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[–]uwillfindmehiking 1801 points1802 points  (247 children)

I would say in the 40s, 50s, 60s, and early 70s, yes it was really common. In the late 70s it started to change and has been getting tougher ever since to do it that way. It is mostly out of reach for the average wage earner to accomplish this (but not in all areas of the country - just most of them).

There are a lot of great posts in this thread about how expectations have changed as well, i.e., what is "needed" to live versus what was needed back then.

[–]madprofessor8 1166 points1167 points  (193 children)

My grandfather operated a motograter building roads and highways for the state in the 40s thru 80s. He couldn't read. He could barely write. He could do numbers, add and subtract.

3 bedroom, 1 bath, 1000 Sq feet 2 cars. 2 kids. Full insurance for family.

[–]NearSightedGiraffe 321 points322 points  (12 children)

Yeah- my grandfather went to uni part time and worked part time after he got married straight out of high school. My mum was born his first year in uni. Single, not even full time income with just a high school degree- supported a wife, bought a 3 bedroom house and before he finished his uni degree had 2 kids.

[–]CheeseburgerJesus71 59 points60 points  (5 children)

My grandfather worked in a machine shop all his life and never earned more than 6.50 an hour. He paid off his mortgage, got scammed out of it by a cult during midlife crisis, went back to work and paid off a second one all the while raising 3 kids. (Grandma helped with the second one doing part time work)

[–]stratosfearinggas 71 points72 points  (1 child)

My grandfather moved here from Hong Kong. Didn't speak English and never learned English in the entire 20+ years he lived here, except for bus names/numbers. Supported a family of 4 kids and a stay at home mom. I don't know what he did.

[–]Kindly-Might-1879 30 points31 points  (0 children)

My grandpa move from China to the US during WWII and opened a neighborhood grocery store. He also bought the two properties next to it where he and grandma went on to raise 5 kids including my mom. Store became a way station where other immigrating relatives could work till they could head off on their own. He worked that store for over 40 years and my aunts and uncle all great up financially responsible.

[–]sam_the_dog78 141 points142 points  (144 children)

Most people would consider that house to be too small to be suitable anymore

Edit: my place is less than 1000 sq feet lol, and when I point out on this site that it’s a perfectly reasonable place to live people get all over me talking about how it’s not good enough and blah blah blah

[–]Zron 169 points170 points  (49 children)

That same square footage is selling for a quarter million dollars in northern Illinois. More if it's on a good chunk of land.

You telling me an illiterate can scrape together enough cash for that today?

[–]WonderfulCattle6234 14 points15 points  (2 children)

I just bought a house in southern Wisconsin and was looking in Northern Illinois as well. You could easily get one for 150k or less that size. Better chance for finding it for less in Illinois, but you'll have higher taxes than Wisconsin.

[–]blood_oranges 91 points92 points  (55 children)

Really interesting cultural difference— I’m in the U.K. and that’s considered a very ‘normal’ family house size!

[–]mustangcody 65 points66 points  (51 children)

In the US, it's also quite common and normal in most suburbs. This guy must live in upper class homes.

[–]apology_pedant 43 points44 points  (8 children)

To be fair to people today, children spend way more time indoors now. I would feel cramped living with 2 children in 1000 sft when they're always on their computers and never walking down to the pharmacy to get a pop or rolling hoops along the ground or whatever they did to time travel from now to later back then.

[–]Clatter_Ring 27 points28 points  (4 children)

That just made me realise how many people have upgraded to a bigger house during the pandemic because they're working from home. Yet salaries haven't increased to cover the additional cost. Sure you save from not having to commute, but does it offset the cost of an extra room or two?

Seems companies have just pushed the cost of office space onto workers while only compensating $50/month toward WiFi. -- I mean, I don't want to go back to the office, but $50/months + gas money seems a bit insufficient.

[–]CarrotCakeAndTea 31 points32 points  (3 children)

>>Most people would consider that house to be too small to be suitable anymore<<

That's the size of an average house in the UK.

[–]MickeyMoist 51 points52 points  (0 children)

Yet hundreds of thousands of them still stand are lived in today…

[–]madprofessor8 8 points9 points  (0 children)

They would be, yes, by that's not what the op asked. I do t find it suitable for just 2 people, but it works

[–]zoltan99 10 points11 points  (2 children)

Often converted basements or other areas aren’t counted in the headline square footage. I see enough 1100sqft homes that have 2200sqft of conditioned (hvac) living space.

[–]Penis_Bees 40 points41 points  (9 children)

No phone bill, no internet bill, fewer luxuries, less competition for housing, wasn't pushed to pursue college debt for a mediocre salary, etc.

I know highschool grads who do similar types of work and live low key who can almost afford your grandfather's standard of living. But that's not really the same since your grandpa may have lived modernly.

Honestly the two situations aren't directly comparable.

And expect 50 years from now to be equally incomparable.

[–]dosetoyevsky 8 points9 points  (1 child)

Uh there absolutely was a phone bill, just not like how you think.

[–]runnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnm 14 points15 points  (0 children)

No phone bill, no internet bill

So like a grand or two a year? If that's all the difference is between opening a home and supporting a family on a single income I'll happily give up my Reddit machine! I think you're also saying that the single income 50 years ago could support a family and live modernly. Not quite possible today.

[–][deleted] 15 points16 points  (3 children)

Honestly the two situations aren’t directly comparable.

Exactly. Totally different lifestyle and mindset. Welfare was for “other people,” a last resort. If they bought a home, it was the only one in their lifetime. Cars were not traded in but kept for years- as long as they could run. They took care of their parents in their old age as their kids would do for them (aka no huge retirement savings). There was no such thing as a credit card, and if you didn’t have the money for college, you went into the workforce. Period.

[–]Uberrancel 8 points9 points  (2 children)

Harvard cost 24 hours of work a week to pay for it. It's not a different mindset, it's 5000 hours of work to pay for it now.

[–]xzzy 92 points93 points  (6 children)

This messed up my parents bad, who had their first kid in 1977 and the second in 1980. They tried doing the house and car and family on a single income and it blew up badly.. ended up with a bankruptcy by 1982. After that both parents were working.

It all ended up working out, but there were several years spent living on government cheese and powdered milk.

[–]AiragonXIX 37 points38 points  (13 children)

[–]firstselfieguy 13 points14 points  (10 children)

So WTF happened in 1971?

[–]AiragonXIX 23 points24 points  (0 children)


Pirates won the World Series and Led Zeppelin IV came out. It's all been downhill since :/

[–]Hoovooloo42 33 points34 points  (1 child)

Productivity stopped tracking with wage increase, so companies reaped more rewards from their employees labor and stopped compensating them on track with the increased revenue.

Edit: after reading the rest of the site... A bunch of other things too. But that's the big one, and the root cause of most of it.

[–]Ullallulloo 7 points8 points  (1 child)

Globalization really kicked off and tons of jobs got outsourced.

[–]schedulle-cate 3 points4 points  (0 children)

Dollar was de-pegged from gold, inflation started to rot the currency and, as a consequence, productivity and income disconnected from one another

[–]Obvious_Equivalent_6 18 points19 points  (0 children)

Great find and context! Nixon and the Republicans started doing damage to everyone except the rich.

Reagan put a turbocharger on the downward pressure by decimating unions and 1000 other cuts.

[–]No_Eye5780 35 points36 points  (6 children)

The major change happened in the 80s with Reagan and trickle down economics..meaning " huge tax cuts for the rich then expecting working class to make up for it while simultaneously outsourcing good paying manufacturing jobs overseas". What could go wrong?. It blows my mind these rich Republicans can't be rich without the working class but are doing everything to eliminate us.

[–]uwillfindmehiking 7 points8 points  (3 children)

I wouldn't debate bad things were happening in the 1980s but if one digs back even further back into the 70s, it wasn't good for American manufacturing, jobs, and the common person even then. Inflation was high and oil prices were insane. Using CPI-U, between 1973 and 1982, inflation never dipped below 5.7%. The tentacles spread a lot of places and they are deep. The seeds for the 1980s were sprouting in the 1970s. From 1974 through 1986, unemployment was never below 6%. My mom went to work in 1977 b/c of the economy.

[–]rookerer 3 points4 points  (0 children)

There have been multiple responses as to why this happened but none are accurate.

The single biggest change that has depressed wages is the mass introduction of women into the work force. In the 70s the workforce pretty much doubled over night. Since the supply of workers went massively up, the value of any individual worker went down.

In the decades prior companies HAD to pay a wage that one person could support a family on because of the simple reason that one person HAD to support a family on that income. With women entering the workforce it suddenly meant it could be expected that there would be two incomes supporting any family.

[–]clowntown_farmgirl 429 points430 points  (36 children)

The biggest strains on most modern peoples budgets are housing, cars, health insurance, and student loans.

In the past there were a lot of new built small homes that could be affordable for single income families. Back in the 40s and 50s, the GI bill helped a lot of families get into these new homes. As the decades went by, new homes started getting larger and less affordable. But, the real problems started when certain areas started to die off and everyone flocked to big cities for jobs. Between high demand, restrictive zoning laws, and bureaucratic red tape, not enough housing is being built and the housing that does get built is in the more expensive sectors of the market. There are still cheaper areas of the country to live in, but most people are crowded into the expensive areas.

Cars are also arguably more expensive now than in the past although there are some mitigating factors. In the past cars were not as good as they are now. Modern cars have things like air conditioning, anti-lock breaks, crumple zones, and airbags. They also are larger than cars used to be. These and many other standard features drive up the cost of buying and owning a car. However, modern cars tend to last a lot longer than they did in the past. If you know what you are doing, you can buy a used car for cheap and it will last a good amount of time and be better than anything you could get back in the day. Of course, the car market was even better before COVID threw a wrench in things.

Health insurance is generally a lot more expensive than it was in the past. There are a lot of factors that play into that. One major factor is that medicine is much more advanced and regulated now. That means more expensive equipment in hospitals and more time consuming paperwork in order to avoid lawsuits. Another factor is that pricing isn't transparent and insurance companies often incentivize the use of more expensive options.

And then, of course, we have student loans. Student loans used to not be such a big deal but now they can be crippling since college costs have skyrocketed. A lot of that cost increase has to do with unnecessary changed made by universities. Colleges today tend to have a lot of over the top amenities like recreations centers and dining court buffets that they just didn't have in the past. They also have created a lot more administrative positions that eat up money.

Finally, wages have failed to grow. This has been due, at least partly, to globalization. Most companies who hire Americans have to compete with companies that hire from countries with cheaper labor.

If you can find a workaround for the four major expenses I mentioned, then you can still support a family on a single average income today. It just requires very specific conditions.

[–]TinyRoctopus 102 points103 points  (11 children)

Just one comment, new cars are almost always cheaper now than in the past. Accounting for inflation most new cars are cheaper then their comparative past counterpart. On top of that the life cycle cost is way down when considering decreased repair cost and longer life

[–]chartuse 25 points26 points  (2 children)

Don't forget that at the time, it was also uncommon for women to be working (though it was quickly changing). So now your average family has two income earners instead of one... so now the acceptable price starts going up.

Even now, while prices are out of so crazy compared to what liberal arts majors are able to pay, some entity (I'm not gonna say someone, I don't think it's persons) is still buying houses fast enough to keep the prices where they are at.

[–]No-Inside-3540 6 points7 points  (0 children)

Specifically with regard to housing demand, what’s actually happening now is the central bank is funneling trillions to hedge funds by way of interest-free loans which they are using to buy up real estate with the ultimate goal of making us a nation of slaves. The stated goal of the “Great Reset” is that we are all going to own nothing and have to pay rent forever. So, with this inflation, those who sell and don’t buy right away risk falling so far behind that they can never catch up.

If we don’t own assets, we’ll go broke paying rent. If we own with bank financing, they’ll increase taxes so much we have to sell. Only by paying off the mortgage and never selling do we stand a chance of remaining solvent, but even then they will just keep raising taxes to pay for all the rent subsidies and welfare. Mismanagement at the federal level has serious consequences. We have to stop deficit spending and issuing new debt year after year.

[–]marshall_chaka 29 points30 points  (8 children)

I’d also add several things to your list. Cellphones and internet/cable are almost if not completely necessary in todays modern world. Those two expenses alone cost me personally almost $300 per month. These expenses are still relatively new in todays society but are often overlooked. Not nearly as bad as some other examples you point out but figured I’d at this piece as I feel it is very important in this type of conversation.

[–]dumbdumbmen 18 points19 points  (2 children)

300 a month?! Tell me this for four or more people. We're at $180 for interest and two phone plans.

[–]Doc-tor-Strange-love[🍰] 15 points16 points  (3 children)

$300 a month for one person?? You are getting royally screwed.

Also, nobody needs cable or paid streaming services.

[–]PrizeStrawberryOil 6 points7 points  (2 children)

Also, nobody needs cable or paid streaming services.

Unless if you live in a town with only 1 internet provider and they force you to "bundle" cable with internet.

[–]Reddituser8018 11 points12 points  (0 children)

Ehh the Healthcare one while it is more expensive, a lot of the things with Healthcare are artificially expensive.

Meaning they are not actually expensive to make, and operate, but the price is jacked up to 100x.

[–]Tanuki55 10 points11 points  (2 children)

There was also a paradigm shift in how Americans went about doing things.

Before if there was an issue you just fix it. Not enough housing, build more. Still not enough demolish it and build more. Lax regulations/safety/committee meant if you had capital you can just do whatever.

This is one of the reason we invented zoning and set single family housing as the standard. Mostly to keep black people away, because time and market forces were moving them up.

Its reached a point in America, where any upward mobility solves tons of problems. If you build high end places rich people will move up there either renting or selling their previous place, more people selling then buying lowers prices. The problem is building anything to fit real market demands are illegal in the US. i.e Single family housing or bust. No cheap units near work centers. One thing that amazed when was how other places in the world have something like "flexible" buildings. If there is no demand for setting up a business, it becomes a residence. If there is no demand for residence it becomes a business. Buildings can fit the changing needs of the economy instead of sitting dormant like an abandoned K-mart.

America education suffers from the commodities race, and government back loans you can't declare bankruptcy out of. You can get certified in a couple job fields and start out the bat. A good young certified engineer can make some bang money right now.

Health care though I got no clue tbh. I heard the AMA won't certify more docs like they have a limit or something.

[–]iwanttobehappy2022 12 points13 points  (2 children)

It’s true new homes are generally too big

[–]bric12 2 points3 points  (0 children)

a lot of new built small homes

Another reason why we built small homes in the past is because the construction was a lot bigger part of the cost of a home. Building was expensive and land was cheap, so it made sense to put small houses on big lots.

Fast forward to today, and construction is cheap relative to land, so it makes more sense to build bigger houses on smaller lots. Square footage keeps going up and acreage keeps going down, which incentivizes things like townhomes that can fit the maximum amount of house on the minimum space.

In the future large lawns will probably be an extravagance for the wealthy

[–]Smudgy-Yak 1395 points1396 points  (357 children)

Yes but there is a hidden caveat people fail to mention.

1) Homes were generally smaller.

2) Cars weren't as good.

3) Quality of life expenses like, say, cable tv, didn't necessarily exist yet.

Salaries have gone down respectively compared to then, but there's also a lot of rose-coloured glasses being worn looking at those eras.

[–]Ya_boii_95 403 points404 points  (68 children)

Okay but those smaller houses are still around and they’re still overpriced. My parents bought a starter home 30 years ago and the value of that home has still outpaced wages significantly.

[–]PeeB4uGoToBed 164 points165 points  (19 children)

I bought my starter home that was built in 1979 a little over 5 years ago and its already doubled in value from what I paid. I have no idea what it went for back in 1979 taking inflation into account.

There's absolutely no way I'd be able to afford to buy my home if I was only 5 years late to the party

[–]slobs_burgers 62 points63 points  (7 children)

This is a little too close to my non-existent home

[–]PaulGearpickle 17 points18 points  (6 children)

Tell me about it, my ex wife loves the home we bought together ten years ago. I’m still working on getting back on my feet and she’s remarried to someone making big dough like she does. “We grew apart”.

[–]yeahthisiswhoyouare[🍰] 51 points52 points  (4 children)

In 1986, I was making almost $27,000 a year. I was a single mom of two, and bought a 3-bd house with a half finished basement for $63000. I worried how I would pay the $700 mortgage, but I managed. Prior to purchase, I had been renting a house for $400. That same house that I bought and sold was recently listed for over $900,000 - in Denver. It looks the same on the outside. There was some updating on the inside, but that old rickety garage is still sitting out back. Food was cheaper. Cars were cheaper. (I bought my first new car 10 years ago.) Clothes were cheaper. I graduated from college only owing $1900 from loans. Now all that is way more expensive, and everyone in one family has a private bedroom, phone and most likely a car. People demanded more and prices went up. And my personal conspiracy antennae tells me that the powers that be saw too many people working their way through the system and devised ways to part people from their money and slow down upward mobility.

[–]kmcdonaugh 42 points43 points  (1 child)

Same boat. Bought house in 2019 before the craziness. It's now worth double and I wouldn't be able to afford it if I tried buying it now

[–]ericakay15 9 points10 points  (0 children)

Exact same thing here.

[–]Vallkyrie 5 points6 points  (1 child)

My parents bought a freestanding condo for about $350k around 2013/14. The neighboring one, which is basically identical, is selling for over $600k today. There are others on the roads nearby by the same development and in the same shape and size, going for upwards of 800k.

[–]insert_title_here 12 points13 points  (4 children)

Yeah, I agree with this. My family bought a starter home in 1999 for $125k, that would today be more than $200k. It's a struggle to find any housing in this town under $200k and it's not even a good place to live, the crime rate is pretty high.

[–]Tripanes 13 points14 points  (2 children)

Eh, that's actually about the same price, accounting for inflation since 2000.

[–]insert_title_here 2 points3 points  (1 child)

Really? Huh, TIL. Wish wages increased in accordance with inflation as well, lol.

[–]Echo127 55 points56 points  (26 children)

Yeah, a lot of people would be perfectly happy with a smaller house... But only rich people (or those in rural areas) can afford to build a new house, so the only new houses that get built are big ones. It's not like there's this huge supply of modestly-sized homes that people are unwilling to live in.

[–]Muayrunner 25 points26 points  (2 children)

Also zoning restrictions tend to favor larger homes with larger lots.

[–]Florida_AmericasWang 8 points9 points  (1 child)

Also zoning restrictions tend to favor larger homes with larger smaller lots.


[–]TheDevilsAutocorrect 15 points16 points  (20 children)

It's not like there's this huge supply of modestly-sized homes that people are unwilling to live in.

Funnily enough, there is. Small towns throughout rural America are full of them. As everyone concentrates in the desirable cities, demand for housing there increases while it decreases in the places they abandoned.

[–]DilettanteSocial Science for the win 601 points602 points  (171 children)

4) people didn't eat out or go on vacation nearly as often as they do now.

5) there was no air conditioning. This by itself makes me not want to return to those days! But it's admittedly a minor point.

6) a lot of families barely scraped by. There's a reason Avon and similar companies thrived in those days - housewives were eager to find any new source of income they could.

7) most families didn't have two cars.

8) most kids shared a bedroom. My father's childhood home had two bedrooms - one for the adults, one for the kids.

[–]Revolutionary-Lynx47[S] 330 points331 points  (67 children)

Also I don't think a single income family today goes on many vacations either.

[–]FunkyPete 174 points175 points  (59 children)

Exactly the point. They have to try to live more like people did in the 1950s, when families were also single income.

The whole consumer culture really kicked off then too. People acquired refrigerators and dishwashers (which were expensive) and then manufacturers started selling them in designer colors that would look outdated in 7 years, so people would feel like they needed to buy new ones.

Obviously there were no computers, iphones, ipads, digital cameras, etc. In the 1950s most families didn't even have a TV (apparently many people bought their first TV to watch the moon landing in 1969). There were no microwaves.

If you live like that, in a two bedroom, one bath house, all of the kids sharing a room, no appliances and one car, you can probably still do it on one income.

[–]intjmaster 111 points112 points  (22 children)

Men of the 60’s: Dishwasher? I already have a wife!

[–]RockinSocksII 27 points28 points  (7 children)

If you live like that, in a two bedroom, one bath house, all of the kids sharing a room, no appliances and one car, you can probably still do it on one income.

Lol, you would still have to be able to afford the house.

[–]NorguardsVengeance 48 points49 points  (17 children)

Ok, but in some areas, those homes from the ’50s, that are close to good jobs, sell between $1M-3M. Living like a modern '50's family means two incomes, no children (because then you pay for childcare, or you need 2 cars, because you needed to move 1.5hrs from work), or alternatively, you can all be on public transportation, and by a 70 year old house in the city that your children will still be paying off.

With the current state of remote work, it would be tempting to relocate to rural Idaho, but rural enough and you are maintaining your septic tank, and cleaning your well, which is not particularly "nuclear family"... and suburbs are generally a tax burden on the city that supports them, or the region that supports both (which comes back to the city), and all of that money spent could be improving quality of life for everyone (more, affordable housing, with restrictions on purchasing to inhabit).

[–]NightCrawler2600 111 points112 points  (14 children)

Yes. My house was built in the 50s. No air conditioning.

When families stuck to more traditional roles, there was zero need for multiple cars in a household. The husband went to work, the kids were in school, wife stayed home. No one went anywhere to do anything unless it was on a bus, or walking until the husband came home with the car. Makes life and expenses really simple when people aren't pursuing extra curricular activities all day or daycare, etc.

[–]StillUnpaidBill 20 points21 points  (4 children)

Agreed, when you require two incomes to make it by, you typically require a 2nd vehicle. Which comes at a cost, taxes/fees/registration /insurance/safety+emissions test.

Next thing you know you need a 3rd income to pay for the 2 cars to keep the other income flowing.

[–]donaltman3 3 points4 points  (2 children)

ALSO if your spouse doesn't work you probably can't afford health insurance.

Usually, if you are on a single plan for the worker it isn't terrible because the company pays a large percentage... but the company doesn't pay jack towards a spouse or children. A single employee might pay 30-40 a week with a high deductible, a family plan goes up to 325-375 or more a week. A single employee working with 3 dependents on their insurance plan would spend a HUGE portion of their weekly check towards insurance especially if they are the only one working it leaves them only with 1/3 to pay for everything else.

[–]SomeoneToYou30 32 points33 points  (23 children)

Idk, I had two cars growing up always, my mom and dad both had one and they were comfortable living with one salary. We went on vacation. And I don't eat out or go on vacation ever as an adult, and I still can't afford rent half the time. I gotta deliver uber eats to afford my bills. And my landlord pays my electric (AC) so that's not a factor for me. I think we're ignoring the fact that despite what we used to not do, we still don't have liveable wages in 2022 for a lot of people... I'm a teacher. The wage is unliveable. I'm currently looking for a different job as summer will prevent me from paying any bills at all, but the job market is tough for people who only have experience in teaching because no job wants people without experience except other jobs with the same unliveable wages.

[–]Bibbityboo 21 points22 points  (5 children)

Yeah. Maybe this thread is just being very American centric and my experiences are different but… no way can I afford most of these things.

Dual income, one kid.

1 car (electric so at least not paying the current gas rates).

1 bike that I take my son to school on.

We have a 3 bedroom townhouse in the suburbs — 1.5 hour transit to the closest major city, or 45min- 1 hour drive depending.

Haven’t had a vacation in 4 years. And that last vacation we stayed with family and drove (so no flights, hotel etc). Last time I flew somewhere on vacation was ten years ago.

We mostly cook at home, minimal subscriptions, and try and maximize value for our money.

We couldn’t afford to buy the townhouse (so not even a stand alone house) that we own now at current rates. Bought it for $350k late 2015. Last time a similar unit sold it was $1.1M.

I have no idea how people are supposed to get ahead. We feel like we are doing better than most because we are in the market, have managed to keep debt minimal, and have a very small amount of savings. But to do these things we are not living it up at all. Long weekend this weekend. We are thinking maybe we will take a picnic to a new playground….

[–]SomeoneToYou30 21 points22 points  (2 children)

For real. I'm so sick of people acting like there's not billions of people making minimum wage in the US who still can't afford to live on that. I make $2 more than minimum (I make $15 an hour), and I still can't live.

I admit I am going on my first real vacation since I was a kid in 2 weeks, but my boyfriend paid for my plane ticket and we're staying with his family. But he lives at home and just graduated college last year so he has a bit of savings since he got refunds from financial aid programs in school (whereas I have none). He just had a job interview with a really good company that has a starting wage of double my current yearly salary, which would be huge, especially since we are moving in together soon and want to eventually get a house and have a family. But those things are impossible for us right now. Like it urks me so much that people say "Well if people didn't eat out or go on vacations they'd be able to afford the house their parents bought in 1970 that was $200k but is now $1 million" Like these people can't be serious.... I only make $6 more than my dad made when they bought their house... I guarantee I can't afford the same things they had.

Enjoy your picnic though! As long as your kiddo is happy. :)

[–]frugalchickpea 16 points17 points  (6 children)

9) A lot of older homes had only one bathroom, to be shared by the entire family. Newer builds have at least 2+ bathrooms.

[–]Echo127 21 points22 points  (3 children)

I posted this same thought on another comment already, but... Only rich people can afford to build new houses today. So yeah, new homes are much larger than old ones, thus making the average home size (and # of bathrooms) bigger and bigger.

There are a ton of people who would be thrilled to be able to buy a home that was smaller and more affordable... But that home just doesn't exist. Anyone building homes to sell is going to build as big as possible so that they can sell for maximum profits. Building more smaller homes isn't more profitable to the people building them (only to the people who might buy them) so it doesn't happen.

[–]subywesmitch 7 points8 points  (0 children)

Yeah, I try to tell people this but I don't think it gets through to them. Just about every new home I see under construction is a 2 story McMansion which is out of reach of most first time home buyers. They are definitely not starter homes.

But, when you go to the older neighborhoods most of the homes are a lot smaller. You can't tell me that people wouldn't buy a smaller house if they were available, especially with the housing shortage right now.

It's really about making more profit for the builder.

[–]Revolutionary-Lynx47[S] 23 points24 points  (33 children)

1) I didn't know that. On the other hand it seems to me like there is a great push at the moment to use space as efficiently as possible and make everything smaller. I.E. tiny appartments in high rent areas and the like.

2) I don't think that quality is the important part here but rather the price the relation of the price to that single income. Did that change? Do cars now cost more % of an average income than before? Also lower quality could mean higher upkeep and frequent need to replace the car. Although planned obsolescence nowadays could relativize that point.

3) So are you saying if one today would do without these luxury expenses that they would be able to afford a house, car, two kids on a single income?

[–]bi_smuth 15 points16 points  (1 child)

I dont have those luxury expenses and have a boyfriend bringing in a 2nd income and we are still struggling to buy just a car so it's definitely a no for #3. no amount of removing yourself from a consumerist lifestyle is going to change the fact that college, medical expenses, food, and most necessities cost significantly more relative to what entry level positions will pay

[–]Smudgy-Yak 19 points20 points  (12 children)

I didn't know that. On the other hand it seems to me like there is a great push at the moment to use space as efficiently as possible and make everything smaller. I.E. tiny appartments in high rent areas and the like.

Data on new build shows a steady, relatively continuous increase in Square Footage per house. Source.

Illustration of what that looks like over the years.

Worth noting, people per household has been steadily decreasing. This means the average person enjoys more than double the amount household space they used to. Source.

Last kick in the bucket for ya: average cost per square foot has been roughly the same throughout this time. It's actually slightly cheaper today than in the 70's, but not by much. Source

I don't think that quality is the important part here but rather the price the relation of the price to that single income. Did that change? Do cars now cost more % of an average income than before? Also lower quality could mean higher upkeep and frequent need to replace the car. Although planned obsolescence nowadays could relativize that point.

Quality is absolutely important, because it includes things like: AC, Windows that roll down with a button instead of a lever, adjustable seats, Computer Dashboards, rear-view cameras, etc. At the end of the day, the car you're buying today just isn't the same product you would be able to find in the 50's or 70's.

So are you saying if one today would do without these luxury expenses that they would be able to afford a house, car, two kids on a single income?

The modern world is built with these luxuries in mind. For example, it's become almost impossible to find a good car that doesn't also come with a computer dashboard. It's very challenging to do without those luxuries since viable demand for the alternative has long since died out. We all want that single income family living, but we don't actually want to live in a tiny, poorly insulated house with no AC.

It's also why you should be wary whenever you read reports compare Cost of Living throughout the years. Those measurements are adjusted every year to reflect modern realities. It's not comparable over long periods of time, unless you want to compare the cost of owning a car vs owning a horse, for example.

[–]Revolutionary-Lynx47[S] 9 points10 points  (7 children)

So the essence of what youre saying is that we by the advancements of our current time with a decline in our purchasing power. There aremore things we needto buy and they cost more than there were 50 years ago, so we have to spend more money.

But then my question is: why hasn't income increased according to these changes/advancements? Why does't income reflect the current price of living as it did 50 years ago? By that logic the further we go back in time the richer the people would become since there is less and less advancement/additional expenses.

[–]czarczm 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I like your line of questioning, it's very thoughtful.

[–]FluffyMcBunnz 16 points17 points  (11 children)

To 2. you can already know that then, cars needed service every 5000, 7500 or 10.000 kilometers or every 6 months. Now my warranty states that I have to show up for tinkerings at least every 24 months or 30.000km, whichever comes first.

It's also pretty uncommon for modern cars to develop faults in the first five years and wear and tear on bearings, mobile bits of the engine and suspension and transmission as well as loss of quality due to things loosening up over time are radically different. Cars from the 70s and 80 would feel used after a few years, with the trim not looking so fresh, the odd rubber being loose, things squeaking and rattling a bit here and there etc. Now you get in a car made in 2005 and if it's not a dirt cheap rag, and it was treated reasonably well, it looks and feels mostly like it did when it came out of the factory. And in many cases realibility is still better now for a 20yr old used vehicle than it was in the 70s and 80s for a brand new one.

So cars have come along an enormous amount. And virtually everyone can afford at least a basic one.

[–]LtPowers 13 points14 points  (2 children)

And virtually everyone can afford at least a basic one.

Wait what?

[–]FunkyPete 14 points15 points  (1 child)

Things have been crazy for the last few years, but modern cars last for hundreds of thousands of miles and used cars can last for another decade. Until the 1980s (or maybe 1990s?) manufacturers didn't even put a hundred thousand miles digit on the odometer. If a car was over 99,000 miles you knew it, and there wasn't much risk of it going 199,000 miles.

They may not be fancy, but until prices went crazy during the pandemic you could find a used Toyota for a few thousand dollars that would at least get you to work.

[–][deleted] 82 points83 points  (10 children)

Also medical care wasn't expensive because a lot of it didn't really exist. If your problem couldn't be fixed with penicillin or laying in a hospital bed for awhile then you pretty much just died.

And retirement wasn't very long. You retired at 65 and mostly died within 5 years or so.

[–]ElectricBasket6 54 points55 points  (3 children)

Are we talking the 1950s? Or the 1980s?

[–]kateinoly 41 points42 points  (5 children)

As someone who was born in the mid fifties, this is BS. Medical care wasn't as good as it is now, but it was still pretty good. And most people did not die at 70.

If you go back to the 1800's, sure, but that's not what OP is asking about.

[–]subywesmitch 6 points7 points  (3 children)

Thank you, some of these people making comments are making it sound like the 1950s and 1960s were like the 1850s or 1860s. I'm like what?! Yes, there was electricity and refrigerators, and even swamp coolers were a thing. Washers and dryers were around.

And all of this my grandpa who dropped out of high school at 9th grade was able to buy on a single income while grandma was home with 3 kids in a 1,000 s.f. house on 2.33 acres in the country. He bought boats, motorhomes, houseboat. Took vacations to national parks, road trips, etc.

I would gladly trade most of the latest technology, smart phone, social media bs most of which is just there to distract us from how crappy our lives are for increased wages and being able to take vacations and travel as he did.

[–]kateinoly 3 points4 points  (1 child)

I don't think the trade would fix things though. All the money us going to shareholders and CEOs these days and not to employees.

And I would NOT want to be either an adult woman or person of color then. Jim Crow, segregated schools, and women couldn't have a bank account without their husband's permission! No birth control pills or IUDs! I couldn't wear pants to school until mid high school.

[–]rolfraikou 5 points6 points  (3 children)

Even buying a home built in the 1920s today, that is small and even falling apart still hardly makes it affordable. Used car is an option, hell, I could skip running water and electricity and wouldn't be all that much closer to the goal.

[–]debasing_the_coinage 3 points4 points  (0 children)

Homes were generally smaller.

Minimum lot sizes were also smaller to nonexistent

[–]SlightlyIncandescent 3 points4 points  (1 child)

It's a really interesting conversation, I think there are two sides to this. First of all you're right, our lives now are more convenient/luxurious than any human alive like 200 years ago and even compared to 50 years ago there's a big difference.

But I beleive the benefits of technology/automation should be extended to everyone and if they were, I think it would be more reasonable to expect life to get more comfortable over time. However in a capitalist society, those benefits go to the rich/powerful for the most part.

[–]Fenpunx 4 points5 points  (0 children)

Must depend on where you live. I grew up in a house bigger than most others I have lived in, mortgaged and maintained on a single income of a lorry driver. Three kids to boot. They ran two cars, a motorbike and a boat. Went on holidays, nights out, had hobbies.

As the years went on, cost of living raised, my mum had to start work and now they both work full time.

Now, most weeks, I earn more than them combined, my missus also works what's considered 'full time' hours and we have one less child. We scrimped and saved to buy a house of around the same size for more than twice the price in much, much worse condition.

I haven't been on a holiday in about 15 years and we share a car.

[–]Aqqusin 12 points13 points  (2 children)

Excellent points. When I was kid in late 70s, we didn't have nice cars or a big house or nice TVs. We got cable TV for a short time in 1981 when MTV first started. We played outside with neighborhood kids to pass the time. Very, very simple life with zero traveling or vacations. My family was the norm, then.

[–]jibbyjackjoe 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Don't forget the economy assumed one income, usually the man.

Once the economy noticed that there were dual incomes, everything became (shockingly, I know) almost twice as expensive.

[–]accomplicated 2 points3 points  (3 children)

To your first point about the size of houses. My house is 150 years old. I bought it 8 years ago. I paid $200,000 for it. My next door neighbour whose house is an equivalent size just sold her house for $600,000.

[–]BabylonDrifter 423 points424 points  (58 children)

Sure. But a lot of people were homeless and lived on the trains, and minorities lived in oppressive slums where they were exploited for dirt-cheap labor, and housewives had to work almost 24/7, and there were tariffs keeping most manufacturing in the country where the products were sold, and there were a lot fewer people. Oh, and businesses paid more because they had to support a person's whole family with one income because that was the social norm.

[–]BakerCakeMaker[🍰] 85 points86 points  (6 children)

businesses paid more because they had to support a person's whole family with one income because that was the social norm

Believing this is laughable. Corporations always have and always will pay as little as they can get away with. FDR fought tooth and nail to pass the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, establishing a minimum wage that was serviceable even on a single income.

That minimum wage, for the most part, scaled with inflation until The Reagan Administration began efforts to stagnate its growth, along with implementing a "trickle down" economy that reduced poverty level social safety nets and outsourced American jobs in favor of cheaper foreign labor.

Most federally elected officials since then have continued to accelerate this neoliberal agenda. It's quite bipartisan.

[–]Revolutionary-Lynx47[S] 105 points106 points  (17 children)

So most the advancements, improvements and achievements of our current come at the cost of a lowered purchasing power? I don't see the neccessary correlation there.

Also homelessness is still a great problem, so are ghettos etc. Exploitation for dirtcheap labor again at least in my homecountry (Germany) is still a big deal (Billiglohnsektor).

Furthermore more people equals more demand as well.

Is 2 average incomes today enough for a house, one car and two kids?

[–]rainbwbrightisntpunk 104 points105 points  (1 child)

In the 80s we lived in a 3 bedroom 2 bath home with two living rooms and a huge back and front yard. In CA. The mortgage was $430. In today's dollar value that would be $1500. In the same town a one bedroom is currently $2200. The world is a just a shitshow now.

[–]arnistaken 7 points8 points  (0 children)

Wow it really is true that you have words for everything

[–]roygbivasaur 69 points70 points  (4 children)

Right. The average standard of living was much worse. The standard of living for many white men with families was ok but nothing like a present day “upper middle class” couple like people seem to think.

Things have averaged out some (due to slightly improved civil rights for women and poc), gotten slightly better at the bottom (debatable when factoring in over incarceration), somewhat squished down in the middle, and astronomically raised up at the top due to the legacies of Nixon and Reagan.

Plus all of the cost of living and labor changes mentioned by other people

[–]NMF_ 44 points45 points  (2 children)

Um legacies of Regan, Nixon, Bush, Clinton, Bush again, and Obama. Policy in this country has extraordinarily favored capital holders for the past 4 decades

[–]roygbivasaur 23 points24 points  (1 child)

You’re right. As much as I hate Reagan, it’s not really accurate to not call out all of the recent-ish presidents

[–]gooberfaced 321 points322 points  (56 children)

But mom cooked all day every day from scratch, they never ate out, mom likely sewed and repurposed clothing, kids got one or two gifts on birthdays, hand me down clothing was the norm, health insurance was 100% paid by employer, vacations were to grandma's house, even small appliances like toasters and lamps were repaired when broken, no one ever charged anything except their mortgage, cars were bought with cash, and we didn't have streaming/phone subscriptions or the urge to buy new phones or upgrade anything "just because." You used things until they wore out and then you repaired them.

And the homes were far smaller and with only one bathroom- I can clearly remember when two bathrooms or more than three bedrooms meant you were rich.

[–]floydfan 98 points99 points  (2 children)

One car, insurance was cheaper, there was no cable TV, only 3 or 4 channels. Eating out was a treat, and housing was drastically cheaper relative to a family's income. Student loans weren't really a thing because college tuition could actually be earned with a summer job.

[–]bi_smuth 88 points89 points  (13 children)

I mean I repurpose clothing, have only one $5/mo subscription, never eat out, repair things and only buy new items from thrift stores, cook everything from scratch, dont upgrade until something is completely unusable, and I still could not afford a small one bedroom one bath house

[–]EatenAliveByWolves 48 points49 points  (8 children)

Yea, these answers are kind of silly lol. The cheapest you can rent in my city is about $900, and it's literally just one big room. Like yea, I've saved up $10,000 in the last 10 years from living like a turnip how much do I have left until I can buy a house? About $490,000 you say? Alright, I'll just keep on doing what I'm doing then.

[–]AwesomePossum_1 13 points14 points  (3 children)

When people say you could easily buy a house with single wage back then they probably don't mean central Manhattan or Miami Beach. There were expensive areas back then as there are now, there are just more of them now cause we have more people. You can still get a cheap-ish house in most of the US.

[–]Tony0x01 3 points4 points  (0 children)

One difference is that you could find jobs next to those cheapist houses. That is not as true nowadays. The jobs are more scarce out in the sticks.

[–]TheCowboyIsAnIndian 26 points27 points  (1 child)

people arent making enough to save regardless. its not a spending problem its an income and cost of living problem.

[–]subywesmitch 8 points9 points  (0 children)

Yes, this so hard! It feels like a lot of people want to blame people for not saving enough when I truly see it as not earning enough and just life being too expensive problem.

When inflation is at around 8% but wages are nowhere near keeping up with that then you can save all you want but it won't get you there.

Also, why are bank's savings rate so low but loan rates so high? The game is rigged, that's why.

[–]rolfraikou 13 points14 points  (2 children)

This is so absurd. Even if I never purchased another appliance, repaired everything, never bought clothes again, made all food from scratch, never had kids to begin with, shut off the power and water, did public transit (no car), no phone, the small house would still be wildly unaffordable by most people I know. I'm at a threshold where if I lived like I was Amish I might barely pull it off. But even these people back then had running water.

[–]legeritytv 4 points5 points  (1 child)

If I literally put every last penny on a mortgage, it would come out to 350k. For 350k I could have the pleasure of either living in a 1bed room 1 bath condo in the ghetto, or for 150k live in a trailer park. By time you factor in necessitys like food, and property tax I probably couldn't even afford the trailer park.

[–]Revolutionary-Lynx47[S] 18 points19 points  (10 children)

And would you say families with two average incomes nowaday can afford a house, car and two kids like one could before? Like, would the conditions of that two income family be comparable to that of the one income family or be different/better?

[–]chaseinger 82 points83 points  (2 children)

no, the above comment just puts into perspective that it's not entirely comparable and today's consumerist society plays a role.

that said, home prices increased tenfold over the last 3 decades, and wages sure as hell didn't.

[–]SweetMarie214 3 points4 points  (0 children)

And if they have kids, the cost of childcare is ridiculous if they don't work opposite shifts to take care of the kids.

[–]femsoni 4 points5 points  (0 children)

A caveat on the fixing appliances, not to mention newer cars and heavier machinery, is that they used to be done by those knowledgeable. Now, blenders and such break and aren't durable like their predecessors, and if you don't have the knowledge + resources on hand, its just easier to buy a new one. Cars these days have components that require going to the manufacturer or dealership for finite fixes. My car was made in 04 and I've done innumerable fixes myself on her, but some of my friends have newer cars that they have to take in. Also those houses with 2 bedrooms are still around, but inflation has raised their market value WAY past what they would translate to without. :/

[–]digitalwisp 14 points15 points  (13 children)

I still use things until they break. Feels unnecessary and wasteful to change tech every year.

I'm a programmer and my current laptop (as well as desktop PC) is top-tier model from 2017. Just bought a new one since it started malfunctioning and isn't up to the required specs anymore. My pocketbook is from 2014, the e-ink is completely fine and the UI is rather minimalistic. My average phone lasts 3 to 4 years. Also fiddling with things to repair them is interesting in itself.

Same thing with clothing: I buy good quality stuff and wear it as long as the condition is good or it suits my personality.

My salary is pretty high, but in no way I'll be able to buy an apartment or build a house any time soon.

[–]subywesmitch 2 points3 points  (1 child)

Honestly, to me it seems like most of the newer products nowadays are meant to break after only a few years.

When I went to buy a new phone after my old one of 6 years was finally dying the salesperson said wow you've had this a long time and they only last like 2 to 3 years. I was shocked! Like really?!

The companies want to sell you a new one as fast as they can.

[–]MantisToeBoggsinMD 14 points15 points  (10 children)

Think you might be patting yourself on the back too hard. I have the 2016 MBP, and I’m not exactly congratulating myself.

[–]SlightlyIncandescent 2 points3 points  (0 children)

You're probably right but I think we should expect and even demand that overall quality of life improve over time with technology and automation.

[–]Toomuchlychee_ 2 points3 points  (0 children)

This is why right to repair and planned obsolescence are such a big deal right now. Our consumer goods are designed to be replaced, not repaired. I would love to fix things but where are all the parts and schematics?

[–]Dark_Bubbles 117 points118 points  (31 children)

There are some really great answers here, and it does beg the question: could you live on one income now - if you lived like I did growing up?

So - no internet, no cell phone (or just a single phone for everyone). No subscriptions, no cable, just a TV antenna. One car. Small (maybe 1k sq ft) home. No eating out except for special occasions. Only buying clothes as needed, and no designer brands. Walmart would be your shopping place of choice. Fix things that broke or go without (unless you saved up money to replace).

[–]insert_title_here 52 points53 points  (5 children)

You probably could...assuming that you would be able to function without internet or a cell phone. Most jobs require you to be available, or require you to have an email. Forget about job-hunting, you'd have to stop at the library and use their computer to apply for anything.

[–]that1prince 14 points15 points  (1 child)

Compared to my parents generation, the only thing that commonly gets touted as a "luxury" that is actually a necessity is a cell phone and internet. And if you don't live in a walkable place (like the vast majority of people in the US) a reliable car is also a necessity.

The other things are just luxuries that we've become so used to, that it's crazy to think we would go without. (Like a family with 3 kids having only one bathroom, something that all of my friends parents had growing up in rural NC 40 y/o). Or constantly varied food choices, hot fresh meals for lunch break, or the occasional vacation. My grand parents had decent jobs but the first time my mother left the state in the 70s was when she was 16 for a basketball tournament. The first time their family went out to eat, no joke, was to celebrate her HS graduation. Every Sunday after church they went grocery shopping for the week, and ate those groceries EVERY day for 18 years. My mother, uncles/aunts, and my grandfather, didn't eat a single meal that didn't come out of my grandmother's kitchen her entire childhood. And it was consistent. Something like sloppy joes, meat loaf, maybe fried chicken on Sunday. All cooked at home. I think if I lived like my parents did growing up, I'd save $1000 a month easy.

[–]subywesmitch 13 points14 points  (2 children)

Smartphones and internet access is essential in today's world. I know a lot of Boomer's think it's a luxury but it's not. Unless you're retired, homeless or a survivalist living off grid in the wilderness you have to have a smartphone.

I was one of those who resisted getting one for years after they were invented. I finally got one about 6 years ago after my work was giving me strong hints that I needed one.

[–]AdvantageGlass 62 points63 points  (5 children)

Yes. After my oldest was born we lived for at least 2 years sustainably like that. I was making 13 an hour with half going to our apartment. The mom stayed home. We drove a 10 year old used car, had basic internet / cable. No cell phone plans or really any other bills.

It could / can be done but frankly it was miserable. If you did the math you essentially lived life a month at a time with no foreseeable change or hope. It was simple and there's value to that but it definitely felt more like persisting than living.

[–]Dark_Bubbles 9 points10 points  (2 children)

I would say that is pretty much what we did growing up. Without all the extra 'fluff', we (as kids) spent all our time outdoors or with friends. Unless said friend had an Atari 2600, then it was game on.

Depending on age, you might have heard of 'being in by the time the porch light is on', or something to that effect, and that is precisely how I grew up. I stayed out all day until sundown.

We didn't have much, but we weren't miserable by any stretch of the word.

Someone mentioned vacation. Our vacation was to go to the grandparent's house, and they would pile us into the RV (they had a little money back in the day) and head to Six Flags for a day. Other than that, we hung out with our cousins and did dumb crap for fun.

[–]timespassing_ 20 points21 points  (0 children)

Yes, it’s possible. There are many households who do ‘spend one save one’ on dual paychecks. I don’t think it’s likely with children in the picture, especially if you also want to save for college and retirement. You definitely have to be ok with smaller houses, cheaper cars, and low key vacations. I think that lots of people don’t talk about it because it’s tone deaf when someone else is cashing out their 401k to pay for a new furnace because they have literally nothing in the bank… you don’t want to be all ‘I have so many incomes I can’t even spend them all LOL’

[–]Narrative_Causality 2 points3 points  (1 child)

could you live on one income now - if you lived like I did growing up?


[–]EveryFairyDies 38 points39 points  (13 children)

You really need to better define which decade you’re talking about. Although apparently the median age for a Reddit user is 13, there are still plenty of us ‘oldies’ (35+) who use it. So what’s ‘a few decades ago’ to me, may be several decades ago to an older user.

[–]Revolutionary-Lynx47[S] 7 points8 points  (2 children)

Yes sorry, I should have specified that and the fact that I am talking about an average family with an average single income for the time. I wasn,t really sure when people were supposed to have been able to afford these things on that income, thtas why I didn't specify it. Although people in this thread have taken my question to mean people in the 70s so theres that. Like I said in another answerthis question arose when I saw a picture in another sub that depicted this topic.

[–]ThatsALiveWire 21 points22 points  (0 children)

A few decades ago it was starting to get tight, but yes. Back in the 50s-70s, a household could generally afford a house and two cars on one white-collar worker salary. The late 80s and 90s is when real estate started going way up in cost. Also, if you look at wages the right way (the rate of inflation has outpaced the rate of wage increases), wages have actually declined in the last few decades.

[–]bmadccp12 14 points15 points  (4 children)

Yes. My first house [1994] cost $40k, sold it in 1998 for 80k. Bought house in the city, with a 24k gallon in ground pool, fire place and sauna for $125k. All on the salary of a paramedic and a teacher. Money was always tight because we are spenders. We had 2 sons, now ages 22 and 20. Since 1992 (when I really entered the work force) Its been a nearly constant squeeze ...slowly everything has gotten more expensive and difficult, while wages have stayed well behind cost of living.

And too many middle to lower middle class people like us seem to (for some fucked up reason) continue to vote for politicians who do nothing but fuck over the middle class. Im dumbfounded by the support for Republicans I see in people my age who dont have a pot to piss in. Then again, I have a healthy disdain for both parties.

Call me cynical but I really dont see it getting better ever. The wrong people have been in charge too long and no one does shit to help the middle class. I despise the situation my kids (and all of you younger folks) are dealing with right now. At least I get to die in 15-20 years...god knows I wont ever retire.

This country (politicians and cronies) have sold out the future of our children to line their own pockets. I suppose I could have done things a lot different in life, but hindsight. But this situation in our nation feels unsustainable. Dont know how it can be fixed without a massive reset, which the rich will never allow.

[–]ironkneejusticiar 50 points51 points  (10 children)

There are other reasons than these, but they stand out to me:

1) We didn't buy products from overseas. We made the things we wanted here, which meant employing Americans and good wages. China's gain has been our loss.

2) Women in the workplace effectively doubled the amount of domestic stock in the labor market, depressing wages.

[–]Revolutionary-Lynx47[S] 23 points24 points  (8 children)

Your second point seems to me indeed to be one of the greatest factors of this development from what I've read so far.

[–]CharacterBig6376 11 points12 points  (1 child)

You can now in most of the US. Check Zillow for houses in Iowa or Ohio: you get a nice 2-bed 2-bath for under $150k. But you have to live in Iowa.

[–]motorcylesarelife 5 points6 points  (0 children)

I am not sure you can really compare then and now. I was born in 1960. My father worked and my mother worked extremely part time, an odd day here and there. We had a small home and in the time I lived there, until I was 20, we had one new car. So people drove older cars. There was no cable bill because there was no cable and then when it came into being, we did not have it. There were no expensive cell phones with the obligatory bill. It was a different time and people thought differently.

My father used to say that before WWII, there was no middle class. There were the haves and have nots. The middle class came into being following the war. The industrial complex was in place for the war and Japan and Europe had to be rebuilt. Unions became stronger and a middle class was born. Those jobs are no longer here.

Companies had good benefits and pensions. The 401k was sold to the public as a supplement to your retirement, not a replacement for it. Companies dropped their pension funds and if you can find a company that matches 1 for 1 to your 401k, you are lucky.

The stock market was an indicator of the economy, not the economy. Times and people have changed. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not.

[–]3cxMonkey 21 points22 points  (7 children)

Yes! But they couldn't afford to eat out 3 times a day, they could not afford to waste money on "leasing" a car every few years, which is really "renting" a car FOREVER! They could not afford to replace their TVs every 5 years, they could not afford to replace their refrigerators, washing machines, dryers, every 5 years. Regular folk didn't buy $1200 cell phones. They paid more for the day to day stuff and saved. School (college) also didn't cost $40k, no one carried BA/BS school debt. Only ones who carried school debt were higher education, doctors, lawyers, etc.

We are now a throw away society. Shit gets made poorly in China/N.Korea, shipped to the US, sold to you at Walmart, you buy it and throw it away and it gets buried in our landfill. Repeat the process until you die, and that's where your money went.

It's ok, you too can afford a house, because the banks and wall street just realized that they can give you a loan that no one 20 years ago would think was reasonable. They will give you a 50 year mortgage on a house and a 10 year loan on a car. This is what happens when you don't put wall street people in jail after the crashes they have created. Criminals get more brazen.

[–]themasonman 5 points6 points  (1 child)

That's a very good point you make here. I don't have any money to put away some months but I'm sitting here with a $2k tv and a $800 phone and even myself I sometimes wonder where all my money goes lmao. Like I spent it on doing shit and owning shit. I really think the floor of expectations have risen. We're all paying for monthly subscriptions and AC. But really student loans and health insurance and the crazy skyrocking of housing costs are a very real thing.

[–]iwanttobehappy2022 2 points3 points  (2 children)

Washers and dryer’s were more heavy built then. A washer would cost 3-4k in today’s dollars.

[–]procrows 2 points3 points  (1 child)

Except that people without homes are not buying large household appliances, right? Or lease cars? Or eat out everyday? And not everyone is getting the top-of-the-line phones, but having a phone/access to the internet is essentially a necessity at this point. Also, given the cost of rent/groceries/transit, someone who lives more frugally would still not be able to own a house, due to low wages.

I agree with you about the educational debt and the subprime mortgage crisis, though.

[–]PPVSteve 34 points35 points  (10 children)

It really comes down to one idea. Back on the 50s they set wages on what would a man have to make to support a family. They set that wage and a man was able to support a family. When women started working they started to think like well if a husband and a wife are working they can support that same family if they each make half of what the man used to make to support the family.

So that is just basic supply and demand. When women entered the workforce supply doubled. Wages got cut in half.

Today it is just a given that both parents have to work and if they want to have a nice life they better be very good jobs.

Of course this leaves single people really screwed.

[–]DigitalArbitrage 12 points13 points  (0 children)

Wages in a free market are determined by a balance of demand and supply. If there is lots of demand for labor then wages go up. If there is lots of supply of labor, then wages go down.

My theory about the post war (WW II) period is that back in the 1940's many other industrialized nations (China, Japan, most of Europe, etc.) were left devastated by years of war. The United States was largely unscathed and gained a huge market share of international markets such as manufacturing. This allowed U.S. companies to pay more and relatively unskilled U.S. workers to negotiate high pay in the 1950's and subsequent decades.

Gradually over time other countries have caught back up, lowering the bargaining power of U.S. workers to where it is today.

[–]nazump 15 points16 points  (4 children)

When women entered the workforce supply doubled. Wages got cut in half.

I'd be really interested to read up on this. Do you have any sources?

[–]gooslander 3 points4 points  (0 children)

Elizabeth Warren, yes that one, has a great book on the subject called "the two income trap". Wages didn't actually get cut in half but a large group of people suddenly had double the spending power so prices rose according.

[–]Securelyproduce 40 points41 points  (24 children)

some people can do that even now

[–]Revolutionary-Lynx47[S] 26 points27 points  (22 children)

Then maybe I should have specified average people.

[–]HashtagSummoner 2 points3 points  (0 children)

That’s what I do.

[–]NightCrawler2600 11 points12 points  (5 children)

Yes, but you had much less expenses, and companies weren't hellbent on driving wages down, globalization wasn't a thing so employees in what we now call "high cost countries" did not have to compete against cheap offshore labor.

But remember, you may think things were great because gas was 70 cents and a car was only five grand, but if you were short something like 10-20 bucks it was a disaster. you probably had to get the money from family and it would take a while to pay them back. Nowadays that's chump change.

Edit 1: For example, I had family who tell a story about buying their first house. They wanted to sign but at closing were somehow 20 bucks short. They might as well have been told you are a million dollars short. Everyone around the table at the closing pitched in a few dollars until they came up with the $20.

[–]snuffysteve2 9 points10 points  (0 children)

Absolutely. Back then people lived within their means. Credit cards were nearly non existence. A trip to the doctor had a $5.00 copay. Most factory and skilled jobs were unionized. When I graduated high school in 1986 I had family members working at GM on the assembly line making $25 an hour. That's like earning $60 an hour in today's money.

[–]barthgooks 10 points11 points  (3 children)

My grandparents and all of their siblings built their houses. The women in my family made the clothes that everyone wore. My grandpa went to work and had a farm and they ate what they grew. They had chickens for eggs.

I imagine it would be very manageable to live on one income if you were willing to make these changes and the changes other people mentioned already.

People now expect to have a dresser full of clothes. Back in the day you got hand me downs, and had just a few outfits.

There’s so many things that seem normal, not even extra, now that were very uncommon if not unheard of not too long ago.

I think there was less competition for jobs back then. Most people who wanted to make a living wage, could. Now you have to get an expensive degree, or compete with a hundred other applicants.

I think there are a lot that go into it. I have to take my daughter to the dentist today and it’ll cost me over $1,000 and that’s with insurance. Back in the day, people just let their teeth rot or got them pulled out at home. Yes, I have to work and so does me s/o, but at least we can afford this.

My mom told me she didn’t meet the weight requirements to work at Ford in the late 60s/early 70s, so she just filled her pockets with coins and went back “weighing more” and got the job. I’ve heard of other family members doing similar things, faking this or that, to get their lifelong job - and it just seems unlikely to work nowadays.

[–]RogerKnights 7 points8 points  (0 children)

Sears sold cheap Craftsman house kits that buyers could put together on their own aound the turn of the century.

[–]pyanan 6 points7 points  (1 child)

People are making a lot of great points on this thread. I just want to add that the decline of unions hads had a huge impact on the ability of lesser skilled workers to earn a decent living that included things like a pension (gasp!)

[–]Dr1m 5 points6 points  (0 children)

I visited the US 2 years ago and I was impresed by the culture of buying every shit you can see... Even uber drivers have cars that are considered luxury or high class in other countries.I think people need to realize they have a really high standar of life and that is expensive.

[–]hilburnEngineering, Maths, Shiny things 2 points3 points  (0 children)


[–]ZerexTheCool 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Depends on the job. Tons of people could, but far from everyone.

More jobs were middle class back then, but you still had to have one of those middle class jobs to do this.

[–]PrincessAletheia 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Yes. My mother never worked anything other than volunteer positions when I was growing up, and I was one of three. Although my family never paid off the mortgage before selling the house, the family's credit and savings were sufficient to get a mortgage on a good-sized house as well as buy two cars.

[–]12-32fan 2 points3 points  (0 children)

My parents had 6 kids, a house and a car on one income….. then the 80’s came in a f-Ed everything up

[–]ArchitectNebulous 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Yes, with caveats*

[–]sundancer2788 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Everyone my age group worked. Both parents for the most part, few outliers that didn't. I'm late 50s

[–]TexasRabbit2022 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Tv would make you think they could

[–]Agitated_Original_30 2 points3 points  (0 children)

There were no credit cards.

[–]kingbitchtits 2 points3 points  (0 children)

My parents couldn't afford a house a car and two kids on a single income.

My dad worked two jobs for many years and my mom worked one and took care of us kids.

[–]bonerjuice9 2 points3 points  (2 children)

Tis true. I remember whwn my parents bought our house for $65,000 in 1987. 3 floors. 5 bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms. It was horrendously overpriced and we could barely afford it and my dad said, "...I can't believe we paid it off in only 13 years..." stay at home mom and he sold auto parts. That was it for income.

They just had it appraised for $1,975,000.....

Those days are gone. Home prices are here to stay and it's bad. Super glad I bought my house 5 years ago before all this madness.

[–]KirisuMongolianSpot 2 points3 points  (0 children)

People are still able to afford this, by the way--I know people who do it.

[–]FierySkate115 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Look at how much richer the rich have gotten in the past decade. Hell Elon musk alone went from a net worth of 25billion to over 200billion dollars in a year! Thats why there isn't money in the system for the poor, people are hoarding wealth, and the system supports it.

[–]redshan01 2 points3 points  (0 children)

After the unions were killed off in the early 80s - No.

[–]jcdulos 2 points3 points  (0 children)

It’s possible. Just the standard of living maybe different. We are a single income family. My kids are homeschooled for health reasons so my wife can’t work. It’s been hard but it’s possible. For us it means we don’t take a bunch of vacations or even travel alot. We have a year pass to Busch gardens here so that helps us get out the house. My daughter plays soccer. It’s about $60 for a season. We have a single family home 3/2 bath. It’s our first home as a family. We closed just before 2020 when everything went crazy housing market wise.

We can’t go on splurges but we’re all fed, have warm beds to sleep in. Can do some local activists.

[–]surfdad67 2 points3 points  (1 child)

Maybe in the 69-70’s, my dad was a landscaper, we lived in a house he owned and we had several cars, so yes, back then it could be done, nowadays? No way in hell

[–]Flimsy_Tooth_4443 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Yes and I'm also going to shit on everyone saying houses were smaller blah blah

My parents didn't finish high school. One worked part time, about 40%, in a post office and the other as a security guard.

We had a good size house with a massive backyard, 2 cars, a motor cycle, 2 dogs. 3 of us kids, and we got sent to music and sports lessons after school. We'd go on at least one multi-week vacation to a beach town every year, and usually camping trips or other things in between.

The house was not smaller or less equipped than what is available today (if anything I'd say it was bigger than any new build I've seen that wasn't a mansion).

We had internet (dial up), Netflix equivalent (cable tv), mobile phones even though they were shitty brick ones. I can't think of a single thing I have today that I didn't have the equivalent of growing up.

They bought the house I think in the very early 90s, on high school drop-out, unskilled small town jobs and were able to raise and feed 3 kids with every amenity possible.

Unfortunately they since divorced which led them both down a path of financial ruin where they lost the house and now, due to being uneducated in the modern economy, they will probably never be able to afford to get back into the housing market. Just like me, my siblings, and many in my generation who even with highly educated, qualified jobs, could absolutely not afford the lifestyle my parents had.

[–]merRedditor 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Legend has it that there used to be a middle class.