What is truly essential to modern life in the United States? This is a question I ask my Economics class each year. What is the difference between a want and a need? How do we differentiate between them? I already explored what basic human needs are in my previous article in, How to Analyze if your Basic Needs are Being Met,” which went into depth about, “Maslov’s Hierarchy of Needs and how we can use it as a checklist to see where we are in the pursuit of those needs being met, so I am not going to go into that here. I am going to take this prompt more as a material goods list of wants (or needs) depending on your situation.

The List

#1 – Reliable Transportation – Having reliable transportation, either public transport, or a private vehicle is really a requirement in American society today if you are going to have a job. According to “The Atlantic”, 7.5 million households do not have a private car, a whopping 60% of these individuals have very low income, and 60%, so there is a strong correlation of not having a car and living below the poverty line.

Free man driving car image

#2A House or Apartment – Homelessness has been growing at a rate of six percent per year in the U.S. since 2017, as stated by endhomeless.com. Further out of 421,392 individuals classified as homeless 127,768 had been classified as chronically homeless. Both of these numbers were all time records.

#3 – Quality Education – Research conducted at UC Davis found that not having a high school diploma gave individuals a 29% chance of living in poverty, whereas having a bachelors degree lowered that to 4%.

NASA Univision Hispanic Education Campaign (201002230010HQ)
NASA Univision Hispanic Education Campaign (201002230010HQ) by NASA HQ PHOTO is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

#4 – Reliable Internet Access The Department of Health and Human Services calculated during the 2018 census that 1 out of 6 people in the United States have no internet access. Not having access to the internet in today’s highly connected world makes it very difficult to meet one’s basic needs.

wocintech (microsoft) - 69
wocintech (microsoft) – 69 by wocintechchat.com is licensed under CC-BY 2.0

#5 – A Reliable Cellphone or Smartphone – Cell phone ownership has increased dramatically in the U.S. over the last thirty years. Currently it is estimated by Pew Research Center that 97% of all Americans own a cell phone. Not having a cell phone can be a major obstacle to obtaining and keeping a job.

#6 – A Job – The unemployment rate according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in June of 2023 was 3.6%, which historically speaking is pretty good. In essence, we are only 3.6% from having full employment (everyone who wants a job can find one within 6 months of being unemployed). This is good news for job seekers.

Businesswoman working png sticker, job

#7 – A Dog or Cat – Having a dog or cat can be a great source of stress relief. According to Forbes Pet Ownership Statistics 2023, 44.5% of U.S. households own dogs and 29% of households own cats. Owning a cat or dog lowers cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, feelings of loneliness, anxiety and symptoms of PTSD as stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A long-haired cat snuggling up to a dog

#8 – A Gym Membership – According to zippia.com, 64.19 million Americans are members of a gym or health club, which breaks down to about 19% of the total population. Staying fit and healthy is essential to good work performance and longevity.

#9 – Quality Health Insurance – Health care in the United States is a for-profit industry in most cases and must be purchased via some sort of health plan. As of 2021, approximately 91.7% of people in the United States had some type of health insurance (Congressional Research Service). Health care in the United States is very expensive compared to most other Industrialized countries, in 2020 coming at $11,702 per capita per theglobaleconomy.com. Without good health insurance those expenses will come out of one’s pocket or push one into debt.

#10 – Netflix – Life in the U.S. can be expensive, but technology gives many cost-effective entertainment options. For as low as $9.99 / month, you can have access to large collection of entertainment services. The Netflix streaming library constantly updates with new material making it possible to always have some top-notch entertainment at your fingertips. Statista.com reports that 38 percent of Americans currently have a Netflix subscription.

The Department of Health and Human Services calculated during the 2018 census that 1 out of 6 people in the United States have no internet access.

Television screen with Netflix logo

I hope you have found this list informative. I tried to dig up some interesting facts to make this list unique and also reliable. It was interesting to see the different percentages of Americans who have each of these items and what some of the correlations were.

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3 responses to “List of Top Ten Things that are Essential to Modern Life in the United States Right Now (2023)”

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  3. This is a fantastic blog post!

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