Economy What’s New

Affluent Influence It may not feel like it, but financially, we’re better off now than we were a few years ago, according to The Conference Board. The number of U.S. households with discretionary income rose from 54 million in 1997-1998 to 57 million in 2002. But it’s also true that the rich get richer — the Board reports that during that period, the percentage of households earning $100,000 and up expanded from 18% of the discretionary income group to 29%. Furthermore, the average discretionary income of $62,110 that these households make is nearly three times the U.S. average.

The Check’s in the Mail — most of it for the mortgage and car. Americans allocate 52% of their household spending to housing and transport, up from 39.6% back in 1950, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. We’ve also become a less indulgent nation, directing only 14% of our spending toward food and alcohol, down from 32.5% in 1950. But our media habits haven’t changed a whit. Today, Americans spend 5.4% of their budget on reading and entertainment — exactly the same amount they did more than fifty years ago.

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