Gender Issues: Pricey Prom

by Elaine Schwartz    •    May 6, 2013    •    806 Views

By Lilli DeBode, guest blogger and senior at Kent Place School

Spring is in the air! The snow has melted, the birds are chirping, and the flowers are blooming. And every family with a high schooler knows what that means… PROM! Oh, prom and all its glory; the shimmering dresses, the tuxedos with brightly colored vests, the high heeled shoes, the hair, the jewelry, the makeup, the corsages. And although it sounds like I’m simply listing all of the wonderful (and of course, essential) factors that go into prom, this is also the list of expenditures the parents of the prom-goers will find on their credit card bills—bills that (on average) add up to $1,139.

Yes, you read that correctly. According to a recent Visa survey that polled 3,000 households across the country, families usually spend more than $1,000 dollars on prom. That is a 40% increase from two years ago! Even more surprising, surveyed parents who make below $50,000 a year, planned to spend more on prom than wealthier parents. According to Sue Rosenberger, the owner of a prom dress store in Michigan, it is normal for working class families to splurge for the event; “Some will save up for months, and pay in tens and $1 bills.”

Why do families with tight budgets spend so extravagantly on one night for their teenagers while wealthier families choose to save? Maybe it’s because for middle and upper class families, prom could be seen as just another social event, and if a family was deciding between prom and another luxury like a vacation, they would choose the vacation. For working class families however, prom may be the only big social event of the year. Thus, in many cases no expense is spared to make it a perfect night.

Sources and Resources: To listen to a podcast on the costs of prom, click here. To read about the Visa survey, click here.

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