The American Consumer - The Rise Of The Consumer Culture, Contemporary Consumer Spending, Rising Debt, Decreasing Savings, And Stagnating Incomes
By the early twenty-first century the United States was a society driven largely by consumerism—not just economically, but socially and culturally as well. This consumer culture, which began its rise after World War II ended in 1945, reached unprecedented levels by the early 2000s, with consumer spending accounting for more
than 67% of gross domestic product in 2003. Such aggressive spending helps fuel both the American and the global economies, as imported goods are widely available and popular in the American market. However, not all effects have been positive. Since the 1980s the spending habits of many Americans have driven them deeply into debt, as spending has actually outpaced the steady rise in median
income, while the savings level has dropped. In addition, in parts of the world that are less prosperous, the American consumer is seen as selfish and spoiled because of what often seems like limitless spending and materialism.
World War II (1939–45) is generally credited with lifting the United States out of the Great Depression—the period of economic disaster that lasted from 1929 through the early 1940s. The urgent need for weapons, tanks, planes, and other war-related items led the government to invest heavily in getting the nation's factories
running again, especially after the United States joi…
Table 7.1 shows a breakdown of what the average American spent on various items in 2000, 2001, and 2002. TABLE 7.1 In 2002 the average pre-tax household income was $49,430, and average annual household spending totaled $40,677, up 2.9% from 2001. In 2002 Americans spent an average of $13,283 on housing, $7,559 on
transportation, and $5,375 on food. The percentage of total consumer expenditure…
One consequence of increased spending in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries was rapidly increasing consumer debt, which reached an all-time high of approximately $9 trillion (including mortgages on homes and other debts; excluding mortgages but including credit card and car loan debt, the figure was $2
trillion) in 2003. In January 2004 credit card debt alone totaled $735 billion,…
Consumer spending is essential to economic growth in America, and is greatly affected by two things: employment and interest rates, which are interdependent factors in the economy. Historically, when interest rates have been lower, people have spent more, which has in turn stimulated the job market. And when people have steady
and dependable work, they are more likely to spend money, which also ad…
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