Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Better, Faster, Cheaper

Americans have more wealth than we could have ever imagined.

Joanna AndreassonJoanna AndreassonThe living standards of Americans have vastly improved during the past 50 years, with the quality of available consumer products steadily rising even as their prices have steeply fallen.

In 1968, Americans could buy a top-of-the-line 19.3-cubic-foot refrigerator for $499.95. In 2018 dollars, that's $3,695. Today, consumers can purchase a 21-cubic-foot Kenmore with external water and ice dispenser for $999.99 at Sears—a 73 percent price drop, in real terms.

The downward trend in television prices has been even more dramatic. In 1968, an Admiral Color 23-inch TV cost $349.95, or about $2,586 today. Consumers had to walk across the room to switch between three national networks. Best Buy now sells a 24-inch smart TV for $139.99—nearly a 95 percent price reduction. It comes with a remote as well as instant access to more TV shows, internet programming, and films than a person could watch in a lifetime.

A 5,000-Btu air conditioner in 1968 was advertised at $99 ($800 in 2018 dollars). Walmart will today sell you a Frigidaire 5,000-Btu unit for $129.99, amounting to an 84 percent drop in price.

The first countertop microwave oven available for domestic use was the Amana Radarange in 1967, priced at $495 ($3,793 now). Today, a Hamilton Beach countertop microwave at Walmart—1,000 watts, 1.1 cubic feet—will run you $75. That's a 98 percent drop in price.

When Texas Instruments introduced the TI-2500 "Datamath" consumer calculator in 1972, it weighed 12 ounces and cost $149.99 ($920 in 2018 dollars). Today, the company's solar-powered TI-30X IIS Scientific Calculator weighs 4.8 ounces and will calculate trigonometric functions, square roots, logarithms, and linear regressions. Walmart offers it discounted at $8.88. Ignoring the huge increase in functionality, that is a drop of 99 percent.

One very crude way to measure just how much improved technology has increased consumer well-being would be to consider the discount en masse. To purchase a refrigerator, a color TV, a record player, an air conditioner, a microwave, and a calculator roughly five decades ago, the average family would have had to spend $12,155 in today's dollars. Buying similar (though vastly improved) products today would cost just $1,404. That's a reduction in real prices of more than 88 percent. And of course, virtually every household now has at least one cellphone and/or computer—two categories of products that could not have been acquired for any amount of money in 1968. Americans have more wealth than we could have ever imagined.

Photo Credit: General Electric

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Well, well, well. Reason has stopped to product placement. How much did Walmart, Sears, Kenmore, Frigidaire, Hamilton Beach and Texas Instruments pay you for the free advertising for all their wonderful products, which I and many consumers enjoy reliably every day?

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    Can you really buy a refrigerator at Sears? Wouldn't you have to be able to actually find a Sears first?

  • StackOfCoins||

    Even if the last retail outlet closes, they will still sell them online.

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    Do old people that use sears know how to buy online?

  • LiborCon||

    In 1968, all the money in the world wouldn't buy anything online.

  • Braunasaurus||

    But think of the inequality and the children always with the children

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    Yes, but you couldn't even buy a cellphone in 1968, and now a Samsung S9 costs $550. That's an infinite percent increase in price.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Could you get meth in 1968?

  • SIV||

    From your family doctor, just tell him you want to lose a few lbs.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Yup.

    The Germans passed out Amphetamine to German pilots and troops during WWII.

  • Sevo||

    Parshall and Tully ("Shattered Sword") has the Jap pilots being issued 'stimulants' during Midway.
    Rick Atkinson ("An Army at Dawn"), says Monty handed them out like candy to his tankers
    And just to be fair all around:
    "Aug 9, 2002 - As combat flights get longer, pilot use of amphetamines grows, as do side ... According to military sources, the use of such drugs (commonly .... For the most part, the issue of prescribed drug use by US pilots has ... "The real story here is the ever-extending reach of air power," says Daniel Goure, a military ..."
    https://www.quora.com/Were-US-soldiers-
    given-amphetamines-by-the-military-to-
    enhance-their-performance-up-to-the-1980s

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The military used to piss test active duty very regularly, so not sure how pilots could get away with amphetamine use.

    Planes are designed with flight range and number of crew in mind. Its not perfect and war can up sorties which strain flight crews past their limits.

  • Ben of Houston||

    The American Army still does give soliders, especially pilots, unhealthily large amounts of caffeine though, for the same effect.

  • LiborCon||

    In 1968 you could buy Meth for a few dollars, in 2018 Meth will buy you a few years in prison.

  • Seamus||

    No, what that means is that the price of a cellphone in 1968 was infinite.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    That is a really good point. It sucks that you can't buy children anymore.

  • Eddy||

    Better, Faster, Cheaper...but enough about your mom.

  • SIV||

    Want a set of lawn darts? 1968 go to your local sporting goods or toy store. 2018 go down to the basement and turn them on a lathe.

    Now compare shower heads and toilets...

  • SIV||

    What about Italian sporting automobiles?

  • SIV||

    College educations?

  • Mr. JD||

    How about just "education."

    We have this thing called the internet where you can learn more than used to be taught in college without paying for any content.

    You can also find a lot of dreck.

    That said, the cost of indoctrination is a lot higher than it used to be.

  • creech||

    I love statements such as "a blue plate lunch only cost $.95 in 1952." Sure, but that's equivalent to about $15-20 in today's money and earning power. No real bargain but hey "nostalgia."

  • loveconstitution1789||

    IMHO, inflation is miscalculated because its not linear increases every year.

    In other words $.95 in 1952 would not equate to $15-20 in today's money.

    $1.00 in 1952 this would buy you a special plate of the day with meat.

    In 1928, you could "dine on a dime". You could get a Blue Plate Special for a $.10

    At Waffle House you can get a similar meal for less than $7.50

    Of course food in NY City might have been far cheaper back when and now is outrageously expensive today.

  • Remember to keep it all polit||

    Here's the go-to site, with all sorts of different inflation calculators.
    http://www.measuringworth.com/

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Interesting. thanks!

  • JFree||

    will calculate trigonometric functions, square roots, logarithms, and linear regressions. Walmart offers it discounted at $8.88

    When I was a lad we used to dream of calculating cosines and logarithms for $8.88

  • The Last American Hero||

    It was about $50 25 years ago.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Common theme: Barely regulated product and service markets can create amazing things for everyone at cheaper prices.

  • Don't look at me!||

    Yes, the comparison doesn't work so well with automobiles and medicines.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    Both have been more heavily regulated than TVs and refrigerators

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Exactly Leo. I added my "Barely regulated" caveat purposefully.

  • Overt||

    There was a bunch of harping on automobiles yesterday too, which is odd. Cars are less commoditized than cars- people are more sensitive to features than to price. Nevertheless, the price trend still shows amazing gains.

    Back in the 60s most had to buy a car outright, as loans for a highly depreciating asset were hard to get. Today, the vast amount of people lease their car, so they aren't necessarily paying the entire cost of a car. To truly understand how much a car "costs" people these days, you'd have to factor in that most people never pay the full sticker cost. They lease endlessly, or trade in on a car they bought- getting value back for the asset.

    Looking around, the average car cost in 1967 was $22k in today's dollars. And as of 2016, it was $25k. So the price of a car has stayed relatively flat, even as people on average do not pay the full cost of a car annually; as they get far more bells, whistles and comforts; more time and income back because the reliability of the car means they don't have to spend weekends working in the garage, or paying someone to do the same.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I bitched a lot yesterday about cars.

    We should get better cars at lower prices but we are getting more complex cars at higher prices. Some things about cars are better some are just mandatory expensive features.

    Automobiles tend to be some magical indicator of a nations prestige, so America spends way too much time subsidizing and protecting US car manufacturers. The higher labor costs and mandatory "safety" features add thousands to a vehicle price tag.

    Cars back in 1960s were built to suit the customer. Government requirements were nonexistent or very low.

  • CatoTheChipper||

    In 1971, Ford touted its $2000 Pinto.

    CPI since then makes the 1971$ worth 6.25 2018$. So, the 1971 Pinto cost about $12,500 in 2018$.

    A Nissan Versa retails for about the same right now. However, a 2018 Versa is way more reliable than the 1971 Pinto, is equipped with air bags and other safety features, has about 30% more horsepower, a better sound system, and air conditioning, and doesn't explode in a rear-end collision.

    If not for the US DOT and other regulatory constraints, US consumers could buy a car for about $3000. The Tata Nano wasn't much of a car, and even the third-world marketplace rejected it after a decade of production. But I'm not sure whether it would be worse than 1971 Pinto.

  • Overt||

    Exactly. While there are plenty of people who like to tinker with cars, the market is full of such classic cars, and the advent of retromods has even made it such that you can get a car with great performance and comforts, while still being "fun" in a moderately equipped home garage.

    Again, in the 1950s - 60s it was rare to finance your car, so you would be buying it outright. You'd put down the equivalent of $10k - $25k in today's dollars *up front*. Today, people finance their cars. Many will turn in their car early and not pay the full amount. Even those who hold their car for the average- 80 months will have made off better because they got a low interest loan, and the time value of money meant that they overall made off better cost-wise compared to their parents who paid a lump sum 30 - 40 years ago.

    Even with US DOT and other regulatory concerns, you could probably re-build a car like the 1970s US motors cars for far cheaper than today's cars. But then who would pay $8,000 for a car with vinyl seats, am radio and no AC when they could pay $13,000, financed over 5 years to get so much more? People spend more time in cars than in the 1970s and they are willing to pay more for it.

  • BYODB||


    Today, the vast amount of people lease their car, so they aren't necessarily paying the entire cost of a car.

    I think you're drastically overstating the amount of people who lease a vehicle, and overstating the savings as well given that the lease company also needs to make a profit and guess where that profit is generated from? If you guessed the person who leased the vehicle, congrats.

  • Overt||

    You are right, I misspoke- I should have said leased or purchased with a loan. Only about 30% of cars are leased. But even so, the point remains. The financing arm of Ford makes money on leases and loans, but with interest rates that approach 0% individuals still benefit from the arrangement. This isn't unusual- most industries make a profit offering you a good or service that would be more expensive for you to provide for yourself. That is how specialization and scale work.

    TV companies make a 20% profit on the TV that they sell you. Yet you couldn't hope to build your own for nearly that cost.

    Whether you are financing all (purchase) or a portion (lease) of the vehicle, you do not have to allocate all your money up front, which allows you to do other things with the money, hence the time value of money.

    Here is a real world example. I bought my last car with a windfall from a stock sale. I had enough money to buy the car up front for ~$60k. But instead I chose to finance around $50k of that cost at .5% interest rate and reinvest the rest. Both the financing company and I made out better for the arrangement. Viva free trade!

  • SimpleRules||

    not true. Lasik prices have come down greatly exactly BECAUSE it's not covered by insurance/medicare/medicaid. Get folks paying cash and watch the prices tumble.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Lasik does not have a bunch of frills either.

    They offer a service for a price and some add ons but that is the cash price. You either want the surgery or not.
    Many of lasik places work on volume and their service is fantastic.

  • Overt||

    I wish Reason would beat this drum a little more. There are enough lefties in the commentariat who would be outraged enough that some provocative headlines would get them the traffic that they always crave with their TDS articles, and they would- I know this sounds crazy- be furthering the causes of free markets and free minds.

    Yesterday, in the morning links there was a reference to a recent CBO study that showed incomes for all quintiles have grown since the 60's, in contradiction to the narrative that wages have stayed the same for all that time. Another article last month talked about studies that follow individuals over time and show that the people in these quintiles change too. Yeah, many people start in the bottom quintile (by definition, 20% of the public will always be there), but they are more likely to end their lives higher and their children to end even higher.

    I know that this type of number crunching is wonky and not as sensational as the Bad Orange Man's (BOM's) tweets, but these narratives of zero wage growth and stagnation are at the root of so many bad populist ideas these days (on both sides of the aisle) that anyone interested in changing public policy (rather than just getting clicks) must counter them.

  • NoVaNick||

    Whenever progs romanticize about how things were oh so much better in the 60s, just remind them that it was also OK for men to slap their wives, grab women's butts, and for police to beat the crap out of black people back then too. As for inequality, we are paying a lot more for housing, healthcare, and college now because the government is subsidizing these things.

  • Lester224||

    When you find some women and blacks who want to go back to the 60s let me know.

  • gaoxiaen||

    A pack of smokes was under a quarter when I was a kid. In the 1980's when I was in the military, a carton was 3 bucks in port and 2 bucks when at sea.

  • Sevo||

    That's all taxes; smokes would still be two bits if not for that.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Additionally, people often ignore that wealth can be accumulated.

    Back in 1952, people were lucky to have ONE tv in the house. Many households have multiple tvs and devices that can be used as tvs.

    Just because you cannot afford all that stuff at once, all the items can be accumulated over time. If you have insurance, even a disaster allows you to replace all those accumulated articles of wealth.

  • Overt||

    Just because you cannot afford all that stuff at once, all the items can be accumulated over time.

    This is the biggest problem with most leftist econometrics these days. The leftist ideology is always focused on the zero sum game- the now. Right now, there is a certain amount of income in the world. And it is divvied up in a certain way- now you have broken our current income into quintiles. What leftist economists have done is string together a series of those snapshots, and tried to paint that as the american experience. But this is fundamentally untrue. When I first entered the workforce, I was in the 2nd quintile. I was in a household (because most quintiles are household based) that earned like $19k per year. Today, even though that quintile hasn't shifted much over 20 years *I* have. Alone I'd be in the third or fourth quintile, and my household (when adding in my wife's income) is in the top quintile.

    The fresh out of college student I just hired is probably in the 2nd quintile, exactly where I was when her age.

    The problem with the standard statistics is that they deceive this college student. She sees her current meager salary and then hears people say that this hasn't changed over 20 years, and thinks she is trapped.

  • Overt||

    When you think about "fairness" you need to factor in this income mobility. Is a recent college grad today providing more value to society and the economy in general than someone similar 20 years ago? If not, why should they be suddenly getting more "share" of the income in the country? On the other hand, isn't it fair that a person with 20 years experience, or a doctor is makes more than the high school grad, or the recent immigrant who can barely speak english? Isn't it fair that people who makes a game changer to the world, like cell phones for even the poorest earn a greater proportion of the gains to the economy?

    Add to this the fact that the recent CBO study shows that in fact the recent grad today DOES make more than the recent grad of 20 years ago, and that additional studies indicate that same grad will be in a higher quintile 20 years from now, and this horrible system of income inequality doesn't seem that unfair after all.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    What explains Trump other than can't-keep-up right-wingers whining about progress and demanding an unearned share of the societal pie?

  • D-Pizzle||

    The fact that we despise leftists like you and your bigoted, imbecilic ideas.

  • Sevo||

    "What explains Trump other than can't-keep-up right-wingers whining about progress and demanding an unearned share of the societal pie?"

    What explains lying assholes like you?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The fact that kids can get jobs right out of college because the market is hot is not something media hits on. Getting paid is better than not getting paid when you need money.

    10 years ago we had a Great Recession so college grads had trouble finding jobs.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I have a millions questions for you Overt.

    Do you find that Generation Zs now entering the workforce think they should be CEOs in a year or two after starting like Millennials did?

    Do you find that Gen Zs coming out of college are unable to put their college education to good use? I was shocked when multiple Millennial grads did not know the basics of Windows Office Suite or how to effectively use Word or similar word processing programs.

  • Overt||

    It depends. I am in the tech sector, so my view of the work force is among kids who went into STEM fields- not all programmers, but generally with associates degrees, or Business IT degrees. They are all as capable as I think most grads were when I was entering the work force. Which is to say, they are completely incapable of operating in the corporate world.

    Universities teach the kids programming languages, some design patterns, and basic understandings of technologies, but it takes 2-3 years in the working world to actually learn the important stuff- from the latest architectures (microservices, APIs, cloud/infrastructure as code) to modern techniques like test-driven development, continuous integration and continuous delivery. This is why technical internships are so important for kids in IT.

    Now, their attitude varies. Many are super motivated and looking to go up the corporate ladder. Very few seem to feel entitled to it. So, I tend to think they are pretty good here. However, most have bizarre views of fairness in the work place and are overly concerned about how much they make vs the industry and vs co-workers. They have been thoroughly infected with identity politics and obsess about this stuff, and feel entitled to bitch and moan at levels I'd have expected to get me on the layoff list when I was their age.

  • Griffin3||

    But, surprisingly, a significantly poorer college education that you could get for $9,872 (in today's dollars) in 1968 now costs ... $138,748. In this time when the cost of information dissemination is much less, practically free. And medical care, and anything else where competition is stifled, and heavily regulated by the government. Sing it loud, people ...

  • NoVaNick||

    I would argue that higher education is the one area where quality has DECREASED since 1968. Back then, there was no grade inflation and you actually had to know your stuff to pass a class-As were reserved for the cream of the crop. Demanding a "safe space" would land you in the psych ward.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Demanding a "safe space" would land you in the psych ward.

    There were no censorship-shackled, dissent-punishing, freedom-disdaining, nonsense-teaching, snowflake-coddling, conservative-controlled backwater colleges in 1968?

  • Sevo||

    "There were no censorship-shackled, dissent-punishing, freedom-disdaining, nonsense-teaching, snowflake-coddling, conservative-controlled backwater colleges in 1968?"

    Dunno, asshole, but why are you changing the suject?

  • albo||

    I bought a really nice 46 inch Samsung LCD TV for $900 in 2008. Top seller on Amazon, great quality, will not die already.

    Was at Sam's Club yesterday, and the 55 inch Samsung smart 4K UHD LED was $400. The 65 inch $650. Amazing

  • Overt||

    I've got a 58" plasma tv that is 10 years old. I keep praying that it will burn in or die every time that I go to a friend's house and see their 80" tvs. But it keeps chugging along, and I cannot justify replacing something that works perfectly.

  • Mr. JD||

    My 58 inch plasma is 9 years old and good as new. Mainly because I don't watch TV anymore.

  • Fats of Fury||

    I bought a Sony Trinitron 32 inch tv for close to 700 bucks in the late 80s. Sonys were considered top of the line and 32 inch was considered a very large screen. The damn thing went to green screen within 5 years. It weighed a ton and was a monster to carry out to the trash. My neighbors bough a Zenith console cabinet TV in 1985 and it gave up the ghost around 3 years ago. Zenith was then considered an inferior product to the Japanese.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    4k is AWESOME. Super sales this year too.

    4k is so good that I wont ever need to upgrade my tv to have better images. I used to look forward to upgrading my tv every 5-10 years to get the deals on the far better viewing tech.

  • Fats of Fury||

    What kind of programming is available currently in 4k? I have a 55 inch LED that is good for viewing high def channels, blu rays and some dvds. Anything else and I have to watch on a 32 inch screen.

  • albo||

    I bought a really nice 46 inch Samsung LCD TV for $900 in 2008. Top seller on Amazon, great quality, will not die already.

    Was at Sam's Club yesterday, and the 55 inch Samsung smart 4K UHD LED was $400. The 65 inch $650. Amazing

  • JFree||

    And yet - the average renter paid 17% of their income in rent in the 1950's and they pay 35% of their income in rent today.

    This BS about the price/improvements of technology over time and the conflation of that with economics/markets is always a diversion. Can always tell when you're arguing with a useful idiot when they bring up this sort of nonsense - Well golly. In medieval times, people used to just dream of TV's and smallpox vaccines

  • Overt||

    One, your numbers are not exactly true, and two, they are not as relevant. First, I would like you to cite the study showing these percentages. I'd bet that they are based on wage income, which doesn't reflect the fact that most income growth in the past 20 years has been non-wage income, such as benefits, which skews the percentages.

    Second, others have already pointed out that housing is an area where the government has interfered mightily in that timeframe. The percentage of single family dwellings has increased in the country meaning 1) that many renters are renting houses and 2) there are less apartments to be rented to a growing rental population. That increase is greatly due to government intervention, as has been seen in many articles talking about how local governments are reluctant to approve multi-family dwellings, if not openly hostile.

    Someone like you might even like how they have interfered- Landlords assume far more risk for renting than they did previously. Their ability to evict someone for missing rent is decreased. The renter's rights to demand repairs and maintenance are increased. All of these make being a landlord more expensive, which translates to fewer landlords and higher prices, which then people like yourself bemoan as you call for even more intervention.

  • Overt||

    Overall, even if your numbers vs real income (accounting for transfer payments and benefits) are true, this is far more explained by other changing demographics that are concurrent with the claim of this article: in today's economy people are getting more for less.

    * More people live alone today than in the 1960s (15% vs 28%)
    * Household size has dropped since the 1950s (3.3 per household vs 2.5 today)

    Both these mean that the average person is getting more house than they were in the 1950s, in return for a greater share of their income.

    And beyond that, 43% of renters live in blue urban areas where they get more protections and less risk for their increased cost, and the governments are often hostile to multi-family, large buildings.

  • JFree||

    Both these mean that the average person is getting more house than they were in the 1950s, in return for a greater share of their income

    Again not really. The sq ft for rentals has not changed much at all. The vast majority is 800 sq ft to 1600 sq ft depending on the number of bedrooms which depends on the number of people in the renter's family. That there is now a serious shortage of that size housing is entirely a function of inflation driving up land prices so only luxury rentals (always a near-irrelevant part of the rental market - and more fungible with vacation/travel stuff than with other rentals) can be built now in most cities.

    beyond that, 43% of renters live in blue urban areas

    Fine. Here's current data by county for Nebraska. Hardly a blue state. FAR cheaper than most states for any housing and well below the 30% of income national average for renters. No real population shifts that lead to screwy markets and/or housing bubbles in any short-term. Renters in NE are not choosing to piss away a higher % of their income on housing than homeowners do where they won't ever get equity or tax-breaks. They HAVE to - or live in their car. And while this is only current not historic data, I'll bet you money that the two charts in the 1950's showed much more comparable % of income spent.

  • Sevo||

    "...Renters in NE are not choosing to piss away a higher % of their income on housing than homeowners do where they won't ever get equity or tax-breaks. They HAVE to - or live in their car...."

    You are one D-U-M, *dumb* fuck. And you are full of shit.
    They are choosing to live in a high rent district, which of course to anyone smart enough to breathe without a reminder, would suggest that by doing so, they are adding to the demand and thereby causing some of that housing cost.

  • JFree||

    Those charts are of NEBRASKA you fucking moron.

  • Sevo||

    JFree|11.20.18 @ 3:39PM|#
    "Those charts are of NEBRASKA you fucking moron."

    Fucking ignoramus ignores (or really can't even see) the point! Imagine my surprise!

  • Overt||

    The sq ft for rentals has not changed much at all. The vast majority is 800 sq ft to 1600 sq ft depending on the number of bedrooms which depends on the number of people in the renter's family.

    And yet the proportion of people renting by themselves has doubled in that timeframe. Again, people are paying more for the luxury of having more per-person-square feet.

    That there is now a serious shortage of that size housing is entirely a function of inflation driving up land prices so only luxury rentals (always a near-irrelevant part of the rental market - and more fungible with vacation/travel stuff than with other rentals) can be built now in most cities.

    This is entirely untrue. Inflation hasn't done this. General inflation would not lead to a percentage change in rent vs incomes. Inflation causes every one's paychecks to get larger as well as their housing costs on net.

    Bubbles happened in housing, broadly- not just in certain locales. This was a factor of interest rates being kept unsustainably low, and lending constraints kept unsustainably lax. People could afford to pay more for their house due to this ease, which pushed up demand for housing. The same thing is happening in College education, where easy loan-money has decreased price sensitivity and increased tuitions above inflation. (cont'd)

  • JFree||

    And yet the proportion of people renting by themselves has doubled in that timeframe. Again, people are paying more for the luxury of having more per-person-square feet.

    And the FACTS disagree. From the AHS survey of 1973 and the AHS survey of 2011

    31.3% of 1973 renters were living on their own. 7% of renters had more than one person/room. Can't seem to find the avg sq ft/person

    35.4% of 2011 renters were living on their own. 6% of renters had more than one person/room. Median sq ft/person = 500.

    That is VERY stable data. Even the increase in renters on their own is prob more due to the age mix - more renters are divorced/elderly now, more younger 'would-be-renters' were still living at parents home cuz they couldn't afford to move out.

  • Overt||

    And the FACTS disagree. From the AHS survey of 1973 and the AHS survey of 2011

    Not sure what your survey data is there, but this Census survey gives the stats I am using.
    The data shows that single person households since 1950 (your original baseline) has gone up from 9.3% to 25.8%. The graph of the same data shows that the biggest increase was in renters who went from ~12% single occupancy to ~36% in 2000.

    Meanwhile, the average square footage of all housing units in the country has risen, as have features like central AC and heating. So 1) people on avarage are getting more for their payments, and 2) increase in cost is due to government meddling to keep new housing starts low. *shrug*

  • JFree||

    General inflation would not lead to a percentage change in rent vs incomes. Inflation causes every one's paychecks to get larger as well as their housing costs on net.

    No. Inflation is caused by the creation of money. Money is, mostly, created by banks when they create loans on their balance sheet. Banks only really lend money for housing. So housing is where inflation starts - and it is only IF that created money makes it into people's paychecks that their income rises. Renters are not usually at the front of that line of where money flows. Meanwhile, the rent already went up and they are in a deeper hole.

    Made worse by the tax distortions that we create for homeowners and banks.

  • Sevo||

    JFree, you have managed to gain the "saved" bullshit file as this is among the most idiotic econ comment made here:

    JFree|11.20.18 @ 6:23PM|#
    "No. Inflation is caused by the creation of money. Money is, mostly, created by banks when they create loans on their balance sheet."
    Lefty bullshit. Banks have been fractional lenders since FDR proved himself as much an imbecile as you. Even if there were adjustments in the reserve requirements, every bank in the US could not affect the money supply as can the Fed by simply 'forgetting' to switch off the printing presses for one night.

    "Banks only really lend money for housing."
    More lefty bullshit. My company is funded by banks and has to do with housing only if my customers take out a 2nd to buy my goods; you're a lying lefty

    "So housing is where inflation starts - and it is only IF that created money makes it into people's paychecks that their income rises. Renters are not usually at the front of that line of where money flows. Meanwhile, the rent already went up and they are in a deeper hole."
    Uh, given that your premise is bullshit, your conclusion is no better.

    "Made worse by the tax distortions that we create for homeowners and banks."
    And renters, in case a fucking ignoramus like you hasn't heard of "rent control"
    You really are setting records for detailing how stupid you are. You will be treated to reading this again, and I'm sure, given your idiocy, soon.

  • JFree||

    Maybe you should actually read how money is created. From the notable commies at the Bank of England (only this and Swiss Central Bank - and various blogs - showed up near the top of a 'how is money created' google search.

    Excerpt
    Commercial banks create money, in the form of bank deposits, by making new loans. When a bank makes a loan, for example to someone taking out a mortgage to buy a house, it does not typically do so by giving them thousands of pounds worth of banknotes. Instead, it credits their bank account with a bank
    deposit of the size of the mortgage. At that moment, new money is created.
    (bold in original)

    I know that link is going to be WAY above your ability to understand. But I couldn't find a link to a poo-flinging monkey who might be able to explain something that you could comprehend.

  • Sevo||

    OK, you pathetic piece of lefty shit, I am more than willing to beat your ass into the ground. But not tonight. You are a slimy lefty piece of shit and you deserve what you'll get tomorrow. And I'll be happy to explain how fucking lefties like you are ignoramuses.
    Tune in tomorrow morning for JFree's (once again) destruction!

    JFree|11.21.18 @ 12:32AM|#

    Maybe you should actually read how money is created. From the notable commies at the Bank of England (only this and Swiss Central Bank - and various blogs - showed up near the top of a 'how is money created' google search.

    Excerpt
    Commercial banks create money, in the form of bank deposits, by making new loans. When a bank makes a loan, for example to someone taking out a mortgage to buy a house, it does not typically do so by giving them thousands of pounds worth of banknotes. Instead, it credits their bank account with a bank
    deposit of the size of the mortgage. At that moment, new money is created. (bold in original)

    I know that link is going to be WAY above your ability to understand. But I couldn't find a link to a poo-flinging monkey who might be able to explain something that you could comprehend.
    report spam

  • JFree||

    you deserve what you'll get tomorrow.

    Still waiiiiiitttttiiiiiinnnnng

    And I'll be happy to explain how fucking lefties like you are ignoramuses fling my poo around as soon as I get over my case of constipation.

    There. FIFY.

  • Overt||

    At the same time demand was increasing, supply was being constrained. It isn't news: Reason has done several articles on this. For example, California ranks 49th in housing units per capita. Since the 1970s, over 6.7 Million households were added, but only 6.2 Million homes. That deficit of supply has been pushing up the costs.

    The biggest hurdle to increasing houses for these demanding households is regulatory. Local governments have favored single family dwellings over multi-family. And again, even as our population has grown, the number of people choosing to live alone has increased demand while supply lingers.

  • JFree||

    I would like you to cite the study showing these percentages.

    Census has collected this info - sporadically since WW2, constantly since 1960 or so.

    I'd bet that they are based on wage income, which doesn't reflect the fact that most income growth in the past 20 years has been non-wage income, such as benefits, which skews the percentages.

    Yes it's based on cash income. But ACTUAL benefits spending is precisely what hasn't really filtered down to the main group of renters. I don't give a damn how companies account for those expenses since that is gamed. ACTUAL benefits eligibility has been dropping for the lower-income - cuz they are by definition part-time or multiple-job or more sporadic employment or work for companies who don't offer much of anything. Nor do they get stock options. They get paid cash just like always.

    The percentage of single family dwellings has increased in the country meaning 1) that many renters are renting houses and 2) there are less apartments to be rented to a growing rental population.

    That's basically nonsense. HOMEOWNERS purchase mcmansions and other new/changed housing. Renters w families have always tried to rent detached housing. They still do and most rental housing is older stock of smaller houses.

  • Sevo||

    "That's basically nonsense. HOMEOWNERS purchase mcmansions and other new/changed housing. Renters w families have always tried to rent detached housing. They still do and most rental housing is older stock of smaller houses."

    You are full of shit.

  • JFree||

    And you eat same.

  • Sevo||

    JFree|11.20.18 @ 3:35PM|#
    "And you eat same."
    That's the best you can do when called on your bullshit, bullshitter?
    Hey, dumbass, I'm still waiting to hear which companies forced you to buy their products.

  • Sevo||

    JFree|11.20.18 @ 10:55AM|#
    "And yet - the average renter paid 17% of their income in rent in the 1950's and they pay 35% of their income in rent today."

    Damn, you're stupid.
    The 'average renter' chooses to pay that.

  • Mr. JD||

    In 1955, the average house was 900 sqft.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    More land to have new housing tracts too.

    Much of Silicon Valley that we know was built after 1950.

  • JFree||

    And houses built back then are the detached houses that most renters with families rent. New construction is not done to turn it into rentals. Yeesh.

  • Sevo||

    JFree|11.20.18 @ 3:34PM|#
    "And houses built back then are the detached houses that most renters with families rent. New construction is not done to turn it into rentals. Yeesh."

    Lefty assertions are not arguments. Let's see data instead of claims from a consistent bullshitter.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Many of the young people you speak of want to live in overpriced cities with little new housing being built.

    San Francisco, NY, and Silicon Valley.

    Of course they are paying out the ass for rent. Duh.

  • Sevo||

    loveconstitution1789|11.20.18 @ 2:45PM|#
    "Many of the young people you speak of want to live in overpriced cities with little new housing being built."

    Yes, they chose to live in expensive areas and then whine that they are expensive. Which is the reason I pointed out that JFree is an ignoramus for trying to derive much info from rental costs.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Shame too. He had a few of us willing to discuss the topic.

    We dont have good topic discussions much anymore.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    America has improved greatly during the most recent half-century, along many fronts.

    That is among the reasons I do not respect disaffected losers who whine about American progress and bitter malcontents who pine for good old days that never existed.

  • Sevo||

    "That is among the reasons I do not respect disaffected losers who whine about American progress and bitter malcontents who pine for good old days that never existed."

    That would be all the lefty assholes such as yourself whining about GMO foods, mechanized farming and a desire for the pristine world before humans pretty much took control.
    Oh, and fuck off.

  • Ron||

    Everything listed last less than half as long so no win there since you have to purchase twice as often and even though material items are cheaper housing and taxes and food and gas have gone through the roof thus offsetting any gains. its great you can have a phone but no home to phone to

  • DaveSs||

    Even assuming it is true* that goods like refrigerators, microwaves, and window AC units last half as long, you are still (usually) ahead if you are replacing it on a more frequent schedule.

    If the $3600 fridge lasts you 20 years, but instead you replace it with two fridges for 1,000 each every 10 years, you are still ahead in saving over the long term by a good $1600
    That's also assuming you never had to pay for someone to replace the compressor, or recharge its refrigerant over that 20 year period, or that during the last years of its life it was simply low on refrigerant and you ran it anyway requiring it to cycle more frequently and thereby consume more power and cost you more simply to operate it.


    *Personally I doubt most old appliances really lasted as long as people think they did. There is an enormous amount of selection bias going on in that we don't see the junk appliances that the majority of people bought that actually didn't last very long because they got sent to the scrap pile and replaced.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Old appliances got fixed, not replaced.

    Newer appliances sometimes get fixed but usually get replaced.

  • The Last American Hero||

    Sorry pal, but cars built in the mid 60's were rust-buckets by the mid 70's. TV's and fridges didn't last 4x as long, even though they cost 4x as much.

    TV repair man used to be an actual thing, since the cost of purchasing a new one was astronomical. If a TV dies today, the replacement is cheaper than the repair.

    As for gas, in inflation adjusted dollars -

    1931 - 2.65
    1947 - 2.44
    1972 - 2.04
    1998 - 1.48
    2009 - 2.54
    2015 - 2.36
    Avg - 2.25, median 2.50, so we're right about the same as it ever was.

    But don't let pesky facts gum up your narrative.

  • CatoTheChipper||

    In the mid-60's, all consumer electronics required maintenance. You could be all set to watch Sunday football and have a vacuum tube blow out. That was such a frequent occurrence that drug stores and 7-11's sold vacuum tubes and had vacuum tube test equipment.

    No only were 60s and 70s cars doomed to become rust buckets, they were way less reliable, less safe, and required more maintenance than today's cars. Tires were good for about 12,000 miles. Lots of people correctly figured out that the escalating cost of maintenance as a car got older made it worth trading in every five years. Flipping an odometer over 99,999 miles on a car in reasonably good shape was an oddity. The quality of today's cars is such that it still looks and runs as new when you get to 100K.

  • My Dog Bites Better Than Yours||

    Everything listed last less than half as long so no win there since you have to purchase twice as often ...

    Umm, no. I read the car reviews in Consumer Reports when I was a kid in the mid-1970's. I remember there always being long list of individual defects on each sample-loose trim, windows not working, parts falling off-all warranty repairs, of course. I never had to take any new car back for any warranty service. They learned how to build these things correctly.

    Another example is the modern TV (all electronics, really). Remember going to the local Bait-N-Switch for a TV, taking it home, then taking it back because it didn't work? Happened all the time. Now out-of-box failures are nearly unheard of.

  • Sevo||

    Ron|11.20.18 @ 11:33AM|#
    "Everything listed last less than half as long so no win there since you have to purchase twice as often"
    Bullshit assertion.

    "and even though material items are cheaper housing and taxes and food and gas have gone through the roof thus offsetting any gains. its great you can have a phone but no home to phone to.
    Bullshit assertion, followed by victim 'whinery"

  • Alan Vanneman||

    There have been a lot of studies showing that people are a lot more prosperous than they used to be. Then why are so many people so upset? Is Donald Trump's base 100% racist instead of only 75%? Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but are people voting for Trump not because they feel economically threatened but because they wish the U.S. could go back to being white and Christian? I continue to believe that the blue-collar pro-Trump vote in the industrial mid-western states that the Democrats lost in 2016 reflected both resentment that the "government" was spending "their" money on non-white slackers and the conviction that their standard of living had declined, due to the drying up, not of "manufacturing jobs" but union jobs, and the withering of a once-prosperous blue-collar society based on union jobs. Once life was better than average in those states for blue-collar workers and now it's worse.

  • The Last American Hero||

    It's worth noting that those "bigots" voted for Barrack Obama - twice.

    It's also worth noting that Hillary came into those areas and said "fuck coal, get with the times, rubes" while Trump came in and said "I hear you and I feel your pain." Neither one can actually bring back the company mill town, but one of them dismissed these voters as a bunch of extras from Deliverance, and one acknowledged their struggle.

  • Mr. JD||

    Jonah Goldberg's Suicide of the West explains: The prosperity we've had for 200+ years is an anomalous miracle, and that miracle is going to die if society continues to not appreciate its causes.

  • BYODB||

    I guess if you pretend that all of human history doesn't exist until circa 1700 that argument might make some sense, but would you say there's some possibility that human experience builds on itself as well?

  • JesseAz||

    What the hell don't you understand Reason? Someone has more than me, which isn't fair. It won't be a just society until I have as much as everbody else. And don't you dare ask me to fucking work for it. - liberals.

  • D-Pizzle||

    If you're affecting the leftist perspective, it would be more apt to ask why everybody else doesn't have as little as you.

  • Mr. JD||

    Now, now, not all Leftists are that poorly-endowed.

  • John Rohan||

    These things are all based on technology, which becomes cheaper. What about the real price of things like bread, milk, gasoline, a gold necklace, or a night with a prostitute?

  • Mr. JD||

    All cheaper except the necklace.

  • BYODB||

    I suspect some people, say an economist, might wonder why all those things except the necklace have subsidy attached to the production level and if that might have some connection to their price. I mean, I'm also obviously assuming that prostitution is a black market good and therefore one could expect that price to go up, generally speaking.

  • Seamus||

    I was about to say that the Baumol Effect meant that the prostitute was probably just as expensive, but then I realized that high-quality technological substitutes are probably pushing even the price of prostitutes down.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Tech is used to make bread, milk, and gasoline cheaper when you factor in how widely transported these commodities are.

    Oil is pumped from often dangerous locations, shipped half-way around the World, refined, and distributed to a gas station within 5-10 miles of your house and its costs between $2.00 and $4.00 per gallon depending.

    This gasoline allow Americans to drive thousands of miles at the drop of a hat.

    Pretty awesome.

  • Overt||

  • BYODB||


    Americans have more wealth than we could have ever imagined.

    "Thanks immigration controls and wage floors!", said the ostensibly libertarian publication.

  • cc2||

    Lots of improvements in addition to price of course:
    ball point pens used to leak constantly
    gas pump nozzles would spray back when they shut off, getting gas all over you
    No double-pane windows to keep out the cold
    Cars in the 60s had terrible or no heaters
    Tires went flat all the time
    cars didn't last very long
    Stereo systems sound lots better now
    You couldn't carry all your favorite music with you back then
    Put 20 books on a kindle for your trip? ahahhhaha

  • aajax||

    We are seriously lagging at the low end. https://bit.ly/2znLQBj

  • Sevo||

    You bet! So long as you pick the cherries carefully to prove your point, you can "prove" the hag won!

  • Eddy||

    Also, the cost of living in Australia is lower.

    Just go out into the bush and fire at random, you're bound to kill some animal. And you'll find it appetizing so long as you drink enough beforehand.

  • crufus||

    How about the price of Marijuana is the 60's vs today? Available in many varieties with THC content 10 times higher than the 60's, and available as a legal drug in many states.

    Prices are $250 to $360 per ounce, while the price was around $30 per ounce in the last 60's. The increase in potency alone makes it about even in price without discounting the value of money.

  • larryseltzer||

    All of those appliances today are much more energy efficient too, meaning they are much cheaper to operate

  • Fats of Fury||

    Chances are that 1968 refrigerator would still be running ( like mine). The new ones are predicted to last 10 to 15 years. I had a new oven I had to replace because parts were unavailable after 10 years.

  • cheapmcmbelt||

    Thanks admin for giving such valuable information through your article . Your article is much more similar to http://www.mkoutletfire.com/mi.....black.html word unscramble tool because it also provides a lot of knowledge of vocabulary new words with its meanings.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online