When the question was first asked in 1996, only about a third of Americans considered the microwave a necessity. A decade later, most Americans couldn’t live without one — 68% called the microwave a necessity, a 36-point jump in 10 years. But just three years and a recession later, many have returned to a more retro view of their kitchens; fewer than half (47%) now say the microwave is a necessity. A similar fate has met what once were can’t-live-without products such as home air conditioning, dishwasher and clothes dryer, all of which have seen double-digit drops in the number of Americans calling them a necessity post-recession. Even the mighty television saw a considerable drop in luxury-necessity perception. Only 52% currently consider TV a necessity, the smallest share since this question was first asked more than 35 years ago. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.