The ageing of Americans’ things

By Ben Walsh
December 3, 2013

Bloomberg’s Michelle Jamrisko reports that the Americans are holding onto things like appliances and furniture for longer periods of time. The average age of consumer durable goods — a category that also includes items such as cars, electronics, and jewelry —  is 4.6 years, as tracked by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Jamrisko notes this is the highest its been since 1962. The average age of jewelry and watches was 5.3 years, the highest since 1942.

A longer time frame makes this data a bit easier digest, and thankfully the BEA has consumer durable goods data going back to 1925, plus an easy-to-use charting tool. Here’s the average age of US consumer durable goods since 1925:

In the post-war era, the age of consumer durable goods moves within a fairly tight range, and we are now towards the top-end of the range.

And here’s a chart showing the average age of consumer durable goods, plus the ages of jewelry, furniture, and household appliances:

Interestingly, there’s a steady post-war climb in the age of Americans’ appliances.  Maybe the year-to-year difference in new appliance features is dropping, and as a result, Americans’ care less and less about having the latest refrigerator or dishwasher. Or perhaps the durability of these products has simply gotten consistently better since the 1950′s.

 

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At the right tail, reduced household formation could be a/the significant factor.

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