now have vastly more material comforts and access to knowledge and entertainment than even the richest people had a few decades ago. You can carry an entire library of hundreds of thousands of songs with you, anywhere, and listen to what you want, when you want, and talk to anyone in the nation for pennies a minute, and see any movie you want when you want. I remember as child having to wait for the networks to re-air James Bond movies. I remember being bitterly disappointed that none of the stations in Montana would air the Star Wars Christmas Special (and then as an adult, realizing I had dodged an excruciatingly painful bullet).
The information revolution has allowed us to understand more about how other people live. A few generations ago, it was possible to live in a small town, in a small house, and the richest person you could encounter or imagine was only one standard deviation above the median income level.
Now the TV gives us, as was said, home improvement porn, and all sorts of other covet-inducing product advertisement. You can afford more of it now than ever...but at the same time, the increasing competition at the mass humanity level means that everyone else can, too, and so it becomes expected, taken for granted.
Globalization means that a manufacturer can sell cheaply to almost anywhere in the world. Technology isn’t made just for one nation anymore. So to meet the needs of more people, products are watered down more and satisfy everyone less. The people at the top of the corporations have experienced a growth of the base of their earnings pyramid both by globalization (expanding the market) and by increased population growth (increases within a market). Having 314 million US residents instead of 200 million US residents means you have to find jobs to support 100 million more people...at a time that manufacturing has drastically reduced and the information revolution means that one person can be as productive as 100 people were just a generation or so ago.
We are healthier, but we pay more for unnecessary medical expenses that don't make us healthier as well as the overhead. That helps provide the jobs that support the 100 million new mouths...
But what that world and nation population increase means is that the extreme between rich and poor increases *as a function* of everyone's life getting better. The better everyone's life is, the more income and accumulated wealth inequity there will be. And 30% of the US (and probably 30% of the entire world) has pinned their future hopes on making an additional 25% of the population unhappy enough with income inequality so they can get the power to ensure and maintain the income inequality in their favor.
(continued)

Nathan Alexander said...

I do think that part of the problem is going from the societal expectation that women should stay at home to the expectation that women should have a career. Not just work outside the home (which can be temporary or according to desire and/or needs), but committed to a career that excludes the normal functions of family life.
The influx of workers, combined with the watering down of education (because a student populace that is 100% male will have more freely-chosen engineers, scientists, and mathmeticians than a student populace that is 60% female. The latter will skew toward degrees in English, psychology, Wymyn's Studies, etc. So the "must have BS/BA degree requirement is no longer useful for determining who can do the job), made it easier to depress wages. The fact is, the laws of supply/demand mean that wage/salary equilibrium will steady at the point where a family has a little bit more than enough to make ends meet.
So instead of having just a little bit more than enough to make ends meet with a stay at home mom to cook and clean and educate the kids at home (non-school education, dealing with hurts and disputes, etc), now families still have pretty much the same, but with both parents working, ignored kids, and fast food dinners.
So that part is indubitably worse.
Some lucky few are able to make ends meet, and are willing to sacrifice, and are smart enough to do the math to figure ALL the costs/benefits of a SAHSpouse vs Dual Income, and they have a quality of life equal to the previous generation.
Smart decisions and significant sacrifice (no smart phones, 10-year-old cars when my peers/co-workers drive BMWs and Lexuses, eating out no more than once/month) have let my wife stay at home, and get to the point that even in this economy, we will go from nothing to comfortable retirement in about 18 years.
So if life is worse than before, it is probably because the individual chose short-term enjoyment rather than long-term gain.

ricpic said...

Are my kids happier with me than in daycare? Probably.

Absolutely. They are absolutely happier with you than in daycare. The cruelty of the chosen ones or the anointed ones or the enlightened ones demanding that women ABANDON their kids to daycare in order to fulfill themselves, or some such garbage, well, it is breathtaking cruelty. Kids NEED their Moms. And not only for that BS quality time. When they have a fit and scream that they hate you they need you. Don't ever buy the total crap and cruelty of the self-anointed best and brightest that your kids don't need your presence.

lgv said...

I find the premise absurd. People who live at the poverty line today have a lifestyle far better than I did 40 years ago. We were lower middle class, single income. We had far less disposable income than any two income household of today.

Yet we were "richer" than some of our friends (most were single income with tons of kids).

Normative lifestyles have changed. Normal was 2 or 3 kids per bedroom in a 1000-1500 sq.ft. house. Only dined out a few times per year. McDonalds was an extravagant event. People grew food in their yards. No cable. No gym memberships.

We didn't live better than today, we lived worse. The difference is we didn't know it.

People had this uncanny ability to live within their single income means.

Shouting Thomas said...

When you feel as if the world will not provide for you and your childrens' needs, try saying the Lord's Prayer.

Western intellectuals are quick to praise Eastern "mystical" religions for their recognition of the need for spiritual practice, and they somehow miss that Christianity has its own "mystical" tradition of practice.

The Lord's Prayer contains this passage, which is a testament to faith that God will provide. It is supposed to be said with your palms facing upward, so as to receive the blessings from above, just as the Buddha is traditionally pictured with one palm facing up or holding a rice bowl...

Give us this day our daily bread

Eyago said...

I can't say if single income living is harder or not because I was a kid back then. I can say that it is still doable today. My spouse and I adopted our first child in 2002 and have committed to one spouse at home at all times. We are about to adopt our 5th (foreign adoptions where the cost is upwards of $25k each), and we are still a single income, living in a 2300 SQ Ft house with 2.5 acres in a rather expensive region (Seattle area.) We do limit things to be able to afford this. We don't go on vacations, our last new car was bought before we adopted our first child, we never go out to eat, no cable, no Cell phone plan. But we have a decent flat screen and computers for schoolwork (home-schooled kids.) We are not "struggling" but we don't have ALL the "nice" things others do. When I grew up, I didn't have the stuff other kids did either. Life is good if your expectations don't revolve around material "needs" that are not really needs.

Eyago said...

I can't say if single income living is harder or not because I was a kid back then. I can say that it is still doable today. My spouse and I adopted our first child in 2002 and have committed to one spouse at home at all times. We are about to adopt our 5th (foreign adoptions where the cost is upwards of $25k each), and we are still a single income, living in a 2300 SQ Ft house with 2.5 acres in a rather expensive region (Seattle area.) We do limit things to be able to afford this. We don't go on vacations, our last new car was bought before we adopted our first child, we never go out to eat, no cable, no Cell phone plan. But we have a decent flat screen and computers for schoolwork (home-schooled kids.) We are not "struggling" but we don't have ALL the "nice" things others do. When I grew up, I didn't have the stuff other kids did either. Life is good if your expectations don't revolve around material "needs" that are not really needs.

JAL said...

A friend sells real estate.

A pet peeve is showing homes to young couples looking for their first home. They are disappointed if there weren't granite countertops.

Times have changed.

JAL said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JAL said...

Like Eyago --

Don't eat out.

Means no cool pictures like Meadehouse -- but hey -- that's why some of us hang out here.

Vicarious luxury.

Dante said...

People made life much more difficult, and much of it grew out of the supposed problem of a woman left at home in the house. The existential dread of finding yourself alone with yourself. The solution was to obliterate that situation.

Really? I thought the old way was voluntary Hillary "It takes a Villagism." The ladies shared the kids, hung out together often playing pinnacle and bridge, and most importantly gossiping.

Synova said...

" However, they are hundreds and hundreds of miles away. "

Grandparent Swap Net. ?

(Though not all grandparents are the least bit interested in helping out with their own grandkids so...)

Dante said...

US Median Home Values Adjusted for inflation to 2000, in $:

2000: 119,600
1990: 101,100
1980: 93,400
1970: 65,300
1960: 58,600
1950: 44,600
1940: 30,600

Median Household Income, adjusted for inflation:

2010: 50,831
2000: 54,841
1990: 49,950
1980: 46,024
1970: 45,146
1960: 31,602 (about)
1950: 25,281 (about)

No 1940s data. To the extent the median values tell us what the normal person can afford, the single earner 1950s household could afford the median household two incomes can afford today.

I'll bet health care is worse.

Smilin' Jack said...

"Except for the very highest earners, life is just harder now than it was for our parents." True or false?

Our parents didn't have internet porn. Case closed.

TMink said...

The problem is not the working people who enjoy two smart phones, flat screen tv's and such.

The problem is the people on "public assistance" who enjoy them without working for them. Take that away from my taxes, and my wife would not have to work.

Trey

wyo sis said...

It seems to me the more we can make life for everyone as much like small town life in the 50's as possible the better off we'll all be.
I have about as near that as it's possible to have in 2013 and my grand kids in an even smaller town have it even better.
ST would be bored out of his mind and would leave quickly.

Synova said...

What's-their-faces with the 19 (or so) children built a humongous house that had two bedrooms for the 19 kids (I suspect babies stayed in Mom and Dad's room.) One huge room for girls and a huge room for boys with lined up twin beds like a scene from Madeline. Very neat and efficient.

Yes, my sister and I had drag down death matches over who had to turn off the light switch and we probably even put tape down the center of the room at least once (we certainly had *sides*) but it was all self-inflicted traumas and didn't do us any harm.

Chuck66 said...

Lets see. I am single, living by myself, but lets go with the comparison anyway. What do I spend money on today (therefore need higher income) that my parents didn't when I was growing up (70s-80s).

Cell phone: $45 a month
Cable & interent: $120 a month. --Cable when I was little...probably about $15 a month.
Gym membership: $49 a month
Satelite radio. $15 a month
Going out to decent restaurants and to happy hours with my friends... maybe $125 a month.

And on like that. Today's people want all the fun stuff. And this doesnt' take into account all the traveling that a lot of people do. I had a boss who him and his wife would fly to San Francisco 2 or 3 times a year.


Birches said...

@ricpic

lol. I say probably, because after Toy Story 3 came out, my oldest was convinced day car was where its at. She asked me to get a job so she could go. I told my spouse who replied, "Don't tell her if you started working she'd not only go to daycare, but also get McDonald's a lot more, or else she might apply for you." I love my job, but sometimes for my kids, the grass is always greener.

Chuck66 said...

wye sis....I was talking to a liberal Democrat friend at the end of Bush's term. He was complaining about how hard everything is and how Bush screwed up the country.

I was trying to explain to him that the 40 year party is over no matter who is President. That we need to live more modestly. Go back to how we lived in the 1950s. Meaning no jet trip vacations on an impluse to nice places. No SUVs unless neccesary. No starter mansons. Eat at supper clubs instead of at trendy high priced restaurants.

Darleen said...

A pet peeve is showing homes to young couples looking for their first home. They are disappointed if there weren't granite countertops.

Times have changed.


My parents bought their first home in 1954 -- $14,000 1200 sq foot basic starter home on the GI Bill. It came with NO appliances - (what I wouldn't give today to have the O'Keefe & Merrit range they had) no air conditioning (this is Granada Hills, So Cal and I have lots of memories of standing in the kitchen in front of the swamp-cooler in the window) no landscaping and no flooring. My parents bought a couple of things, got other second hand from family and worked on everything themselves. We had only one car for many years - which with the milk man, the Helms Bakery man, Fuller Brush, and others one wasn't left bereft of basics if you couldn't get to the grocery store.

Susan Stewart Rich said...

We have pushed the prices up for everything, most notably homes, because we have more income (and spend it). See Elizabeth Warren, The Two Income Trap, 200?. There are two reasons my spouse doesn't work - one of them being we need a plan B if I lose my job. Plan A can't be relying on two incomes. Now if he actually knew what he wanted to do and had a passion for it, I'd encourage him to work - but for reasons other than money.

Seeing Red said...

Via TaxProfBlog:

Wolff: The Asset Price Meltdown and the Wealth of the Middle Class
Edward N. Wolff (NYU, Department of Economics), The Asset Price Meltdown and the Wealth of the Middle Class:

I find that median wealth plummeted over the years 2007 to 2010, and by 2010 was at its lowest level since 1969. The inequality of net worth, after almost two decades of little movement, was up sharply from 2007 to 2010. Relative indebtedness continued to expand from 2007 to 2010, particularly for the middle class, though the proximate causes were declining net worth and income rather than an increase in absolute indebtedness. In fact, the average debt of the middle class actually fell in real terms by 25 percent. The sharp fall in median wealth and the rise in inequality in the late 2000s are traceable to the high leverage of middle class families in 2007 and the high share of homes in their portfolio. The racial and ethnic disparity in wealth holdings, after remaining more or less stable from 1983 to 2007, widened considerably between 2007 and 2010. Hispanics, in particular, got hammered by the Great Recession in terms of net worth and net equity in their homes. Households under age 45 also got pummeled by the Great Recession, as their relative and absolute wealth declined sharply from 2007 to 2010.

-------------

So about this inequality........


Was it here or on another blog that I read (but didn't check it out) that in Houston, maybe, a low income development was on hold because the do-gooders sued because the housing didn't have granite countertops?

sydney said...

I tried to rent a one bedroom apartment for myself, my husband, and two small kids (boy and girl). Couldn't do it. I was prepared to sleep in the living room and give the bedroom to the kids.

Public housing in Vermont said boys and girls couldn't be in the same room, and if there was an age gap of 4 or more years children of the same sex couldn't share a room.

A friend of mine adopted identical triplets 13 years ago. She was required to provide each girl with a room of her own before they'd approve the adoption.


Yikes. I have four children. We have lived in a three bedroom house most of their lives. The three boys have always shared a bedroom, the daughter gets her own because of her sex. But, when they were very little we rented a two bedroom house and they were all in the same bedroom. I could never have afforded the standards quoted above.

Ben said...

I have communication and entertainment devices and packages that a generation ago weren't even available to the super wealthy. This week I ate mahi mahi, tilapia, salmon, snow and king crab, and walleye all available at the local grocery store at very reasonable prices, I need more good cholesterol.. :(

I'd rather live today then a generation ago. It's still possible to live on one income, just have to be careful is all. I know plenty of single income families that live good. Just have to live in an area where you can get a good house for reasonable prices in a good school district. Go rural.

kurt9 said...

It is both true and false.

The false part: Nearly all manufuactured good and most services are cheaper, relative to mean income, then they were a generation ago. Everything from TV's to furniture. Outdoor sports good to international travel. All of these are significantly cheaper today than 30 years ago.

The true part: Education, health care, and to a lesser extent, housing are more expensive relative to mean income than they were 30 years ago. In some cases, dramatically so. These costs are the ones most associated with having kids.

Neither true nor false: Cars. The cost of cars is about the same, relative to mean income, as they were 30 years ago.

Matt said...

"Except for the very highest earners."

What happened to trickle down? Oh, right, it doesn't work.

Hence the rich keep getting richer.

Hence why we need to tax them more.

This is not rocket science, people. You want to go back to the 70's? Tax people like they were taxed in the 70's.

bagoh20 said...

"What happened to trickle down? Oh, right, it doesn't work."

It's right here, just like always - it's all there has ever has been. You have an alternative?

"Hence why we need to tax them more."

Still trickle down, just laundered through a bunch of incompetent congresspeople to the unproductive who waste it. Good plan.

"This is not rocket science, people. You want to go back to the 70's? Tax people like they were taxed in the 70's."

There is no tax rate that will ever be able to cover the spending we do now. If we went to back 70s spending levels, we could cut taxes and live large, and fight another cold war with much higher defense spending than today all at the same time. In other words: It's not rocket science - we spend too much.

Darleen said...

You want to go back to the 70's? Tax people like they were taxed in the 70's

Do you have any idea how many MORE deductions there were back then?

David R. Graham said...

In past we lived less materially, though never insufficiently, than now. But we lived happier then than now. Less BS, less heat from commo lines. More intrinsic sense of freedom. Electricity is fire. Using electronic nets heats the world, causes anxiety, unhappiness. Downside of blogging.

The shoe should fit, not too small, not too large. Today it's too large. Too bad evil has to be set loose to cut it down to fit, but that wasn't about to happen voluntarily, so force is being applied, by releasing the criminally insane on the citizenry and their culture.

Americans are a spoiled, trivial lot. It is just we be cut to size by our own triviality empowering the criminally insane upon us in the form of "elected" and other officials who don't give a damn about us or America.

Synova said...

"I tried to rent a one bedroom apartment for myself, my husband, and two small kids (boy and girl). Couldn't do it. I was prepared to sleep in the living room and give the bedroom to the kids.

Public housing in Vermont said boys and girls couldn't be in the same room, and if there was an age gap of 4 or more years children of the same sex couldn't share a room.
"

This is one of the ways that the do-gooders make it illegal to be poor. If you're poor you often can't do with less, because it's illegal for you to do with less.

What you do, of course, is break the law (if you know about it ahead of time) and go apartment hunting without your babies along.

ampersand said...

@Darleen, please see O'Keefe & Merritt

ampersand said...

@Martha said My parents paid $3,300 for room AND board for my Wellesley tuition in 1970.

My father bought a new Buick Le Sabre in 1970 for $3,200. Similar Buicks today sell between $30,000 and $39,000. I tend to measure inflation by car prices.

In 1970 minimum wage was $1.65,by those standards it should be between $11 and $12 today.
What would have been cheaper, a higher minimum wage or the one we have now? Considering that the government is subsidizing low incomes with food stamps, housing,care givers,etc,etc.

Synova said...

Some places (like Sante Fe) have minimum wages of $10. It makes it worthwhile to drive to work there, which means even fewer jobs for entry level workers... such as students with limited transportation.

Unemployment for teens and early 20's is outrageous and now they're saying that when the economy improves (assuming it does) that those young people are still not going to be able to find jobs because who would hire someone who's never had one?

Seeing Red said...

Do I get to write off all sales tax paid, auto loan interest and all the other loopholes/tax shelters back if we go back to the 70s tax structure?

Seeing Red said...

Trickle down worked. People forget where they were 30 years ago and the older generation should be wealthier than the younger, they've been working & saving longer.

I came into marriage with a car & car payment, bedroom set & a small IRA, plus donated furniture. He came in with a beater & beater clothing.

Still using some of the donated furniture, and we finally got a new bedroom set a few years ago. My husband finally has his own piece for his clothing, some of it still beater!



Erika said...

I tend to measure inflation by car prices.

I do the same. In 1976 my father-in-law bought a new 4x4 Ford F250 for $7,000. Also, a modest 3 bedroom, 1 bath house for $38,000, in which he supported his mother, his wife, and two children.

Everything costs so damn much these days.

rcommal said...

First off, I think: "Which parents [in what era, and define that precisely, please] and what parents [raised in what era, and define that precisely, please?]" are the obvious questions to pose. For starters.



rcommal said...

In 1976 my father-in-law bought a new 4x4 Ford F250 for $7,000. Also, a modest 3 bedroom, 1 bath house for $38,000,

Dang. Really? Your FIL, in 1976, decided to spend that much money on a vehicle in 1976? Make no mistake: That was a lot of money, indeed. I assume that there was a particular reason why he needed such a truck, for working reasons. Yes?

If not, what a selfish sonuvabitch he was, to buy such a truck, at such a price, given the obvious ratio of its cost to the house cost you shared with us, Erika.



No wonder

rcommal said...

Sweet, freakin' **really**?

Someone chose to spend $7,000 on a vehicle in 1976 while choosing to spend $38,000 on a house. At the very same time.

Man, that explains volumes.

VOLUMES, I say.

rcommal said...

Just curious, Erika:

Does your FIL find offensive the very notion of any sort at all of means-testing for his social-security and medicare benefits? I'd bet he does, while never getting the sick irony therein.

What a shame, that is.

SOJO said...

It is harder primarily because of the cost of * what else* real estate. The rent or mortgage as a portion of income is just insane now. And then people piddle about ipods and such. Who cares when rent/mortgage used to be nothing?

It's exactly what caused all the problems, what a lot of people are relying on for their retirement.

As an example, a relative (executive level) earned about $68K in the 60s. His house cost $10K in a nice neighborhood in NoCal.

Excuse me, but

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Even if he were super highly paid today as a VP, there is no way that his 300-500K salary would buy him 7 homes in that same neighborhood.

Then there's insurance, gas, medical if it's not covered. Of course it's harder.

SOJO said...

Another relative wasn't doing as well and earned about 35K in the 70s. His house which was bought after real estate started to climb, was worth 70K. Houses in that neighborhood now go for 1.5 million. So He's have to earn 750K per year to have the equivalent level of hardship.

Errr, no WAY that his job would earn 750K now, not even split with an executive wife.

rcommal said...

More generally, let's never forget this one or two "thangs" (no matter how much the opposite preference), for example:

this

this

I remember.







SOJO said...

So that would be about $3000 a month with a mortgage of $300-350 a month. Yeah, I think I could handle that.

I'd like to see someone earning 100K whose mortgage in that neighborhood is $833 a month. SoCal by the coast with a view. I think that's less than what I paid on my first single apartment FIFTEEN YEARS AGO in a shabby chic neighborhood. That apartment now goes for $2000-$2500.

It's not as hard. HAHAHAHA. What did you think all those people funding their retirement with home equity weren't kicking the crap out those coming up?

rcommal said...

Truly fearless sorts ought to be able confront whomever on the specifics.

rcommal said...

Dang. Still noodling over the very concept that anyone would put forth as an example as a more sane model that some dude who, in 1976, spent $7,000 on a truck while spending $38,000 on a house. And somehow, in 2013, we're supposed to view that as an example of how things *since* have gone all whackadoodle because....

WTF?...

the world has gone crazy ***just now***?

---

Um, no.

rcommal said...

To be clear:

No thank you, very much.

Rusty said...

Matt said...
"Except for the very highest earners."

What happened to trickle down? Oh, right, it doesn't work.

Hence the rich keep getting richer.

Hence why we need to tax them more.

This is not rocket science, people. You want to go back to the 70's? Tax people like they were taxed in the 70's.

Hence less rich people to buy things that employ people thus creating jobs an shit.

Apparently it is rocket science to some people.

Synova said...

"Does your FIL find offensive the very notion of any sort at all of means-testing for his social-security and medicare benefits?"

Means testing for social security IS offensive.

The government (meaning "the people) decide that no one can be trusted to save for their own retirement, so their retirement "saving" is forcibly extracted from their paychecks before the poor dears even see it.

And THEN they're supposed to be "means tested" to get it back?

Why not just go the route of Cyprus and steal people's bank accounts since no one NEEDS to save any money, selfish bastiches that they are, when the government is there to do everything for you.

MarkD said...

We had less, but the things we lacked hadn't been invented yet. I miss the freedom, but the kids today never had it, so how can they miss it? I never felt poor, we were probably lower middle class, but would be considered cruelly deprived today.

The past is not the present. I am what I've become. It will be the same for my children, but they will see the Vietnam era as history that affected dad, just as I see WWII, and as my dad saw WWI.

Grandpa raised chickens, and dad was happy to escape the farm. I live considerably better than he did, and my children are doing better than I did at their ages. They'll do OK, if the government doesn't screw it up.

rcommal said...

Synova:

OK.

Would you care to explain why there should be a sharp cut off between no means-testing at all and, essentially, a sharp cutting off, full stop? Even if that means punching in the face those who will likely have paid most into the system over a lifetime but are now told that they are the ones who will absorb the hiccup.

I mean, part of me thinks that's OK, whatever, we'll deal. The other part of me thinks:

How outrageous are you, how dare you, Synova, to not even bother to acknowledge the issue. There is an issue there. What the heck is up with you, you and that issue?

rcommal said...

Means testing for social security IS offensive.

Why, Synova? Why, specifically?

rcommal said...

And, more so, why shouldn't Medicare require means testing for coverage for such things as flu shots, for example (which, nowadays, are offered at various drugstores, for cheap, and for less than the cost of a single lunch out)?

W.T.H.?

And folks wonder why various social-net systems don't work. Whether for the old or for the poor, it's sheer heresy to suggest that the defenders/advocates don't know what the hell they're saying, much less what they doing.

Still, those defenders/advocates prevail.

*shrug*

rcommal said...

Synova:


Why not just go the route of Cyprus and steal people's bank accounts since no one NEEDS to save any money, selfish bastiches that they are, when the government is there to do everything for you.


OK, then, Synova. I've decided not to resist responding to that bit of cheap shit you just spewed.

Did I get the language right?

***

Also--oh, never mind.

I've thought for something like close to a decade that you knew something about all sorts of things. I'm still thinking that. For that reason, I will shut up, briefly.