What we all have — and what we don’t

Income determines much of what we can buy and use. When it comes to common household durable goods, like cars, electronics and appliances, has the gap between what a typical high-income household and a typical low-income household possesses widened or narrowed in recent years? NC State University economist Mike Walden answers.

“Well it has changed. and it has actually narrowed for most typical household durable products. But let’s look at some of the more common ones: First, let’s look at entertainment — things like electronics, entertainment electronics, and televisions and VCRs, etc. Right now, almost 100 percent of the households, depending upon whether you are at the high-end in income distribution or the low end, almost all households have some parts of that.

“Another area where most households, regardless of their income, have it is in terms of cooking appliances and refrigerators. Almost all high-income households have them, and over 95 percent of the lowest-income households have cooking appliances and refrigerators. Now dishwashers, a little bit different here: High-income people, almost all of them have dishwashers. About 60 percent of the very lowest-income people have them. But only 30 years ago, only 25 percent of low-income folks had dishwashers. And the same with washers and dryers.

“The biggest difference that we see is in terms of vehicles. Right now 90 percent of the highest-income households have vehicles; 70 percent of the lowest-income households, but, again, that 70 percent has been going up over recent decades.”

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