About WTS Prof. Clair Brown Faculty, Students and Affiliates Research Areas Online Research Reports Working Papers

American Standards of Living:1918-1988

Chapter 8 Conclusion

Clair Brown, University of California at Berkeley
Copyright © 1994 Blackwell Publishers, Cambridge


Economic growth has improved living standards in ways not dreamed of in 1918. Working-class families have been able to attain high levels of living as basics evolved to include car ownership, home ownership, a multiplicity of equipment for entertainment and recreation, and an annual vacation. Their consumption grew to include purchases of variety and then status as the importance of social life expanded and home life shrank as a proportion of the family’s budget. This transforma-tion in consumption norms, from a focus on home life to a focus on social life, is reflected in the economic distance created across classes, which use resourc-es to separate and distinguish themselves from the classes beneath them.

Table of Contents

Consumption Norms and Economic Distance
Emulation and Innovation
Basic, Variety, and Status
Where We Stand
A Final Evaluation
Looking Ahead
Figures 8.1 and 8.2
Table 8.1
Table 8.2
Figure 8.3
Figure 8.4

© 2005 Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. 
2521 Channing Way # 5555 
Berkeley, CA 94720-5555