Social Trends: Luxury or Necessity? Things We Can’t Live Without--The List Has Grown in the Past Decade

Source Organization: Pew Research Center

12/14/2006 - As Americans navigate increasingly crowded lives, the number of things they say they can't live without has multiplied in the past decade, according to a new Pew Research Center survey that asks whether a broad array of everyday consumer products are luxuries or necessities.

Some of these goods, such as home computers, are relatively recent information era innovations that have been rapidly transformed in the public's eyes from luxury toward necessity.

But other items - such as microwave ovens, dishwashers, air conditioning for the home and car, and clothes dryers - have also made substantial leaps in the past decade even though they've been fixtures on the consumer landscape for far longer.

For example, the percentage of American adults who describe microwave ovens as a necessity rather than a luxury has more than doubled in the past decade, to 68%. Home air conditioning is now considered a necessity by seven-in-ten adults, up from half (51%) in 1996. And more than eight-in-ten (83%) now think of a clothes dryer as a necessity, up from six-in-ten (62%) who said the same a decade ago in a survey conducted by the Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University.

The Pew survey asked the "Luxury or Necessity?" question about 14 different consumer products designed to help make everyday life more productive, more convenient, more comfortable, more efficient or more entertaining. It was conducted by telephone from October 18 through November 9, 2006 among a randomly-selected nationally-representative sample of 2,000 adults.

Read the full report Luxury or Necessity? Things We Can’t Live Without: The List Has Grown in the Past Decade on the Pew Research Center Web site.

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