Luxury or Necessity?

Pew Research has published some survey results on attitudes around what the average American considers a luxury and what is a neccesity. The list of things that the average person “can’t live without” has multiplied in the last decade, incorporating items that are new (such as technology and computer-related items) and previously available (microwave ovens, air conditioning, clothes dryers) alike.

While this isn’t particularly surprising, the survey tells a lot about American life in 2007. The thing that grabbed me was this statement:

… one pattern was consistent: wherever there has been a significant change in the past decade in the public’s judgment about these items, it’s always been in the direction of necessity. And on those items for which there are longer term survey trends dating back to 1973, this march toward necessity has tended to accelerate in the past ten years.

I think this tells us a lot about the American mindset and the power of marketing in our culture. We don’t just want it, we want it now, regardless of the consequences. It doesn’t really matter if we need it, or if we can afford it, only if we can get it really quickly.


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