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Yesterday's TV, Today's Economy: Roseanne


They epitomized the blue collar family, but in 2011, the Connors' income would be higher than the median for American households.

Few families more aptly embodied the spirit of John Lennon's populist anthem "Working Class Hero" than the Connors of Landford, Illinois. Both armed only with high school diplomas, parents Roseanne and Dan were unequivocally blue collar -- Roseanne, earning roughly $7.37 per hour in 1988 as an assembly line worker at Wellman Plastics and Dan finding sporadic work as a construction contractor and making the national hourly wage of $12.15, according to 1987 figures.

Assuming Dan worked full-time, the household would have a combined income of just under $40,000, allowing them to make mortgage payments on their $100,000 outdated three-bedroom, two-storey home on 714 Delaware Street and raise three children -- one of whom would eventually attend art school in Chicago.

Of course, that $40,000 figure is generous since Dan didn't earn a steady paycheck and Roseanne soon left Wellman Plastics for a variety of minimum wage jobs (including waiting tables Rodbells Luncheonette.) Dan took an ill-timed shot at the American dream, just as the 1990-1991 recession was upon America, and failed as the proprietor of the Lanford Custom Cycles motorcycle repair shop. But the following year, the Lanford Lunch Box, Roseanne's own business venture, stayed afloat, perhaps due to the rebounding economy. Despite their financial hardships, the outspoken matriarch and her better half always managed to make ends meet.

Although the Connors seemed to epitomize the poor, struggling American family, they fared better than at least a few other popular TV families. In a 2005 analysis of TV dad salaries, ranked Dan's job as a construction worker 53rd out of 60 -- but their standing as a two-income earner family would have placed them significantly higher, at or above Dennis the Menace's household.

Furthermore, in today's economy, the Connor family unit would exceed the median household income, which, according to 2009 U.S. Census Bureau data was $53,966 for the state of Illinois. The U.S. national salary for a full-time construction worker is $40,165 and Roseanne, as a restauranteur would earn around $23,000 -- assuming she'd have to split income with her two co-owners and that the Lanford Lunch Box would average a pre-tax profit margin of between 4-7%.

Those coupon-cutting Connors, living on a limited budget, would actually fall quite comfortably into America's upper-middle class. Not too shabby for a couple of blue-collar high school graduates. Although I suppose it could've turned out better for the Connors, say, had they won the multi-million dollar Illinois State lottery.
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