Tweet ^{[1]}

About two hours ago (approximately noontime, EST, today) I went to Sears.com ^{[2]} and took notice of the first five groups of items promoted on that webpage. How does the work-time cost of these items today compare to the work-time cost of similar items in 1975?

The five groups of items featured most prominently at Sears.com during my visit were:

(1) exercise equipment (In particular, the piece of equipment pictured is a treadmill.)

(2) adult athletic shoes

(3) adult jeans

(4) televisions

(5) kitchen appliances (In particular, three appliances are pictured: washer/dryer combo; refrigerator/freezer; and kitchen range/oven.)

How long did a typical non-superivisory worker in America in 1975 have to work to buy one each of the *lowest*-priced version of each of these items that Sears sold (in its Fall/Winter 1975 catalog ^{[4]}) in 1975? How long does a similar worker today have to work to buy similar items? (Note that that worker in 1975 earned, in 1975 dollars, $4.87 per hour. A similar worker today earns, in 2012 dollars, $19.84 per hour.)

– **Manual treadmill**: 1975 price was $89.99 (or 18.5 hours of work in 1975); 2013 price is $127.99 ^{[5]} (or 6.5 hours of work today)

– **adult athletic shoes**: 1975 price was $9.95 (or 2.0 hours); 2013 price is $19.99 ^{[6]} (or 1.0 hour)

– **adult jeans**:* 1975 price was $6.99 (or 1.4 hours); 2013 price is $19.99 ^{[7]} (or 1.0 hour)

– **television** **(19″ color)**: 1975 price was $294.95 (or 60.6 hours); 2013 price is $129.99 ^{[8]} (or 6.6 hours)

– **30″ kitchen all-electric range/oven**: 1975 price was $159.95 (or 32.8 hours); 2013 price is $369.99 ^{[9]} (or 18.6 hours)

– **frost-free refrigerator/freezer**:** 1975 price was $319.95 [for 14.1 cubic feet] (or 65.7 hours); 2013 price is $404.99 ^{[10]} [for 14.8 cubic feet] (or 20.4 hours)

– **“standard size” all-electric washer/dryer combo**: 1975 price was $329.90 (or 67.7 hours); 2013 price is $593.98 ^{[11]} (or 29.9 hours)

All told, these items – the lowest-priced ones available in their class at Sears – cost in 1975 a total of $1,211.68 (in 1975 dollars). The typical non-supervisory worker in America in 1975 (earning then $4.87 per hour ^{[12]}) had to work a total of 248.8 hours (or, just over a month and a half) to buy the above bundle.

Today, these items (or, rather, their 2013, generally much-better equivalents) – the lowest-priced ones available in their class at Sears.com on January 1, 2013 – cost today a total of $1,666.92 (in 2013 dollars). The typical non-supervisory worker in America today (earning, as of November 2012, $19.84 per hour ^{[13]}) has to work a total of 84.0 hours (or just over two weeks) to buy the above bundle.

*In short, to buy the lowest-priced bundle of these items today at Sears.com – nearly all of which items are of higher quality (and, in the case of the television, incomparably higher quality) than their 1975 counterparts – cost the ordinary American worker today a mere one-third of the work time that was required by his or her counterpart in 1975.*

Note that my selection of the items above was dictated exclusively by the items that Sears.com happened to feature most prominently on its site during mid-day, Eastern time, on January 1, 2013.

….

* Sears.com’s lowest-priced *men’s *jeans are $12.99 ^{[14]}; so I used women’s jeans – the lowest-priced pair of which sell now for $19.99 – in order to make the “stagnationists'” case as strong as possible.

** Sears in 1975 sold, and Sears.com today sells, compact refrigerators. I chose the smallest *non*-compact sizes.