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Luxury or Necessity?

2010-06-15 16:49:23.195426+00 by Dan Lyke 6 comments

Sociological Images: Luxury or Necessity (update) looks at the Pew Research Center "Luxury or Necessity?" survey changes from 1996 to 2006. Go to either of those links and look at the graphic, note especially the things that didn't even show up on the list in 1996: Cell phone and High-speed Internet.

[ related topics: Wireless Net Culture ]

comments in descending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2010-06-22 15:32:32.82106+00 by: ebradway

Mark: A friend of a friend (who, I believe, is a lawyer) has claimed that he can't understand how anyone can live on less than $250,000/year once you factor in student loans ($100K+ debt), mortgage payments ($750K+ debt), college savings for child (~$1M needed), private preschool for kids ($1500/mo), retirement ($2000/mo), etc.

Probably one of the best exercises I ever went through, as a result of the first dot-com bomb, was to go from about $90K/yr to $10K/yr. Right now, I make less than I did in 1995 - but I'm happier and feel like I have enough. In 2000, when my income was at the highest, I never felt I had enough.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-06-21 22:55:06.126795+00 by: Shawn

Is the "biological clock" really biological? I have my suspicions that it has more to do with ingrained social expectations these days.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-06-16 20:56:21.251675+00 by: Dan Lyke

But you're not, really, expecting your own kids to pay for their education, perhaps just their own decisions concerning higher education. The opportunity cost of 13 years of your wife raising kids, of dedicating her life to making sure that they embody your hopes and dreams, is huge. Full-time parenting, as shown above by the trade-offs to "necessities" and toys, is a big undertaking and not to be sniffed at.

On biological clocks, I guess there's no way to measure it, but I think the argument could be made that those for whom it ticks the loudest have kids earliest. The tales of the biological clock ticking in the late 30s are those for whom it wasn't strong enough earlier, no?

I used to recount the number of times I've heard "I wouldn't give them up for the world, but if I had it to do over again" as a strong base for why I've chosen to not have 'em, but I guess the other side of that is, whether or not people started out wanting kids, most people who have them find the experience fulfilling. And most, at some point, have fantasies of occasionally leaving them out for the wolves.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-06-16 20:34:10.77787+00 by: Mark A. Hershberger

Then there are those of us who expect our children to pay for their own decisions regarding education, etc (though, will our wives let us get away with that ;)

Re: gotta have 'em. The only real insight I have there is from stories about biological clocks ticking. They seem to tick louder (for those listening) later on. But you're probably right, too: some people who thought having children was important find work that is just as satisfying as they thought children would be.

FWIW, my wife wasn't planning on having kids, let alone getting married. Then we had children and she found full-time parenting very fulfilling -- enough so that she has only started pursuing work seriously now, 13 years later.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-06-16 19:44:55.281613+00 by: Dan Lyke

On wage stagnation and economic growth and the cost of children, Philip Greenspun pointed out that if you take the money it takes to educate a child through 4 years of college and invested in fast food joints in growth economies, your kid would make as much money.

On kids in general, I suspect that there's also a sense of biological need that wanes. So if you get through your prime reproductive years without kids then the feeling of "gotta have them" falls off and they become even less of a priority. But I don't have any first-hand experience on that one, kids biologically my own have never held an attraction.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-06-16 19:03:20.735028+00 by: Mark A. Hershberger

And the article points out that "the more money you have, the more things you need."

I recall a Mother Jones article on the Two Income Trap (or maybe another interview with the author) that, IIRC, said that much of the extra income created in dual-income homes has been spent on stuff that would have been considered a luxury item before. (the MJ interview: http://motherjones.com/politics/2004/11/two-income-trap)

Since the number of necessities goes up with income, income must be kept high to afford all the necessities. Another cycle is born.

So, for example, people who put off having children to establish themselves in a career end up being unable to afford children since it would put a large dent in their income.

Aside, there's been noise about wage stagnation. I wonder if that will continue and, if so, does the economy have any chance at growth?