Written by: Taylor Duff | Staff Writer
Living in America today is extremely difficult for many, and the recent rise in inflation has much to do with it. Inflation is the rate at which goods and services rise in price and occurs due to purchasing falls. Americans have been struggling to keep bills paid and manage expenses for food, gas, healthcare and education. Food prices, for instance, have increased by 11% between 2021 to 2022 and then continued to rise through 2023. This is a drastic change as prices for food increased by 2% every year since 1980.
The significant increase has caused many Americans to panic; as some may need to take on more employment and give up a lot, even including necessities. Americans have stated their concerns in millions of TikToks, Instagram reels and Facebook posts, and if people didn’t see the thousands of posts, they could just take a walk into a grocery store and see the increase in prices.
The current inflation epidemic is directly connected to the COVID-19 pandemic as supply chains were interrupted and people lost their businesses, increasing unemployment rates. There were also trillions of dollars in stimulus checks distributed, which means Americans have to pay that back in taxes whether they like it or not.
The housing market is the largest concern involving inflation. The average three-bedroom home across America right now is $160 thousand to $800 thousand which means an average monthly payment would be roughly $1,000 to $4,000.
With homes set at half a million dollars, Millennials and Generation Z will have to settle for a one-bedroom apartment in a semi-safe area for $1,300 a month. These are just the rent prices that Americans have to take into account, not to mention their utilities such as water/plumbing, electricity, garbage/recycling and the like.
Let’s take it back just a few years and see the difference: for a three-bedroom home in 2018, rent would average $1,200 to $2,000 depending on its location. Compared to 2023, it’s approximately double what it used to be.
Let’s take it way back to 1980, when the average three-bedroom home in America was about $250 to $300, vastly different from 40 years ago when people with minimum wage jobs were making $2.90 an hour. Not to discredit Americans who had to survive off of those wages in the ’80s — many of them had kids and focused much of their time working — but in general, Americans at the time also had access to more affordable education and healthcare.
Americans know healthcare isn’t free; much of it is insanely overpriced, and unfortunately, the average American citizen can’t afford it. Healthcare prices in 2023 averaged about $500 to $1000 per month per person, depending on what the insurance included, and that is typically just health insurance, not dental, physical therapy, medication and the like. There is the Oregon Health Plan, but only some households qualify for it and it is usually provided for children’s needs only.
Where inflation comes into play with Healthcare is the rollercoaster of oscillating inflation rates. Much of that has to do with how healthcare has to always be available; people can enter a hospital to get care no matter what, but unfortunately, the money has to be paid back through Americans’ pockets or credit agencies.
This is why many Americans have outstanding hospital bills which translate to debt. Healthcare in the ’80s averaged from $100 to $400 depending on what was offered, which isn’t that drastic of a change, but average inflation rates from 1980-2018 increased by 5.22% per year.
Lastly, education is at the forefront for Generation Z and future generations as many are struggling to decide whether they can afford college. Students who plan to get their Bachelor’s degree take an average of five years to complete depending on the program. In those five years, students can take anywhere from three to six courses and each course is about $300 to $500, which is the lower spectrum of costs at a less expensive university.
Most students have to get funding which generally translates to student loans. Those student loans then turn into debt reaching about $38 thousand on average. There isn’t much students can do. After all, the goal is to get a job that will repay that money, but repaying these loans will likely be difficult.
The average amount a college education cost in 1980 was about $10,000 annually compared to $26 thousand per year in 2023 which is about $104 thousand for 4 years depending on the degree completed in that time. A Harvard education in 1938 was $420 per year, which is baffling.
As a Generation Z student working day and night for her college degree, the way America looks is frightening. Prices are through the roof and employment rates compared to inflation rates aren’t matching up. Completing university with a Bachelor’s degree doesn’t seem to mean much regarding success because, ultimately, we will all be struggling if things don’t change.
The work Americans do won’t matter soon enough and we will only be benefiting the more wealthy. Here’s hoping for change and recognition of how damaging society is and no longer claiming people are lazy or weak because of how difficult it is even to survive. Rebuilding and healing need to happen.
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