It's one of the big distinguishing factors between previous generations and the current generation. Years ago, there weren't the same facilities for people to go into debt, so they didn't. Almost everything was purchased with good old cash, from cars, clothes, and more often than today, even homes.
Arguably, this going into debt to purchase more goods leads to a higher standard of living, since we purchase more goods, the economy expands, and supposedly society is better off because of it. I tend to agree with this, but it takes a lot of discipline not to go overboard. While people complain about not having money, most people I know, even those in low income levels, must have their cell phones, with unlimited evenings and weekends, internet, cable, good clothes, new car, and the list goes on and on. Of course you could argue that they don't own anything, since their in so much debt.
If you go to many schools today, the students drive better cars than the teachers. That in itself tells you a whole lot.
"it's kind of like an Airbus, it's an engineering marvel, but there's no sense of passion" -- J. Clarkson re: Coxster