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The recent movie Loving is acclaimed for its historical accuracy. Whereas the story about the case in front of the supreme court is documented as someone from a much later generation I am skeptic but uninformed about the economic situation portrayed in the movie.

The main character works in construction (Virgina, USA) as a bricklayer in the early 1960s. From this income, no inheritance and a small side income from betting on quarter mile car races he is able to support: his wife, 3 children, two cars (at least one is a V8 pony car) and can afford to buy a decent 3 bedroom house in rural Virginia.

From today's view with a median income for such a job of $40k this seems not affordable. So is the the situation portrayed in the movie accurate and if so what changed relative to 1960?

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    Construction was a high paying job in 1965 babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/… – DavePhD Jun 20 '17 at 12:46
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    Construction is a high paying job today on Brazil. For something small like changing the floor tiles of our bathroom, we had to dish out something like 500 US Dollars, for two days worth of work, plus the cost of the materials. That's like a quarter of what I'm paid... per month, and I work on one of the best paying fields that there is on Brazil. – T. Sar Jun 20 '17 at 13:28
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    @CPerkins yes, this is a 3 bedroom house on the actual street where they lived for sale now for $97,740 trulia.com/property/… and he was a construction worker so he didn't need to "buy" the home. – DavePhD Jun 20 '17 at 14:45
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    @CPerkins Very affordable. Less than $500 a month. Even if you consider property taxes and insurance, someone with $40k a year income would only be using about 15-20% of their income for housing. – DavePhD Jun 20 '17 at 15:01
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    Perfectly doable, from personal experience growing up in the rural northeast not much later than that. Land prices & construction materials were considerably lower in real terms. – jamesqf Jun 20 '17 at 17:46
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In brief, yes, the economics is correct and possible because he was paid $5 an hour as a brick mason, which is equivalent to $37 an hour or $75,000 a year in 2017, and because he built a simple cinderblock house himself.


According to a 29 June 1967 Jet magazine article:

White construction worker Richard Loving, and his Negro wife, Mildred, refused to see their marriage smashed because of bigotry. They lived like vagabonds, eventually huddling three children from farm house to farm house and from city to city...

The article quotes Richard Loving as saying after the decision:

Now we can build a home in the state of our birth

According to a September 1967 Ebony article:

Richard Loving had a "1964 grey Ford sedan" and is a "$5-a-hour brick mason".

Last year alone, Loving and two Negro friends won 38 trophies and $2,700 in prize money for drag racing in Virginia and Maryland. The partnership included mechanic Raymond Green and grocery store owner Percy Fortune. ...

They have land, money, plans for new home

According to the 2004 article Mr. and Mrs. Loving: The Caroline County couple who reluctantly changed history:

He worked as a bricklayer, but virtually every spare moment was spent drag racing in a car that he co-owned with a black friend. ...

[after the decision] the couple moved back to Central Point, where Richard built a simple, cinder-block house just up the street from both of their parents, on Passing Road.

A recent article says that the below photo is that of Richard and Mildred's home on Passing Road.

(photo by Sally Jacobs)

enter image description here

  • So... What's the answer? – Samuel Jun 20 '17 at 22:38
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    @Oddthinking Thanks. Because "lived like vagabonds" and "$2,700 in prize money" [split three ways] was not making that clear. I clearly didn't read the linked sources, I assumed those would be there only to provide evidence for a conclusion that seemed to be missing. – Samuel Jun 21 '17 at 0:31
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    @Samuel The parts of the movie that are untrue are the portrayal of the oldest child, Sidney, as being the biological son of Richard, and born after they are married; the portrayal of certain people as darker skinned than they really were; and a failure to acknowledge that Mildred considered herself to be 100% Native American, having no black ancestry. But those would be separate questions/answers. – DavePhD Jun 21 '17 at 0:48
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    @Nat and 1967 median new home price was $22,000 census.gov/const/uspricemon.pdf , so even if he hadn't built it himself, it would only be 2 years salary to buy a new house. – DavePhD Jun 21 '17 at 2:34
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    @Nat on the one hand there's inflation, on the second hand there's improved efficiency and the costs of lots of kind of technology going down... but on the third hand there's the fact that a 1964 Ford wouldn't be saleable if it was a new car today. You can't sell a new car in the US without computerized emissions controls, a full set of airbags, traction control, tire pressure monitoring, and (as of 2018) a rear-view camera, so the minimal acceptable car has gotten much more expensive in real terms. So have houses, albeit maybe not to the same extent. – hobbs Jun 21 '17 at 3:34

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