In 1960, an average American household spent over 10 percent of its income on clothing and shoes – equivalent to roughly $4,000 today. The average person bought fewer than 25 garments each year. And about 95 percent of those clothes were made in the United States.
Fast forward half a century.
Today, the average American household spends less than 3.5 percent of its budget on clothing and shoes – under $1,800. Yet, we buy more clothing than ever before: nearly 20 billion garments a year, close to 70 pieces of clothing per person, or more than one clothing purchase per week.
Oh, and guess how much of that is made in the U.S.: about 2 percent.
Browse through the timeline below to see how dramatically the cost and origin of our clothing has changed. And then continue reading to find out why.
And for that reason, most of us have flocked to clothing stores like H&M and Old Navy for the unbelievably cheap and expansive selection they offer.
T-shirts for five bucks; jeans and dresses for under $20. It’s almost like you can’t afford to not buy it.
Clothing is cheaper now than it’s ever been: today average Americans spend less than four percent of their total income on their wardrobes, about half what was spent 50 years ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
It’s almost cheaper today to buy a whole new wardrobe than to pay to wash your old one (a bit of an exaggeration, yes, but really not all that far off).
But you know the saying that there’s no such thing as a free lunch? Same thing goes with your $5 t-shirt – it comes with some steep hidden costs. There’s no possible way retailers like H&M could be making billions in profits selling clothing at such low prices without there being some catch.
As part of a collaboration with the National Writing Project, this is the first in a series of teacher-created educator guides on key topical issues. Written by two NWP-affiliated high school English and media arts teachers – Kirsten Spall of Natomas Charter High School (Sacramento) and Chris Sloan of Judge Memorial Catholic School (Salt Lake City) – the guide helps teachers explore and navigate the highly-charged political and emotional issues behind the topic of gun control. Based on content featured on The Lowdown, the guide provides ideas for integrating the issues into English language arts and social studies curriculum. It includes Common Core Standards Alignment, a synopsis of key background information, integration tips, and lists of issue pros and cons, creative writing prompts and best classroom practices.
A roadside sign just north of the Tijuana border crossing. (Credit: Flickr/Jonathon Mcintosh)
What’s the plan for America’s 11.1 million undocumented immigrants?
It’s the million dollar question, and the most divisive element of the Senate’s sprawling new effort to overhaul the country’s messy immigration system. After months of painstaking negotiation, a bipartisan group of senators, known as the “Gang of Eight”, recently unveiled a proposal to — among other things — create a path to citizenship for the millions who live here in the shadows. But legislators have made abundantly clear that this proposal is a far cry from “amnesty”. The path they outlined for almost all the undocumented (except for young “DREAMers” who would be on a streamlined 5-year path) is a tedious, decade-plus-long process full of steep hurdles and strict conditions, in which citizenship is a distant destination at the end of a long journey. Continue reading →
Over the last 50 years, America’s foreign-born population has changed dramatically in size, origins, and geographic distribution. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 1960 immigrants (both legal and undocumented) represented roughly 1 in 20 residents in the U.S. Most of them came from European countries and settled in the Northeast and Midwest. Today, it’s a whole new ballgame: about 1 in 8 U.S. residents are now foreign-born, the vast majority are from Latin America and Asia, and most live in the West and South.
The infographic below, produced by the Census Bureau, uses data from the decennial census and the American Community Survey to illustrate the massive changes that have occurred over the last half century. Continue reading →
Recently arrived Irish immigrants in the the mid-1800s.
Ever since the first Europeans landed here over four centuries ago, America has had a conflicted relationship with its newcomers. It’s a serial drama that continues today in the halls of Congress, as legislators wrestle over a new round of immigration reform. We are, of course, a nation of immigrants, a destination for huge numbers of people from around the world. And the vast majority of us – everyone, in fact, except for American Indians – can trace our roots to foreign lands. Despite that common thread, though, America has not always treated its newest residents with empathy.
There have been four major waves of immigration to America, the last of which – mainly from Mexico, other Latin American countries, and Asia – continues today. Several themes play out consistently in all four chapters:
Each successive wave of immigrants has been, to an extent, a reflection of social and economic conditions elsewhere in the world, and within the U.S. itself.
Nearly every cycle of newcomers has faced animosity and backlash from already assimilated communities.
The history of America’s immigration policy is a swinging door that often opens during periods of economic prosperity and slams shut when times get tough.
Scroll through the timeline below to follow the tangled history of America’s ever-changing immigration policies. (Easiest to view in full-screen mode) The interactive chart beneath it shows rates of legal immigration from 1820 to the present (use the scroll bar to zoom into specific chunks of time).
Number of Foreign-Born Legal Permanent Residents, 1820 to 2012
Source: Department of Homeland Security, Office of Immigration Statistics
Remember that “binders full of women” comment made by Mitt Romney in the second presidential debate last October?
That infamous blunder – the subject of countless tweets and memes – was in response to a question about gender wage disparities, an issue that still receives relatively little political attention despite its prevalence. Continue reading →
Benjamin Franklin once famously wrote: “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
Well, the deadline for the latter inevitability (and hopefully not the former) is just around the corner.
For many Americans, mid-April means last minute scrambling and groaning, a last ditch effort to get taxes filed by the April 15 deadline.
So what happens to all that hard-earned cash of yours?
The federal budget – on which the government operates – consists mainly of revenue from income taxes and payroll taxes. In an effort to demystify what the government actually does with that cash, Google and Eyebeam last year put out a call to graphic designers and developers to help visualize how our federal income tax dollars are spent. The Data Viz Challenge, as it was called, drew some very cool entries, including the following interactives (click on each to explore the multimedia versions).
Where Did All My Tax Dollars Go?
Designed by Anil Kandangath, this won first place in the contest. It allows users to enter their income and view a clear breakdown of what services that money went towards.
Every Day Is Tax Day
Designed by Fred Chasen, this project took second place in the contest. It allows viewers to explore how many hours they actually spend working directly for the government over the course of a year, and what programs that cash funds.
On March 20, 2003 U.S. forces invaded Iraq under the false pretense that its government was harboring weapons of mass destruction. Intended to be a brief mission to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime and find the weapons, the Defense Department estimated the effort would cost about $60 billion. Today, 10 years later, Iraq is still reeling from a prolonged conflict that, according to a recent study, has cost the U.S. more than $2 trillion (and growing) and brought a death toll of nearly 190,000 civilians, soldiers, journalists and aid workers.
While the U.S. occupation did lead to the overthrow of Hussein and the semblance of a fragile democracy, it also launched the country into a state of civil war, fueled by an ongoing period of political instability and intense sectarian violence. The U.S. occupation officially ended in December of 2011, but today the bloodshed continues on a nearly daily basis as large swaths of Iraq remain mired in conflict.
This collection of visualizations illustrates some of the war’s cold hard facts, the big milestones, and the many layers of miscalculation and deception. Continue reading →