Campus activities help students deal with income inequality


David Delgado/The Daily Cougar

The typical rich American’s spending on education has doubled since 1984, and rent has doubled as a share of a poorer American’s spending, according to research by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In a country with increasing income inequality, the idea of the “typical American” leaves out many individuals.

Compared to the spending of $22,000 per year by the poorest quintile, the richest spend more than $100,000 each year. By breaking overall spending into groups, the bottom 20 percent of Americans typically spend mostly on food consumed at home, utilities and health care. In contrast, the top 20 percent of richer Americans spend mostly on education, apparel and entertainment.

 College students on the other hand have to spend on both education and rent. Students don’t exactly have plenty of disposable income, and many work to pay for school.

The way Americans spend money across all income brackets show two broad observations. All families with different incomes spend about half their income on homes and transportation. This suggests a tight relationship exists between marginal income growth and marginal spending growth on real estate and transportation. Compared to other nations, American culture places a high value on housing prices, and its suburban sprawl entices car ownership, which is supported by its infrastructure built for a car culture.

In the U.K., the typical family spends 20 percent of its income on culture, sports and entertainment, while America spends the least on culture and alcohol. Japan spends more than twice the typical American on food consumed at home, which America also spends the least on.

The way younger generations live today, there would be more money remaining for smartphones, dinners with friends and cultural entertainment. These people are moving to urban areas where they save on real estate and transit and are preserving enough of their disposable income to live a connected social life outside of work.

According to Forbes, college students waste money on textbooks, tuition, automobiles, housing, school supplies, food and socializing. Five of those items are inevitably expensive. No college student in their right mind would willingly pay full price on textbooks unless the only place to buy them is at the University bookstore. Though, with numerous online alternative book-buying options, it shouldn’t be too difficult.

Another thing college students waste money on is social activities. Not enough students take advantage of the free on-campus activities and athletic events available. While it’s hard to ballpark how much would be saved, these are free college experiences that can’t be bought elsewhere. The Student Program Board often has free movie screenings in the University Center Theater. The Council of Ethnic Organizations often hosts an event that celebrates diversity. Every athletic or sporting event on campus is free with a UH student ID.

According to a poll on The Daily Cougar, students typically spend their money on food, which doesn’t come as a surprise since food is what a majority of us value over anything else. Entertainment and going out was the second-highest category of student spending.

“I spend most of my money on food because I have to eat and entertainment. I go out to eat often,” said public relations senior Jeanette Rivera.

“I think most students spend their money on food and gasoline, especially if you’re a commuter student.”

Personally, I probably spend the least on school supplies, including textbooks. Out of all the textbooks I’ve used in college, the only books I plan to keep are ones I want to refer to that have to do with my career and the e-books I can’t sell back.

“I spend an unbelievable amount on food alone,” said education junior Alexia Banos.

“I probably spend more than the average student. I work a lot and live off campus. My spending habits are terrible — I do a lot of impulse buying.”

Cooking at home and taking advantage of University dining options were good ways to cut down spending on food, Rivera said. Rather than spending as much time off campus, attend events on campus and take advantage of those options.

I don’t entirely blame anyone who doesn’t take advantage of free things on campus. If I attended at least half the free events that fall into my lap, I’d probably save enough money to pay for another class. College students love anything that’s free. There’s no shame.

With the campus offering free events, students get to experience the college social life with and without the struggle. I believe students don’t take advantage of all the free opportunities because of American consumerism. Just like the rest of America, college students are suffering from the failure to appreciate what’s handed to them.

Opinion columnist Gemrick Curtom is a public relations junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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