The NYTimes is running a [series of vignettes](http://projects.nytimes.com/living-with-less?hp) about the impact of the recession on people. I thought this one about “What’s a Necessity” was interesting. It focuses on a bunch of everyday devices we all use. The data come from a poll by the Pew Research Center. Here’s a few pieces of the data.
> The response that most impressed me was to the question of whether home air conditioning was a necessity. In 2006, 70 percent deemed it a necessity. This year the figure was down to 54 percent. Dishwashers, clothes dryers, microwave ovens and television sets are also seen as necessities by fewer people now than in 2006.
> Overall, 52 percent think a television is a necessity. That is the lowest figure since that question was first asked in 1973. . . And appearances to the contrary, only 4 percent of Americans think an iPod is a necessity.
And most of those 4 percent must be under the age of 30. More on the Pew study from [Sightline Daily](http://rss.sightline.org/daily_score/archive/2009/04/23/luxury-or-necessity).
> Only time will tell if this is a lasting trend, or just a blip. But it’s sure an interesting demonstration of a fact that’s well understood in academic circles, but is perhaps a surprise to a society that’s grown accustomed to plenty: our needs are, to a large extent, a *social construction*. We need a lot less than we think we do; and much of the time, our perception of need is defined by what our peers and neighbors have, or what they want, and not by what makes us [genuinely happy](http://cascadiascorecard.typepad.com/blog/2004/06/the_economics_o.html). In fact, we often have absolutely [no idea what makes us happy or fulfilled](http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/christopher.hsee/vita/Papers/DecisionAndExperience.pdf).
(Credit to [sannelodahl](http://www.flickr.com/photos/sannelodahl/) for the photo.)