Americans Have Never Had It So Good

American families have never earned more income than they do now, according to a longitudinal study by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics which was released on June 30 this year. The study also said that American families have never spent less on necessities or enjoyed a higher standard of living than they do right now. This leads to one inescapable conclusion: American families have never had it so good. The Bureau labeled its report as "100 Years of U.S. Consumer Spending: Data for the Nation, New York City, and Boston," and it marks the first time that the US Bureau of Labor Statistics has examined an entire century of data instead of just a year.

The 70-page report reveals that there is very little that has stayed the same in the last 100 years as far as Americans' income and spending patterns are concerned. "In many ways, the only thread of commonality between U.S. households in 1901 and in 2002-03 is their geographic location," the report said. It listed average annual household income at $750 in year 1901, with 9.

5 percent of that amount earned by children, for an average family of 4.9 people. Of this amount, 79.9 percent was spent on food, clothing and housing.

By 2002-03, the average American family earned $50,301 a year and statisticians no longer mentioned children as income producers. The average household had shrunk to just 2.5 people and only 50.1 percent of the annual income was spent on food, clothing and shelter. Based on the value of the dollar in 1901, 2003 households would be earning $2,282 a year in real terms or a three-fold increase over 1901 totals.

Food was the single biggest expenditure of families in 1901, accounting for 42.5 percent of annual income. On the average, jobs paid less than 30 cents an hour, and with bacon costing 13 cents per pound, butter at 27 cents per pound and a dozen eggs for 22 cents, food in 1901 was expensive compared to today's costs. Credit for that goes to mass production which has made food more readily available and cheaper. For example, in 2002-03, the cost of food only took up 31.

1 percent of a family's earnings. A hundred years ago, nearly every American ate his meals at home, but by 1961, they were spending 21 percent of their food budgets on restaurants. Meanwhile, only 19 percent of Americans owned their own homes in 1901 compared to 67 percent in 2002-03. The number of single-person households has also grown steadily from 16.

8 percent in 1960 to 29.5 percent in 2002-03. Perhaps the one area that bucks the trend is in entertainment. The average US household spent 5.4 percent of total expenses on entertainment during the Depression years of 1934-36, a figure that has actually fallen to just 5.1 percent in 2002-03.

Kadence Buchanan writes articles on many topics including Employment, Business, and Finance

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