WASHINGTON—A report released Tuesday by a team of researchers at the Brookings Institution has confirmed that the United States currently has enough chairs and there is no urgent need to produce new ones.
Representing a five-year inquiry into the nation’s seating availability and quality, the 85-page study of American homes, offices, dining establishments, public spaces, and patios has determined that, for now, the nation has “plenty” of chairs and can get by just fine with the chairs it already possesses.
“Through rigorous observation and analysis, we have verified that there is absolutely no shortage of chairs at this time,” said the report’s lead author, Simon Clouse, noting that in addition to wooden chairs and plastic chairs, there are also enough cushy, upholstered chairs. “According to our findings, many chairs are presently unoccupied, and there is no reason people cannot sit in these empty chairs instead of purchasing new ones.”
“Even if every person decided to sit down at the exact same time, there would still be an adequate number of chairs to go around,” Clouse added. “As far as chairs go, we’re basically set.”
According to the report, chair production can cease entirely with no negative consequences for American consumers, as the many good chairs now on store shelves and available at garage sales are sufficient to satisfy the country’s seating requirements for the immediate future. Though some citizens reportedly believe they require more chairs, the study found that most had not taken into full consideration the number of armchairs, folding chairs, Adirondack chairs, leather chairs, swivel chairs, and rocking chairs already in existence, not to mention all the beanbag chairs, wingback chairs, director’s chairs, recliners, papasan chairs, and deck chairs.
The report also stated that when people find themselves in a place where there are not enough chairs to meet their needs, there are, in fact, usually one or two just over in the next room.
“It’s important to keep in mind that our data doesn’t even take into account couches, benches, or stools,” said Clouse, adding that the report likewise does not factor in nontraditional sitting surfaces such as tall curbs, ottomans, large rocks, edges of desks or tables, or pillows on the floor. “Throw all those into the mix, and we’re talking about a whole lot of places to sit down.”
Chair manufacturers have reportedly taken exception to the report, pointing out that almost everywhere you look, people are standing up, and if there were really enough chairs, those people would be sitting down. Industry officials also argue that sometimes chairs break, which can cause their occupants to tumble backward or crash down onto the floor, risking injury and embarrassment. Furthermore, they note, old chairs can get wobbly.
However, the Brookings research team maintains that most broken chairs can be fixed—meaning there is no need to replace them—and that when a chair wobbles, simply placing a coaster or small book beneath the problematic leg can usually restore its balance.
Researchers did concede, though, that there are still some instances when it might be within reason to acquire a brand-new chair.
“Chairs that are covered in fabric can sometimes become unsightly or even scuzzy if one frequently spills food and beverages onto them or if one owns pets,” said Clouse, though he remarked that in such a situation, one could instead opt to reupholster the chair or lay a blanket over the mess, in essence creating an entirely new and fresh seating surface for the chair and obviating the need to replace it. “And there may also be times when a person just wants to get a comfier chair. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
“Will we need more chairs eventually?” he continued. “I don’t doubt it. But for now, we’re definitely okay.”
The report’s authors went on to explain that while it’s true there sometimes aren’t enough chairs to accommodate a group at a restaurant, you can usually ask to borrow one from a table that has extras and it’s no problem at all.