Chart of the day: Necessities

By Felix Salmon
April 28, 2009
My own personal answers, of course, would be very different to these: for one thing, I've never owned a car. ... The huge drop in the perceived necessity of clothes dryers, home air conditioning, and dishwashers is I think partly a response to the economic crisis, but more a response to the bursting of the housing bubble: people don't define themselves by their appliances in the way that they did during the housing boom. " data-share-img="" data-share="twitter,facebook,linkedin,reddit,google" data-share-count="true">

The Pew Research Center asked 1,003 Americans what they considered to be a necessity, as opposed to a luxury they could live without, and got these results:

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My own personal answers, of course, would be very different to these: for one thing, I’ve never owned a car.

I’m quite surprised that the landline phone is still considered more of a necessity than a cellphone — I can’t imagine that’s going to continue to be the case for long. I am interested in the huge drop in the perceived necessity of the microwave, however. Yes, there’s something about microwaves which just feels old-fashioned and unnecessary — but the microwave hasn’t really been replaced by anything. Which I guess just goes to show how much of these determinations is made up of little more than trendiness.

I’m also surprised that 52% of people consider a TV set to be a necessity, while only 23% of people consider cable or satellite TV to be a necessity: subtract the second number from the first, and you get a good indication of the sheer power of network TV. I’m sure that, too, will erode quickly.

The huge drop in the perceived necessity of clothes dryers, home air conditioning, and dishwashers is I think partly a response to the economic crisis, but more a response to the bursting of the housing bubble: people don’t define themselves by their appliances in the way that they did during the housing boom.

What went up in perceived necessity? Nothing, really — nothing more than the margin of error of 3.6 percentage points, anyway. Although it would have been interesting to see the results if intangibles had been included in the survey: friends, family, God, that sort of thing. And I’d also love to have seen them ask about financial services: what’s happened to the perceived necessity of a checking account, or a credit card?

(Via)

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