For instance, some 62% of households earning less than $20,000 annually owned between two and four televisions, according to the 2009 Residential Energy Consumption Survey, conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy. That compares to 68% of those earning $120,000 or more…

Still, the improvement in living standards cited by conservative researchers is likely due to three factors. Prices for many appliances and electronics have dropped significantly, making them less expensive for everyone.

Also, during the boom times before the Great Recession, many Americans loaded up on debt to finance purchases and keep up with their neighbor’s lifestyles.

Finally, government policies, including tax credits, put more money in the hands of lower-income families, Mathur said.