From Luxury to Necessity and Back Again

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Every year the Pew Research Center looks at what Americans think are important, the must-have necessities versus those things that might be considered luxuries. And guess what? People are living with less these days. Some of the trends are green- a fifth of Americans are planning vegetable gardens and big electricity consumers are among the first to go.

The economy is the driver, but so is technology. "Old-tech" hardware like microwaves, clothes dryers and dishwashers have taken a big hit, while "new tech" stuff like cell phones and internet were stable or increased slightly.

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While the car has dropped a bit, 88% of Americans still consider it the number one necessity. I wish bicycles had been on the list.

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And some items, like phones, are age-sensitive. No surprise there.

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Television is taking a huge hit, particularly among the young. The Pew people write:

Clear majorities in polls conducted since 1973 have said that their TV set is something they couldn't do without. Yet the latest Pew Research Center survey suggests Americans' long love affair with their TV sets may be cooling.

Whether prompted by the recession or by the lure of new computers and other devices that can display TV programs as well as other kinds of streaming video, barely half (52%) of the public now say a television is a necessary part of their lives. That's a decline of 12 percentage points since 2006 and the lowest proportion since 1973 to view a television as essential -- even lower than the 57% who said a TV set was a necessity when the question was first asked in 1973.

Young adults have led the march away from the TV screen: Only 38% of those 30 or younger say a TV is a necessity, a 15-point decline since 2006. In contrast, perceptions of a television set as a necessity declined by just 6 points to 68% among respondents 65 or older.

Less than a quarter of the public now think that cable or satellite service is necessary, down ten points since 2006.

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Some old technology is back; one in five Americans are planning to plant a vegetable garden, mainly middle income married couples. Interesting reading at Pew Social Trends

What do you consider to be a necessity?

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