necessity or luxury?

the pew research center recently conducted a survey of 1,003 americans to determine their opinion on which consumer goods they consider a luxury and which they consider a necessity.  here are their findings:

      ITEM                                    % RESPONDED NECESSITY

  1. car                                       88%
  2. landline phone                    68%
  3. clothes dryer                       66%
  4. air conditioner                     55%
  5. television                            52%
  6. home computer                   50%
  7. cell phone                            49%
  8. microwave                           47%
  9. high-speed internet            31%  
  10. cable/satellite tv                  23%
  11. dishwasher                          21%
  12. flat-screen tv                        08%
  13. ipod                                     04%

generally speaking, you will notice in the internals of the data that the percentage who rate items as “necessary” is directly parallel to current macro-economics.  each of the items above peaked as “necessary” in 2006 and have declined since.  interesting how many in your pocket changes your view of possessions… 

of the items above, which do you find interesting?

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Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. sarah says

    i agree that a car and clothes dryer are necessities in some areas and climates. i wouldn’t want to live without air conditioning in the summer either – i did as a kid and it was miserable. a phone of some sort, either landline or cell, is necessary too. i could (and mostly do) easily live without the rest.

  2. Christy Zacharias says

    Flatscreen? These were 13 year olds answering, weren’t they?! ;o)

    It gets up to +35C here in the summer, and I have survived 35 years without a/c. Honestly, it’s a matter of what you’re used to living without.

    And even if it is -35C (as it gets here in the winter), we could dry our clothes in the house – we wouldn’t just have any clear flat space in the house that day. ;o)

    I guess I define “Necessity” as what we need to survive – food, water, a winter coat – not what we need to make life easier. As a result, I view almost everything as a luxury..icing on the cake of my life.

  3. says

    Honestly none of the items listed is a necessity. They are all luxuries that most people in history never had the option to use. Certainly they can contribute to ease and entertainment but necessary, no!


  4. Deluxe says

    Don’t have a car, don’t own a TV (so no flat-screen nor cable/satellite either), don’t have a landline phone (just my cell), no microwave, no clothes dryer, no dishwasher and no air conditioning. That gives me 4 out of 13.
    Being in college (not in the US, btw), I don’t have the money (nor the space) for most of this stuff. Yet, looking back in a couple of years (when I will have a lot more stuff, statistically speaking, I hope it won’t come to this) I will probably consider this the best time of my life.

  5. Tiffany says

    Here’s my opinion:

    ITEM Do i need it:

    car no
    landline phone no
    clothes dryer no
    air conditioner yes
    television no
    home computer no
    cell phone yes
    microwave no
    high-speed internet yes
    cable/satellite tv no
    dishwasher yes
    flat-screen tv no
    ipod yes

  6. Mneiae says

    I’m in college, so I don’t have some of the above.
    car no
    landline phone no
    clothes dryer yes
    air conditioner no
    television no
    home computer yes
    cell phone yes
    microwave yes
    high-speed internet yes
    cable/satellite tv no
    dishwasher no
    flat-screen tv no
    ipod no

  7. says

    Is it a necessity for me?

    1. car As a family, yes, but we only have one.
    2. landline phone No, we do not have one
    3. clothes dryer I could live without it, but it would be hard
    4. air conditioner I have lived without it in the past
    5. television No, we do not have a tv
    6. home computer I have lived without it in the past
    7. cell phone I have lived without it in the past
    8. microwave I think I could easily live without it
    9. high-speed internet I have lived without it in the past
    10. cable/satellite tv No, we do not have it
    11. dishwasher No, we do not have it
    12. flat-screen tv No, we do not have it
    13. ipod No, we do not have it

    We have 7 out of 13 things on this list, but we only need the car and the dryer.

  8. Bianca says

    I`d consider none of these things as necessary, but I must admit that I would feel hard done by if I had to give up my home computer with high speed internet and mobile phone.

  9. Catz says

    Dishwashers – we have one, but the easist thing to do is leave water and soap in the sink, and wash your item straight after use. There’s hardly any dishes in our house now. And we have a toddler!

    Computers are necessary. Communication and ‘connectiveness’ boosts mental wellbeing (see previous blog). So are phones. And cars.

  10. Valerie says

    I’m middle age (yikes) and I have never run a dishwasher as an adult. We had one growing up, and there have been dishwashers in places I have rented and even owned, but I have always used them to store bakeware and large dishes. I enjoy washing the dishes, drying them and putting them away, and not dragging the chore into the next day. More peaceful after dinner without that sound, too!

  11. di says

    There are many alternatives.

    Use public transportation, a bike or walk.
    Communicate via snail mail or face to face.
    Change kitchenware by changing recipes.
    Dry clothes on a folding clothes dryer.

    A portable handheld computer seems to be the most convenient, time-saving and multi-purposed item to communicate, entertain, research, accomplish work.

    With less to maintain, washing dishes by hand may not seem like a big chore.

    It’s not about what you don’t use. It’s about what you do as an alternative. There are many things you can do without.

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