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Does Affordable Housing Really Need to Be So Scarce in Most Big Cities?

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In 2010, however, you would have to work 1,823 hours at a minimum wage job over the course of a year to earn enough money to pay for a year of schooling at a public institution -- about 35 hours per week! Essentially a full time job -- just to pay for college classes! Want to eat & pay rent, too? Get a second job! No time to study? Tough luck.

In other words, in 1970, you could work a part time job as a cashier (or something similar), and easily pay for college, thus enabling you to work and attend college without going into debt. In 2015, however, you would have to work a full time job just to pay college expenses -- meaning you will either have to massively go into debt, or do without a college education.

Not only that, a college education is becoming much more of a requirement for employment than it was in 1970. (Many receptionist jobs now, absurdly, require a college degree.) In 1973, 72% of jobs available for workers in the United States, required no more than a high school diploma, and many such jobs were also open to H.S. dropouts. By 2007, that 72% had dropped to 41%, and future projections show it going lower still. The remaining jobs that do not require a college education are primarily service jobs that pay very poorly. (Question: Is the growing struggle for a college education becoming little more than an arbitrary sorting mechanism, the sole purpose of which is to help rationalize and excuse abnormally large numbers of unemployed and underemployed, e.g. those who don't have a degree, and who are therefore arbitrarily "not qualified" to work for anything more than a poverty-level wage?)


The median price of a home sold in the United States in January 1970 was $23,600. The median price of a home sold in the United States in January 2011 was $240,100. That's an increase of 917%, on par with the jump in education prices. Yes wages in that time period rose too, but not nearly as fast as home prices. In other words, even after the collapse in housing prices, the average home today costs more than twice as much as a home in 1970, in terms of average number of hours of work that is required to pay for the house.

The Full Picture

The minimum wage in the United States has gone up 353% since 1970, and average incomes have gone up approximately 500%. In that same span, however, the cost of basic household goods has gone up 482%, the cost of a four year education has gone up 994%, and the cost of an average home has gone up 917%.

In other words, in the eyes of an average worker from 1970, as compared to today, the prices at the grocery store have remained largely unchanged, but the cost of an education has roughly doubled (and a degree is now usually required if you want to earn a decent wage, while it wasn't in 1970), and the cost of a home (of some given size, location and quality) has more than doubled as well (in terms of the average number of hours that need to be worked to pay for it).

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Several years after receiving my M.A. in social science (interdisciplinary studies) I was an instructor at S.F. State University for a year, but then went back to designing automated machinery, and then tech writing, in Silicon Valley. I've (more...)

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