People smarter than me studying the historical price of gasoline and comparing it to income have come to the same conclusion I did: While gas is expensive, it’s not the “record levels” that the media is making it out to be and neither is it having the same economic impact, even for the very poor.
Even looking at the poorest fifth of the population, the fraction of income required to buy gasoline is still lower than it was in the early ‘80s. Not surprisingly, the fraction has risen a great deal over the last few years, but it still has not surpassed its historical peak. The same holds true for every other income quintile, but the effect is more muted, since higher income means any given price difference will correspond to a smaller fraction of income. (If gas prices stay at their current price of about $2.90/gallon, however, then we could pass that early-80s high-water mark this year.)
A commenter on that post adds that we should also look at the higher gas mileage we get. In fact, a more accurate indicator of the economic impact of gas prices would take into account the number of miles per dollar spent.