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Overview: Students are introduced to "Affluenza" and the symptoms of changing expectations for the American standard of living. Students will practice interviewing/ researching skills and report on their findings.

Materials: TV/VCR, a copy of the Family Interview worksheet.




In 1958, only 4 percent of American homes had dishwashers. Now more than half do.

Less than 1 percent had color televisions. Now 97 percent do. In addition, in the '50s there were no microwave ovens, VCRs, or personal computers.

Today, many new homes have three-car garages and are nearly 900 square feet (the same as an entire house in the 1950s).

Americans fly 25 times as may passenger miles as they did in the 1950s.

Although Americans had fewer material goods, the number of Americans who say they are very happy peaked back in 1957.

Seventy percent of Americans visit malls each week, more than attend churches or synagogues. On average, Americans shop six hours a week and spend only 40 minutes playing with their children.


Start video at the beginning: "Pew Charitable Trusts" logo (set the counter at 0).

Stop video when screen reads: "So what keeps us on the work-and-spend treadmill?" (about 6:03 on the counter)

Ask students:

1. When do you have money to spend? How do you earn the money you spend?

2. Do you prefer to spend your money right away?

3. What kinds of things would you save for?

4. Do you buy things only when you need them?

5. How do you differentiate between what you "want" and what you "need?"

6. Do you shop when you have to, or do you shop for other reasons?

7. Do you have time to yourself? How do you spend it?

8. How do you get to the places you want to go? How would you get there if you could?

Interview: Tell students they will have an opportunity to interview their parents or other adults in their family about the types of products they had growing up and about how they spent their time. Give students a copy of the the Family Interview worksheet.

After students have conducted their interviews, discuss their findings as a class.

Writing: Ask students to write one to two pages about their family interviews on one of the following topics:

1. Compare and contrast their attitudes about possessions and money with those held by their parents or grandparents.

2. Ask students to explore how having greater or fewer material goods has affected their own family.





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