September 16, 2014

Appliances – Luxury or Necessity?

Americans are changing their view of which appliances are truly necessary. According to the Pew Research Center, many of our past favorites are losing their hold on our pocketbooks.

A microwave oven, a television set or even home air conditioning is no longer considered a necessity. Instead, nearly half or more now see each of these items as a luxury, the report found. Similarly, the proportion that considers a dishwasher or a clothes dryer to be essential has dropped sharply since 2006.

The study also found these recession-era reevaluations are all the more striking because the public’s luxury-versus-necessity perceptual boundaries had been moving in the other direction for the previous decade.

For example, the share of adults who consider a microwave a necessity was just 32% in 1996. By 2006, it had shot up to 68%. But it has now retreated to 47%. Similarly, just 52% of the public in the latest poll say a television set is a necessity — down 12 percentage points from 2006 and the smallest share to call a TV a necessity since this question was first asked more than 35 years ago. Most surprising to me is the change in response to the clothes dryer — down 17 percentage points since 1996.