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Luxury or Necessity - Public Takes A U-Turn

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Luxury or Necessity - Public Takes A U-Turn

Old 08-28-09, 10:28 PM
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Dahon.Steve
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Luxury or Necessity - Public Takes A U-Turn

Here's a good article from the Pew Research Center on what Americans consider necessities in life have fallen since the recession took place. Since hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs or savings, people are now starting to see how even motoring is in fact a luxury and not a necessity! Still, there are way too out there who think a car is a necessity and this is going to change within our lifetime. As the motorcar becomes more and more expensive, people will start to view it as the luxury as the population will be able to afford it.

As I look at the list that Americans call necessities, I noticed something very strange. I don't own many of the items on this list! LOL! The items on the list that I do own, are not that expensive with the exception of my high speed internet and my prepaid cell phone.

What amazes me are things that I consider necessities are not on the list at all like a refrigerator, fresh fruits and vegetables, public transportation, access to jobs, clean water and a bicycle etc. There are so many things I would consider a necessity but a motorcar is not even on short or long list.

If you read the article, people are cutting back on their lifestyle like never before since they began making the study. This is due to the fact that motoring sucked all the discretionary income from the middle class since the economy collapsed. People are shopping less, changing cell phone providers, drinking and smoking less and doing everything imaginable just to keep their cars. No belt tightening here at all! Yet, the necessity of motoring is bankrupting Americans and if this recession told you anything, the need to live on less will become the norm and it starts with selling your car. In fact, if they sold their motorcar and went car free, Americans can still keep their silly lifestyle with little change.


https://pewsocialtrends.org/pubs/733/...-research-jump
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Old 08-28-09, 11:05 PM
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If people sold their cars in my state they wouldn’t have a job to worry about income. We have poor mass transit. The freeways don’t allow bikes on them and they are the most direct route to where most people work. So unless they are going to live on the dole selling their car will be a long way off. I believe I have read somewhere the average commute in Southern California is 38 miles one way. And with the government giving people money specifically to buy new cars it isn’t likely things will change much in my lifetime.

But it is an interesting dream. We can wait and see what happens.
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Old 08-29-09, 12:00 AM
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This is a video of a lecture given by Elizabeth Warren at UC Berkeley in 2007. Warren is currently the chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel created to oversee the U.S. banking bailout. The subject of this talk is how the economic life of American families has changed in the past 40 years. I think it's a very illuminating discussion of how middle class American families have come under severe financial pressure.

"The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akVL7QY0S8A

Warren's key point is that in general it now takes two incomes to support a family with children. Each working parent typically needs a car. In constant dollar terms, the cost of owning a car has actually decreased somewhat over the last 40 years. However, the present day family owns multiple cars, which increases the car expense.

Since both parents are working, there are also significant child care expenses which were not required 40 years ago.

The other main sources of increased expense are health related costs and housing. An interesting point Warren makes is that the increased expense of housing is driven significantly by the desire of families to locate within desireable school districts.

I don't see present day middle class families in trouble because of their excessively luxurious lifestyles. The expenses that challenge them are mainly the ones that most people would agree are the real necessities: transportation to jobs, child care, health insurance and good educational opportunities for the children.

Considering all these issues, it seems difficult for modern families to become even car light. I'm not saying it can't be done, just that it's not easy.
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Old 08-29-09, 01:02 AM
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By and large, throughout human history the single adult working family has been the exception rather than the rule. The modern economic conditions that require two working adults for every house is actually a normalization of that trend. We dont think of it that way because every statistic ever sighted in America comes from the 1950s. Fifty years ago it was more common for only one adult to work sure, but one hundred years ago and for thousands of years before that in almost every society around the world both parents work.
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Old 08-29-09, 05:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Platy View Post

Considering all these issues, it seems difficult for modern families to become even car light. I'm not saying it can't be done, just that it's not easy.
As we see often on this list, it is quite easy for some single men with no families, living in urban areas or near college campuses, to post how foolish/immoral those modern families are for not adapting the lifestyle of the self righteous cyclist who has replaced his "family" car.
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Old 08-29-09, 05:30 AM
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Originally Posted by zeppinger View Post
By and large, throughout human history the single adult working family has been the exception rather than the rule. The modern economic conditions that require two working adults for every house is actually a normalization of that trend.
Probably child labor has been the world wide norm too. Maybe more "normalization" will permit the right sizing (literally) of the coal miner workforce so they won't have to stoop so much. More right sizing "normalization" sounds good for field work too, eh?

And as an added benefit, they will all be car free!
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Old 08-29-09, 07:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
If people sold their cars in my state they wouldnít have a job to worry about income. We have poor mass transit. The freeways donít allow bikes on them and they are the most direct route to where most people work. So unless they are going to live on the dole selling their car will be a long way off. I believe I have read somewhere the average commute in Southern California is 38 miles one way. And with the government giving people money specifically to buy new cars it isnít likely things will change much in my lifetime.

But it is an interesting dream. We can wait and see what happens.
It could very well happen in the future.

I don't see the prices of motoring decreasing any time soon and this more than anything else is changing attitudes. All it took was for gas to hit $4.00 dollars a gallon for people to start bicycling to work, shopping less and cutting their overall travel. It was the high price of fuel that started this recession and the massive layoffs that followed. This study by the Pew group is a prime example of what happen when gas hits a ceiling that strips Americans away of their descretionary income.
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Old 08-29-09, 07:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Platy View Post
Warren's key point is that in general it now takes two incomes to support a family with children. Each working parent typically needs a car. In constant dollar terms, the cost of owning a car has actually decreased somewhat over the last 40 years. However, the present day family owns multiple cars, which increases the car expense.
I saw the Google video and it was very important.

It only takes one income to support a family today but you have to live on less and become car free. This would free up enough money for the wife to live at home because she's a high income earner, most of her income goes to pay for day care, two cars and food for the family. In other words, the wife's contribution can be replaced if the husband takes a part time job over the weekened. Warren did not see the problem which reated the situation for Americans as families went from a no car family to a two cars in the past 40 years.

The cars forced the wife to go out and work.

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Old 08-29-09, 07:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve View Post
It could very well happen in the future.

I don't see the prices of motoring decreasing any time soon and this more than anything else is changing attitudes. All it took was for gas to hit $4.00 dollars a gallon for people to start bicycling to work, shopping less and cutting their overall travel. It was the high price of fuel that started this recession and the massive layoffs that followed. This study by the Pew group is a prime example of what happen when gas hits a ceiling that strips Americans away of their descretionary income.
Most reports I have read blame the collapse of the housing market as the prime cause of the economic problems we are facing. High fuel was credited with lowering out national gas consumption but it is also credited with fueling a new desire for alternative fuels rather than more bicycles. And we still arenít riding as many bicycles per capita as people were in the 70s.

While you may be correct that people are looking for alternatives to gas driven cars it doesnít seem like bicycles are high on the list of things the working families of the US are looking for as a solution. I agree for many it would be a move in the right direction. My fuel bill is considerably lower now than it has been even when fuel was a buck a gallon. But for the working family it isnít a solution that will be reached willingly by most of the American public. Unless you are predicting a collapse of our society and a fall into third world status for the US? That is possible but it seems as if car consumption is increasing in China and India so as a world form of transportation bicycles are losing ground in a more traditional stronghold than in the US. I have read there has been some resistance by the college are youth against this move towards cars in Asia but I am not sure they have the economic clout to resist it.
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Old 08-29-09, 08:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve View Post
It only takes one income to support a family today but you have to live on less and become car free...
Yes, but the present day "geography of suburbia" makes that hard to do. Right now, any ideas for reducing the car dependency of middle class families are immediately dismissed as "third world living" and rejected out of hand.
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Old 08-29-09, 11:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Platy View Post
The other main sources of increased expense are health related costs and housing. An interesting point Warren makes is that the increased expense of housing is driven significantly by the desire of families to locate within desireable school districts.
So by improving schools the supply of houses within desireable school districts increases, decreasing the cost of such housing, reduceing family expenses in a chain reaction......
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Old 08-29-09, 12:14 PM
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Originally Posted by gwd View Post
So by improving schools the supply of houses within desireable school districts increases, decreasing the cost of such housing, reduceing family expenses in a chain reaction......
Can you provide some examples (or even one example) where "improving" schools (whatever that means other than changing the student population) in an urban school district was the catalyst for such a chain reaction in housing costs or family expenses?
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Old 08-29-09, 12:27 PM
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Originally Posted by gwd View Post
So by improving schools the supply of houses within desireable school districts increases, decreasing the cost of such housing, reduceing family expenses in a chain reaction......
Yes. The problem is that improving a few schools doesn't necessarily initiate a virtuous feedback cycle that increases the motivation to further improve more schools in other neighborhoods.

On the other hand, it's easy to initiate the opposite vicious feedback cycle. Decreased funding -> debilitated schools -> declining property values -> further decreased funding.
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Old 08-29-09, 12:30 PM
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I've dug around a bit and though I can't seem to connect to my university's VPN to pull journal articles right now, this should be a good starting point:

Consider University City, the West Philadelphia neighborhood surrounding the University of Pennsylvania. In an effort to improve the area, the university committed funds for a new elementary school. The results? At the time of the announcement, in 1998, the median home value in the area was less than $60,000. Five years later, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, “homes within the boundaries go for about $200,000, even if they need to be totally renovated.” The neighborhood is otherwise pretty much the same: the same commute to work, the same distance from the freeways, the same old houses. And yet, in five years families are willing to pay more than triple the price for a home, just so they can send their kids to a better public elementary school.

--https://bostonreview.net/BR30.5/warrentyagi.php

Anyone who has a LexisNexis account can probably get the full article citation.

Another big issue is the lack of job stability.

Another thought on schools:
As an area's schools improve, most of the benefits are probably felt by the immediate area. Let's say that 1 improved school yields an improvement that we call "100 points, to be spent on any government project" (this should cover property taxes et al). The people who are closest to the school will almost certainly want to retain all 100. Thus, I would expect such efforts to create segregated alcoves.

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Old 08-29-09, 01:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Zian View Post
I've dug around a bit and though I can't seem to connect to my university's VPN to pull journal articles right now, this should be a good starting point:

Consider University City, the West Philadelphia neighborhood surrounding the University of Pennsylvania. In an effort to improve the area, the university committed funds for a new elementary school. The results? At the time of the announcement, in 1998, the median home value in the area was less than $60,000. Five years later, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, ďhomes within the boundaries go for about $200,000, even if they need to be totally renovated.Ē The neighborhood is otherwise pretty much the same: the same commute to work, the same distance from the freeways, the same old houses. And yet, in five years families are willing to pay more than triple the price for a home, just so they can send their kids to a better public elementary school.

--https://bostonreview.net/BR30.5/warrentyagi.php
I'd be Real interested in which school and which boundaries were cherry picked in that devastated section of West Philadelphia for this amazing "starting point." Especially a public school financed by a private University. I used to live in West Philadelphia at 40th and Walnut as well as at 46th and Sansom, and my daughter lived at 33rd and Spring Garden for 4 years while going to the University. I suspect the "starting" and ending point is an enclave of gentrified townhouses built for and occupied by a select handful of people affiliated with the University/Medical complex and has little to no relationship with its less privileged neighbors or neighborhoods.
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Old 08-29-09, 04:05 PM
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When gas got really expensive, no one I know starting walking or biking anywhere. They gave up other things instead (although they did seem to lay off the "pleasure driving" and avoidable trips). A handful of people that I know may have been able to bike or walk to work relatively easily, but otherwise, this is a rural/suburban county, and most people here who don't have access to a car are unable or find it difficult to find & keep a job, access medical care (especially if you have Kaiser, which is a half-hour or more away by car, in any direction) or make certain purchases (which, for many people, include groceries). The center of my town, where the highway is, is flat, but the outskirts to the west are small mountains. Riding up those hills is exceedingly difficult. To me, all that makes a motorized vehicle access a necessity for an awful lot of people, at least to the extent that employment, groceries and medical care are necessities.
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Old 08-29-09, 06:48 PM
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I'd be Real interested in which school and which boundaries were cherry picked in that devastated section of West Philadelphia for this amazing "starting point." Especially a public school financed by a private University. I used to live in West Philadelphia at 40th and Walnut as well as at 46th and Sansom, and my daughter lived at 33rd and Spring Garden for 4 years while going to the University. I suspect the "starting" and ending point is an enclave of gentrified townhouses built for and occupied by a select handful of people affiliated with the University/Medical complex and has little to no relationship with its less privileged neighbors or neighborhoods.
I'm pretty sure it's Penn Alexander charter school. The boundaries were drawn like voting districts to include certain blocks and not others.

Penn has gentrified West Philly as a whole though. Home prices are WAY up from when my parents moved into it as a ghetto 25 years ago.

Anyway, those same parents managed to live that entire 25 years without owning a car; I think an awful lot of people could do similar if they chose to live in urban areas instead of the suburbs, and to live near where they work.
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Old 08-29-09, 08:02 PM
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I don't know if this direct link will work if called from outside, but it's a map of the Penn Alexander catchment zone:
https://philadelphiarealestatehub.com...tchmentmap.gif

It seems to show that 40th & Walnut is the northeast boundary and 46th & Sansom is the northwest boundary.

Wouldn't it be great if in the future "Improve the Local Schools" becomes the generally accepted first step for every aspiring real estate developer.

However, it would be ironic to see middle class families getting priced out of their neighborhoods because they succeeded in improving their local schools.
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Old 08-29-09, 10:28 PM
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DahonSteve:

Your comment about the car making the wife go out to work unnerved me a little, because it reminded me of the day my 2nd wife (now x)'threw' my mother out of our house.

I was at work, wife was home w/ our daughter, 3 @ the time; mother came over, and during her visit, made some very pointed comments and unsolicited advice. In essence, she told my wife to FORCE me to go out and get a 2nd job, hand BOTH paychecks over to her to run the household (mother claimed I had no money-management skills), and that the 2nd job would also keep me from damaging the kids (wife came with kids from her 1st), as I also had no parenting skills -- point to ponder, since 'mom' made d*mn sure she was the only parent in my life by age 10!

My wife told her, calmly and quietly, that the kids loved me and I loved them, she wasn't going to separate me from them, and that we were doing 'just fine' -- then said, "Now, you can get out of my house." My mother left, sputtering, and never broached the subject again.

I'm still tight w/ x #2....
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Old 08-30-09, 06:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Jude View Post
I'm pretty sure it's Penn Alexander charter school. The boundaries were drawn like voting districts to include certain blocks and not others.

Penn has gentrified West Philly as a whole though. Home prices are WAY up from when my parents moved into it as a ghetto 25 years ago.

Anyway, those same parents managed to live that entire 25 years without owning a car; I think an awful lot of people could do similar if they chose to live in urban areas instead of the suburbs, and to live near where they work.
Originally Posted by Platy View Post
I don't know if this direct link will work if called from outside, but it's a map of the Penn Alexander catchment zone:
https://philadelphiarealestatehub.com...tchmentmap.gif

It seems to show that 40th & Walnut is the northeast boundary and 46th & Sansom is the northwest boundary.

Wouldn't it be great if in the future "Improve the Local Schools" becomes the generally accepted first step for every aspiring real estate developer.

However, it would be ironic to see middle class families getting priced out of their neighborhoods because they succeeded in improving their local schools.
Thanks for the info,

I looked up the Penn Alexander Charter School/Housing Boom and found this article enlightening.
https://www.boston.com/news/education...sforms_a_city/

It always helps to have a University invest $500 million into a limited housing area to help boost real estate values (at least temporarily), and have it devote resources and faculty to the success of a specific elementary school in that area.

Sounds like a good school for the lucky individuals who get to go, far better than any other nearby public elementary school. Maybe the University will get generous and shower money on West Philadelphia and Overbrook High Schools too.
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Old 08-30-09, 07:12 AM
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Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
Thanks for the info,

I looked up the Penn Alexander Charter School/Housing Boom and found this article enlightening.
https://www.boston.com/news/education...sforms_a_city/

It always helps to have a University invest $500 million into a limited housing area to help boost real estate values (at least temporarily), and have it devote resources and faculty to the success of a specific elementary school in that area.

Sounds like a good school for the lucky individuals who get to go, far better than any other nearby public elementary school. Maybe the University will get generous and shower money on West Philadelphia and Overbrook High Schools too.
It's the old Town & Gown issue of how universities should relate to their surrounding communities.

It seems quite odd to me that these medieval quasi-monastic institutions coexist so happily with the rest of our modern world.

I think there's general agreement that communities around universities offer some of the best opportunities around for car free living. They tend to be compact as opposed to sprawled. They have a reasonably stable employment base. They have a population density that supports quite an interesting variety of small retail shops. Then of course there are still strong vestiges of the old tradition of students and faculty living on or near campus.

Providing a good place for children to grow up isn't one of the stated goals of any university. In practice, universities have usually accommodated the reality that graduate students and young faculty often have families and children.
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Old 08-30-09, 08:23 AM
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Sounds like a good school for the lucky individuals who get to go, far better than any other nearby public elementary school.
Correct.

Maybe the University will get generous and shower money on West Philadelphia and Overbrook High Schools too.
Unlikely.
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Old 08-30-09, 10:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Platy View Post
Yes. The problem is that improving a few schools doesn't necessarily initiate a virtuous feedback cycle that increases the motivation to further improve more schools in other neighborhoods.

On the other hand, it's easy to initiate the opposite vicious feedback cycle. Decreased funding -> debilitated schools -> declining property values -> further decreased funding.
It read like you're post implied improved schools -> more housing in good school districts -> less dependence of house prices on school district -> more choices for families -> lower shelter cost. Some of my neighbors with young families choose to stay car-free in the city depending on the school situation. With improved DC schools the story is that more families are raising their kids here. Its true with some of my neighbors. If ALL the schools were good it wouldn't be a topic of discussion for them. A co-worker paid a premium for a house across the street from a school with a good reputation. Its weird that the city councils don't see that improving the public schools compared to those in adjacent cities can increase the tax base. On the other hand if families could pretty much assume their little darlings would be educated well in any school then school quality wouldn't have much effect on shelter costs- just proximity. It would enhance the value of a home if you're kids had a safe way to walk or bike to school.
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Old 08-30-09, 10:54 AM
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Originally Posted by cerewa View Post
Correct.



Unlikely.
Also seems unlikely that many of the "gentry" slice of Penn Alexander Charter School parents will be sending their own to the nearby public high schools after graduation. They may even have to move to a better school district or send them off to private schools.
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Old 08-30-09, 11:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
If people sold their cars in my state they wouldn’t have a job to worry about income. We have poor mass transit. The freeways don’t allow bikes on them and they are the most direct route to where most people work. So unless they are going to live on the dole selling their car will be a long way off. I believe I have read somewhere the average commute in Southern California is 38 miles one way. And with the government giving people money specifically to buy new cars it isn’t likely things will change much in my lifetime.

But it is an interesting dream. We can wait and see what happens.
I imagine that if a significant minority of the population quit driving, we would see an immediate improvement of alternatives like better public transit and bike facilities. Common city streets would be much safer for everybody if there was, say, a third fewer cars hogging them.

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