Sunday, April 8, 2012

What Americans Buy

This is another interesting visualization of things Americans buy, depicted in terms of market saturation over time.  The Atlantic charts 100 years of technology by showing what percentage of homes had what as innovations emerged:

So that in 1900 five percent of households had a telephone; by about 1950 half of households had one, and the market is saturated by somewhere around 1970, when most households have one.  Cell phones come along in the 80s, reach half of households by early 2000s, and are very close to 90% by 2005.  Interesting--it took 50 years to go from none to half of all households having a telephone, while it took 20 years to do that for the cellphone.  But look at the microwave and the VCR: each looks like it took only about 10 years to do the same thing.  I'm surprised the VCR hasn't dropped off more.  I'd love to see a chart that showed U.S. purchases of vinyl, 8-track, cassette, cd, and digital music over time.

Related, here is another installment in Planet Money's series on the topic of U.S. consumption patterns.  The visualizations are well done as usual.

How Americans currently allocate their cash:

Compare to how they spent their cash 60 years ago:

Planet Money points out that food & clothing are cheaper due to productivity increases, while people are buying much bigger houses (about 1000 sq ft in 1949, about twice that in 2011) and more cars.  Medical care goes up for all kinds of reasons.  

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