Watch TV and Go Into Debt

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January 02, 2008 | 11,673 views

Dr. Schor from Harvard University wrote the book The Overspent American which provides some marvelous insights on television watching. She conducted a large-scale study of American spending and saving habits and correlated the results with other lifestyle factors.

She concluded that for every hour of television a person watches per week, the average American spends $200. Sitting in front of the television five extra hours a week (two sitcoms a night) raises your yearly spending by about $1000.

Indebtedness as an outgrowth of TV watching arises not so much from viewers repeated exposure to advertising, but from their attempts to emulate the lavish lifestyles enjoyed by fictional characters in soap operas and prime-time television dramas. The more television people watch the more they tend to believe that ordinary citizens have servants, limousines, and huge houses.

TV will show 24 year old waitresses with expansive lofts and exotic sports cars, not ratty one-room apartments and battered Geo Metros. In addition, folks who watch a lot of TV are more willing to go into debt in pursuit of what they believe is an accurate depiction of normal life. Consumers rack up heavy credit-card debt chasing the televised fantasy or in academic jargon "engage in competitive consumption for the purpose of image management."

Contrary to popular conceptions, Dr. Schor found a positive correlation with higher education and indebtedness. The further people have climbed up the educations ladder, the less likely the are to save money.

The heaviest shoppers are women with graduate degrees, which may be attributed to their heightened awareness of the trappings of social status.

Those most likely to live within their means and save money are the millionaires next door, folks with less formal education who have worked hard building their own businesses. Not surprisingly, the more successful people are with their own businesses the less time they have for watching TV.

Kids are by far the most voracious viewers, A report in a recent JAMA claims that children in the US watch 15,000 to 18,000 hours of television between he ages of 2 and 17 as compared to 12,000 hours of school.

Many medical studies have correlated excessive TV viewing with childhood obesity and adult depression. Certain crime statistics also correlate well with the market penetration of television, larceny and burglary both increased as a corresponding rate following TV's rise in popularity in the 1950s.

Stereophile October 1998 43.

COMMENT: We have to seriously restrict our TV viewing if we want are to ever have any hope of recapturing time for relationships and the important items of life.