America’s poor families can have nice stuff but they cannot afford college

by Grace

Here’s why America’s poor and middle-class families can have flat-screen TVs in every bedroom but cannot afford to pay for their children’s college education.


In 21st-century America, it’s entirely possible for poor people to have much of the same material comforts — cars, TVs, computers, smartphones — as more affluent people, yet be trapped in low-paying jobs with little prospect of improvement.


Drew Desilver, “Chart of the Week: How America’s poor can still be rich in stuff”, Pew Research Center, May 2, 2014.


6 Responses to “America’s poor families can have nice stuff but they cannot afford college”

  1. I think the idea that consumer goods costs have dropped, and others have not is simply a result of the types of markets they compete in. Cell phones, TV’s, cell service, clothing, toys and computers work in nearly perfect competitive markets. They have to differentiate based on price, performance, or other dimensions to gain customers. In addition, economies of scale are usually used to bring prices down to increase volume sales for producers.

    Health, education, and child care do not compete in truly competitive markets as they are partially subsidized and heavily regulated. This keeps the costs high and makes bring the cost down for consumers difficult. Education especially so. Private for profit colleges compete with non for profit community colleges, state universities and private universities. All of which receive government funds of some sort either directly via appropriation, or via portable financial aid via students. This is what has led to to sick cycle of college costs and little to no incentive to economize on the part of college administrators.


  2. Stuff is cheap–labor is expensive.


  3. Overseas labor is not so expensive, at least for now.



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