Editorial: Better than you think
News about the jobless recovery and government budget cuts could give you the impression that things are bad ó bad all over.
Youíd be wrong. A USA Today study earlier this year compared life today to 1980, when Ronald Reagan was elected president, and found that our standard of living has improved dramatically. Todayís adults have far higher expectations than their parents ó so much higher that weíre easily disappointed.
In many ways, our lives are better than ever. In fact, the headline on the USA Today story was, ěLifeís better, but we arenít feeling secure.î That about sums it up. But if you want details, here are some of the changes USA Today cited from 1980 to 2010, using averages and annual amounts:
Annual income: $24,079 (in inflation-adjusted dollars) to $40,454.
New homes: 1,700 to 2,400 square feet.
Spending on housing: $3,262 to $6,133.
Recreation spending: $913 to $2,310
Health care expenses: $1,796 (adjusted for inflation) to $5,438.
Life expectancy at age 50: 78 to 81.
Violent crimes per 1,000 people: 17 to 5.
Number of cable networks: 28 to 565.
2.5 gigabytes of computer power: $214,000 and would fill a room, to $7 in a flash drive thatís no bigger than your pinky.
That last item is the key to much of the change weíve seen over the past three decades. There are no 1980 stats on laptops, iPods, smartphones, e-readers or tablets.
While technology transformed our lives, some things did not change much in cost over the 30-year span. The average person spends about $1,000 a year on clothes, the same as in 1980. And though grocery prices are going up now, the average family spends about the same amount on food today as it did 30 years ago.
So cheer up. The T-shirt slogan is right: Life is good.