Monday, April 27, 2009

What's a Necessity?

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!


SaveBuyLive said...

The microwave really surprises me since I know so many people who would be unable to cook without one.

What I think is more surprising is that from '78 to '06 the perceived necessity of the TV set has been essentially flat. This suggests that the whole internet revolution has done next to nothing to make a dent in the TV market.

Also interesting to note is that high speed internet hasn't budged at all in the recession. Suggests that demand for having access to unlimited information and media content may be inelastic.

guinness416 said...

This is pretty interesting. Of the list, if things were bad, only my cellphone would be a necessity I think. And you'd pull my internet access from my cold dead hands! I've already given up the dishwasher and much of the TV and dryer use.

My parents don't have a microwave. It always confuses me when I'm there, I can't reheat quickly or make popcorn!

It doesn't surprise me that older people see TVs as a necessity. My gran is 80 and quite active for her age but still watches a lot of TV - she doesn't sleep well, her eyes don't allow her to read for long stretches, and she's reluctant to go out after dark.

Adrienne said...

I agree with the microwave being a surprise. Since I live in Houston air conditioning is a MUST. Could I live without it? sure. Would I want to? heck no! I would give up everything you listed (even cell phones) before air conditioning. Or just move.

Anonymous said...

I haven't had a microwave for years. Popcorn tastes better cooked on top of the stove!

MtnMama said...

I don't want to give up Internet access, and I'm willing to have a prepaid cell and no landline, although at the moment I am running out a contract cell.

pretty flexible on most other things... that have alternatives/workarounds.

Anonymous said...

I'd guess that the drop in numbers for television sets has more to do with what is now available on-line and less to do with the economy.

Unknown said...

I don't think any of those things are absolutely necessary (where I live)- but that you might want one over the other (cell or landline).

Shuchong said...

I don't think the tv numbers reflect increasing frugalit, so much as they reflect the fact that 18-25 year olds watch a lot of "tv" on the internet. It's like having automatic tivo!

meara said...

I'm surprised the A/C numbers dropped so suddenly! Though for me it changed because I moved--in DC I definitely thought it was, but now that I live in Seattle, I don't have it, and it's not a problem.

Though I guess some of it really depends in my mind not only what's necessary but what's easily obtainable. Can I get a dryer in my house easily, if I don't have one? No (but I can go to a laundromat). Can I get a TV? Sure, there's probably a $10 one on craigslist and I can get over the air, even if I don't have cable. It may not be *necessary*...but it's also pretty darn easy to obtain.

Anonymous said...

I've never owned a microwave and don't intend to and my family has gotten along just fine without it. Definitely not a necessity.

Wise Money Matters said...

TV is definitely not a necessity. I've been without TV for several years now and have never regretted it. Then again, I'd probably consider internet access a necessity while others wouldn't.

Alison | Quest for Balance said...

It's amazing what we can get by without if we only have the motivation to try! I would give up AC, because I am fortunate to live in a temperate area. I'd also give up my landline in favor of mobile, and my microwave in favor of quick, simple meals that don't require one. TV could go... but I'd have a hard time giving up my computer!