|% Households with:||Poor 1984||Poor 1994||Poor 2003||Poor 2005||All 1971||All 2005|
|One or more cars||64.1||71.8||72.8 (2001)||79.5|
|source: http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/extended-05.html and prior years|
As we can readily see, America's poor (i.e., those officially below the poverty line) own a lot more household "necessities" today than they did only 20 years ago. And what about the gap between rich and poor? On that issue, Horwitz offers a follow-up chart:
|% Households with:||Poor 2003||Rich 2003||2003 |
|Poor 2005||Rich 2005||2005 |
As the chart makes clear, the gap has narrowed in 10 of 13 categories in only 2 years, and the only product with a large increase is landline telephones - something that is easily explained by the large increase in poor cellphone ownership. Finally, these charts inspired Mark Perry to issue his own awesome chart on the cost of these household necessities in terms of hours worked to pay for them:
Very cool. As we can see from Perry's chart, the average American today has to work far fewer hours than they did in 1973 to buy basic household items. As such, they're far better off today than they were back then. Indeed, all of these charts make clear that we should be very, very suspicious when we hear politicians lamenting the worsening state of America's "poor."
I think the charts speak for themselves, but I'll still offer up a post-script: one of the big things driving these figures is open trade with China and other low-cost countries. Indeed, according to University of Chicago's Christian Broda and John Romalis, "[M]uch of the rise of measured income inequality has been offset by a relative decline in the prices of products that poorer consumers buy." And China, as the primary manufacturer of such "products," is one of the main drivers of their price declines.