“Several years ago Bill Cosby chided poor blacks for spending their limited incomes on high-priced shoes and other items of conspicuous consumption instead of investing in education. Cosby was widely criticized but I went to the numbers, specifically Table 2100 of the Consumer Expenditure Survey and found the following for 2003:
Average income of whites and other races: $53,292.
Average income of blacks: $34,485.
Expenditures on footwear by whites and other races: $274
Expenditures on footwear by blacks: $440.
“The differences in spending on clothing, jewelry, and cars, for example, can explain half of the differences in wealth between the races (conditional on permanent income) and a significant share of the differences in education and health spending.
W.E.B. Dubois noted the same thing many generations ago, asking (and I’m paraphrasing): “Why do coloured folk spend so much of their money on crap?”
Rap songs are litanies of conspicuous consumption, but so are some old blues songs: “I’m gonna buy you” this or that.
It doesn’t help that so many American “poor” people only work 16 hours a week instead of 40.
On the anniversary of Katrina, I saw footage of the damage in residential neighbourhoods. We’ve been told that the people of New Orleans were too poor to own cars, but I saw a (now wrecked) car in every driveway. And of course, what did they loot? Food? Diapers? Nope: plasma tvs.
You don’t have to go far afield to see what the study proves (Remember Kathy’s Rule: if you strip out the words “Studies show…” and substitute “Grandma says…”, then that study is methodologically sound). Just take the bus or the subway. Who’s carrying those ugly (and immoral) designer knock-off handbags? Overwhelmingly, at least in Toronto, it is not-rich (come on, they’re on the bus…) black women.
What can I say? “Buy some land, buy some land…”