Jessica B. Peixotto,

Getting and Spending at the Professional Standard of Living:
A Study of the Costs of Living an Academic Life


Excerpts from the Original Electronic Text at the Internet Archive.


{1}Up to the present, with rare exception the precise terms of the getting and spending of professional people has been shut away in the romantic and shadowy domain of home life, " hopelessly private," ' ' sacred. " . . . The study herewith presented represents a break in this conventional silence. What follows displays in considerable detail the getting and the spending of careful professional families. . . .

{2}This examination of a reasoned professional standard should also contribute facts to answer the more immediate and practical question, what does the American standard of living cost a family of man and wife with the "standard" family of two growing children? The facts of this investigation and others the author has not yet published suggest the answer to be : It costs about $7,000 a year. The statement that a comfort standard spells desires which cost from $7,000 to $10,000, may at first thought seem to have in it more than one element of absurdity. Yet to the author, the pretension seems a sobering truth. The research here reported leads to this statement as a major conclusion. True, current statistics tell us that in our prosperous United States only one percent of the nation can command an income of $10,000 or more; that scarcely three percent of our people have $5,000 or over to spend. But the question is not of income. $7,000 is the sum needed to satisfy a set of desires for goods and services, desires that at the present time influence widely and profoundly the way men earn their money and the way they spend it. The unswerving faith of our time in the social value of a rising standard of living; the growing belief especially among wage earners in a universal "right" to a comfort standard ; above all business influences persuasive, these are forces primary in shaping this American standard that costs at least $7,000. . . .

{3}Those who read the following pages are asked then to consider seriously the hypothesis that the items and costs of family expenditure the 96 families included in this study have reported, express the stock desires of the average American consumer in income classes other than the very wealthy. . . .

{4}The study that follows is none the less in first instance an investigation of the costs of living an academic life, a description of the way the several ranks in a university faculty follow, on the one hand, the dictates of an academic standard of living and on the other hand try to "pay as they go" while making and using incomes ranging from $1800 to $16,000. Primarily and principally, the study sets forth the goods and service aspects of living an academic life at Berkeley and the costs thereof in 1922.


Typical Family Expense Histories at a Professional Standard

{5}A series of twelve typical family expense records appears in this chapter as further illustration of the characteristics of income and expenditure peculiar to this professional standard. For certain persons, concrete expense accounts give perhaps a clearer picture of the standard of living and the methods of expenditure than the massed statistics of previous chapters.

{6}Twelve expense accounts have therefore been selected from among the 96 household expense histories collected. Each budget record shows the particulars of income and expenditure of a given family. The expense records were chosen to show the range of income, $1,800 to $10,000, and to illustrate the variations in type of family rather than because they were especially exemplary specimens of the art of spending. They are simply examples at characteristic income levels. . . .

{7}These are families with total incomes higher than 84% of the population of the United States can command.

{8}The level of living shown is none the less invariably " simple." . . . A candid inspection of these expense histories will bring the conviction that the expenditures are those of a spending class consciously seeking the means whereby to be able to acquire and give knowledge, a class with no desire to make an appearance of material prosperity, rigorously holding food, clothing and shelter as secondary to some scheme of expenditure that calculates the hazards of life, while it at the same time aims to pay for those things that express simply the satisfactions of hospitality, generosity and citizen life. . . .

Budget No. 6.
Family of 4.

{9}Faculty member and his wife, both past 35 and two daughters, 20 and 16 years of age respectively. The elder daughter married during the year. The parents of the faculty member visited with the family for part of the year, affecting the food costs.

{10}Property resources negligible; but the faculty member adds to a $3,400 salary by summer session teaching and the wife's work adds $750.

{11}Expenditure for food was $835 for five grown people but the daughter left in August. This is exactly the median proportion for the $4,000 to $5,000 level of expenditure.

{12}Clothing expenditure is above the average. The faculty member used $190, his wife $180. Clothing for the two girls cost $250.

{13}Housing costs are a trifle below the average, including $350 rental for nine months. The family purchased a new house in October making a first payment of $2,000 which, being taken out of savings, does not appear in the schedule. They pay $80.00 a month principal and interest on a $6,000 mortgage.


Total Income: $4822.80

      Regular salary: $3425.00
       Summer session: $500.00
       Other: $100.00
       Reading at the University occasionally: 741.80
    Income from property: $56.00


Total Exp.: $4997.80*

Food: $835.00 (16.7%)
Clothing: $626.60 (12.6%)
    Man: $191.75 (3.8%)
    Wife: $181.35 (3.7%)
    Children (2): $253.50 (5.1%)
Housing: $669.50 (13.4%)
House Operation: $431.60 (8.6%)
Miscellaneous: $2435.10 (48.7%)
    Investment: 841.90 (16.9%)
    Automobile: 420.00 (8.4%)
    Recreation: $385.00 (7.7%)
    Health: $77.00 (1.5%)
    Dependents $120.00 (2.4%)
    Gifts $260.00 (5.2%)
    Education $106.20 (2.1%)
    Professional $65.00 (1.3%)
    Incidentals $80.00 (1.6%)
    Associations $45.00 (0.9%)
    Church: $15.00 (0.3%)
    Charity: $20.00 (0.4%)
    Tobacco: --

{14}House operation expenditure is low. Only $6.00 went for service although the housewife also does outside work. However, two grown daughters at home doubtless helped in the housework. There is a vacuum cleaner but no washer. The family purchased very little furniture for the new house. Light and heat costs were low; little economies show everywhere.

{15}Miscellaneous costs were distinctly above the average, especially those for recreation, education and gifts. A six-weeks' vacation and week-end trips cost $250 a year. They have an automobile and use it more than the average, $35.00 a month being spent for this purpose. Entertainment costs of $75.00 are the expenses of a wedding just as the $200 for gifts is largely an expenditure for the trousseau, etc., of the bride. Under "education" $90.00 went for music lessons. No books were purchased. The faculty member spent but $25.00 for professional or technical books, $65.00 being the total for professional expenses. This is average. The health of the family is evidently good for health costs are very low, $77.00. Dentist bills amounted to only $25.00. Of course, there are no young children in this family. The support of dependents outside the home amounted to $120 a year. The faculty member belongs to the Faculty Club and his wife to one social club. The expenditure for associations is below the average. Church and charity expenditures are also small. No tobacco was purchased.

{16}"This family is industrious and frugal, having a few comforts and substantial savings," said interviewer. The family knew how to enjoy what they had. The wife said she needed household "help."

* Deficit met by surplus in savings but possibly in part a hold-over of bills from previous year.

Hanover College History Department