a loose essay in figures

This is the weekend edition of Culture Study — the newsletter from Anne Helen Petersen, which you can read about here. If you like it and want more like it in your inbox, consider subscribing

A few stats, words, and charts that have been knocking around in my brain, trying to arrive at something like meaning. Let me know which ones knock around in your brain, too.

In 1935, a thrifty college student could make a clothing budget for four new dresses a year, with an average cost of $5. That’s about $95 a dress in today’s dollars.

Cost of a “budget” dress today at Target: $22.39

Cost of the Dawn Dress, from Christy Dawn: $218

Breakdown of the cost of Ashley Dawn’s Dawn Dress:

Summarizing a line from Spring Patagonia catalog that I just recycled: “No seriously, we want you to buy less stuff”

From the Patagonia Gear & Repair section of their website:

Price of a Patagonia Men’s Down Sweater Jacket: $229

Price of Target Men’s Puffer Jacket: $48 (on sale from $60)

Review of Target Men’s Puffer Jacket:

Average number of pounds of clothes each American throws away each year: 82

Patagonia revenue in 2021: $234.4 million

Target revenue in 2021: $93.6 billion

Target starting wage: $15 an hour

Sustainability summary for A New Day, which makes the Target Dress:

Suggested percentage of take home pay to spend on clothes/shoes per month: 5%

Approximate amount a family of four with two adults working at Target could allocate to clothes/shoes every month: $187.50

Average associate pay at Goodwill: $10 an hour

What Goodwill and other organizations are allowed to pay mild and moderately disabled workers employed at their stores: less than $1 an hour

Graph of increased American savings during COVID (via)

Average new and used car payments in 2019:

Graph of the Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index from 1995 through today:

Quote from a guy in auto industry finance who DMed me after I tweeted that graph: “There used to be a natural ceiling for used vehicle prices and it just seems like used is getting closer and closer to new.”


Cost of a 1998 Toyota Tacoma with 112,213 miles: $13,995

Average new car price in December 2020: $40,107

Average cost of a used car in December 2020: $27,689

Project public transit shortfall through 2023: $39.3 billion

Percentage of Americans with no access to public transportation: 45%

Average full-time infant care costs in Arizona: $10,687

Average cost of in-state college tuition in Arizona: $10,557

Percentage of typical family’s income allocated to infant care costs: 19.3%

Poverty rate for early childhood teachers and caregivers in Arizona: 20.5%

Advertised hourly salary for lead preschool teacher in Missoula, Montana: $11

Monthly pay, before taxes, for someone making $11 an hour: $1907

Average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Missoula: $918

Gap between salary for an early education teacher with a bachelor’s degree and K-8 teacher with a bachelor’s degree: 28.8%

Percentage of American workforce unionized in 1955: 33.2

Percentage of American workforce unionized today: 10.8

Percentage of K-12 teachers in unions in 1999: 79

Percentage of K-12 teachers in unions in 2017: 70

Percentage of California early childhood home care providers who voted in favor of forming a union: 97%

Estimated jobs supported in the local area through Glacier tourism: 5230

Zipline Guide Hourly Salary at Whitefish, Mountain: $11

Average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Whitefish, Montana: $1815

Tourist Spending in Flathead County, West of the Park, in 2016: $505.5 million

Tourist Spending in Glacier County, East of the Park, home to the Blackfeet Reservation: $92.7 million

Date the Blackfeet Tribal Council voted to close down the East Entrance to Glacier National Park — and all tourism — because of COVID: June 25

Number of Deaths in Montana from COVID: 1436

Portion of those deaths that were Native American: 1/3

Current Blackfeet COVID vaccination rate: 95%

Who Blackfeet Tribal Health is Currently Vaccinating: “Anyone and everyone” over 18 years old, including non-tribal members

Retail sales increase in 2020, despite COVID-related shutdowns: 3%

Retail sales projected growth in 2021: 10%

Percent increase in Amazon net profit in 2020: 84

Decline in postal workers’ average earnings, adjusted for inflation:

$66,437 (1976-1979) to $59,048 (2015-2019)

Amazon’s federal income tax rate in 2018: 1.2%

Amount Jeff Bezos would pay in state taxes if Washington passed a proposed wealth tax: $2 billion

The boost to the economy, according to a London School of Economics study over five decades, when you cut taxes for the rich: non-existent

Things I Read and Loved This Week:

If you read this newsletter and value it, consider going to the paid version. One of the perks = weirdly fun/interesting/generative discussion threads, just for subscribers, every week. This week’s Friday Thread was on what rash decisions turned out best for you, and I cannot tell you the number of gems in that thread, including one that involves a body stocking.

If you are a contingent worker or un- or under-employed, just email and I’ll give you a free subscription, no questions asked. If you’d like to underwrite one of those subscriptions, you can donate one here.

If you’re reading this in your inbox, you can find a shareable version online here. You can follow me on Twitter here, and Instagram here. Feel free to comment below — and you can always reach me at annehelenpetersen@gmail.com.