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Comparing time prices in the 1980 Sears catalog to Walmart in 2020 indicates a 729 percent increase in abundance.

Kitchen Appliances Are Getting More Abundant

By Gale Pooley @gpooley

By Marian L. Tupy @HumanProgress

Has innovation improved kitchen appliances? To answer this question, we went back to the 1980 Sears Fall Winter Catalog and looked at the prices of various kitchen appliances, including a coffeemaker, toaster, blender, can opener, mixer, and food processor. The total cost of all these items was $219.94. In 1980 unskilled workers earned $4.06 per hour, so it took 54.17 hours of work to equip one’s kitchen with these modern appliances.

We then searched Walmart’s website to find similar items in 2020. The total nominal price of these six items had dropped by 57.32 percent to $93.87. However, nominal unskilled wages had increased by 253.7 percent to $14.36 an hour. As such, it only took 6.54 hours of work to buy these six appliances in 2020. The time price, in other words, had fallen by 87.9 percent. Kitchen appliance abundance increased by an average of 729 percent, from 254 percent for blenders to 2,023 percent for food processors. Here is a detail of our findings and analysis:

For the time required to buy a set of these appliances to equip one house in 1980, you could equip 8.29 houses in 2020. Abundance in the kitchen has been increasing at a compound annual rate of around 5.43 percent a year. At this rate, abundance doubles every 13 years.

As you prepare your dinner this evening, take a moment and thank the many kitchen appliance innovators who have given every household an extra 47.63 hours of leisure to enjoy.

Professor Gale L. Pooley teaches economics at Brigham Young University, Hawaii. He is a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute and a board member of HumanProgress.org

Marian L. Tupy is a senior fellow in the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity and editor of HumanProgress.org.​


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