Here's something very interesting from Floyd Norris's blog on the NY Times website:
What’s a Necessity?
In 2006, 70 percent deemed [air conditioning] a necessity. This year the figure was down to 54 percent. Dishwashers, clothes dryers, microwave ovens and television sets are also seen as necessities by fewer people now than in 2006.
Overall, 52 percent think a television is a necessity. That is the lowest figure since that question was first asked in 1973.
The television breakdown is interesting. The older you are, the more likely you are to view it as a necessity. Among those over 65, 68 percent think a set is a necessity, compared to 38 percent of those age 18 to 29. But both those figures are down from three years ago.
Similarly, the young are more likely to view a cellphone as a necessity, and less likely to see a need for a landline.
Fascinating! I'm sure some of this must be a psychological adjustment to being faced with the possibility of not being able to afford something you used to think was necessary-- it's easier to accept if you can brush it off as something you didn't really need anyway! The data is from the Pew Research Center, where there is a nice chart that shows the sudden decline in necessary-ness of quite a few items!