What are the signs of a sinking economy? There are obvious symptoms of such a downturn — decreased consumer confidence, lower demand and rising unemployment.But we looked at other strange correlations between bad times and peoples’ behaviour.
A recently released centre for Disease Control and Prevention study found that incidences of drunk driving hit a 20 year low last year. The report is based off a 2010 telephone survey of about 210,000 Americans, and found that those that admitted to drunk driving had dropped 30% in the last five years.
Despite the decrease in drunk driving, some studies show people are still imbibing heavily.
CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden offered one explanation for the discrepancy - more people are choosing to drink at home. That could be due to cash-strapped Americans becoming reluctant to drink at restaurants or hop bars because of the weak economy.
Despite the decrease noted in this survey, drunk driving is still a serious issue - it accounts for one third of all crash deaths in the U.S, according to the CDC.
The first things that go out the window when one's bank account suffers or there's a looming recession are items of unnecessary indulgence. But that doesn't hold for everyone's favourite guilty pleasure - sweets.
In the midst of the crisis in 2008, candy sales went up 2.2% nationwide, according to the National Confectioners Association.
Cadbury reported a 30% increase in profits in 2008, Nestle saw a 10.9% jump, and Hersey - which had struggled throughout 2008, had its fourth quarter profits rise too.
Desperate times call for desperate measures - and sometimes that means leaving a loved one or significant other behind.
A survey found that 18.2% of workers relocated for a job in the second quarter of 2009, a hefty increase from 11.4% in 2008. The implications of relocation are most significant for working couples - and many are willing to choose temporary or long-term separation in order to pursue careers and financial stability, the Wall Street Journal reported.
If recent data from home improvement stores, trade associations and smaller gardening vendors are any indication, the gardening business is flourishing.
Since 2009, major gardening retailers and mail order services have reported increased sales of seeds and home gardening products. An Ace Hardware store in Denver said its sale of seeds went up 300 per cent at one point. Many mail-order companies saw their supply of seeds for basic vegetable plants run low.
According to the National Gardening Association, a healthy vegetable and herb garden can garner savings of up to $500 per year. Another study from Burpee Seeds, a mail-order seed company, showed that $50 of gardening supplies could translate into $1,250 worth of annual produce.
Sure, neither boxers or briefs are as fun as their female counterparts, but apparently as soon as the economy takes a dive men decide to scrap new underpants off their list of necessities. Even former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan noted that sales of men's underwear are often flat, being in consistent demand; and thus a drop in underwear sales for men could be a sign that flush times are past. And that's exactly what happened in 2009 when a report done by research firm Mintel forecasted that men's underwear sales would fall 2.3%.
Who knew that barbering would become a recession-proof industry? The Census Bureau noted that the number of hairdressers and the salons they worked in grew 8% from 2008 to 2009. In Washington D.C. alone, the numbers noted an 18% increase.
The New York Times surmises that barbering has survived the recession because it's a basic necessity that cannot be outsourced to other countries or states. (Along those lines, we can also argue that there's no mainstream automation to cut hair either. Yet.) In addition, the Times also noted people may have turned to styling hair after their old careers were put to a halt due to the recession - and found it to be a monetarily-rewarding gig.
What's better than free recreation during difficult times? From 2009 to 2010, New Jersey saw visits to its state parks sky rocket as several counties reported between 10% to 20% increases in attendance, according to The Star-Ledger.
Overall, the number of visitors more than tripled from the 1980s to present day for Jersey parks, vastly outpacing the population growth.
But it is not all sunshine and green grass for parks though - budgets for public parks have been the target of budgetary cutbacks, and many are at the risk of closing.
Typically, parents are least likely to cut back on spending on their children even during an economic downturn. But recent data from Consumer Edge Research showed volumes of diapers sold in August this year fell by 1% compared to last year. Furthermore, dollar sales slipped about 3% for diapers.
Less diapers bought could indicate less babies being born, but in the last year sales of remedies for diaper rash has gone up 8%.
These stats show parents are either cutting back on buying diapers - which could cost up to $1,500 per year if a baby is changed six times a day - or switching to cheaper private labels.
Perhaps the most contradictory pattern in the wake of the financial crisis and a mark of the widening split between the rich and the poor - sales of luxury goods are booming at the same time that pawn shops and second-hand store sales are also thriving.
Miami has seen its pawn shop numbers nearly double since the recession, and investors are flocking to pawn shop operators as their share prices rise. Sales at Goodwill stores are up nearly 7% across the U.S.
Yet concurrently, luxury item sales have been on the upswing for the last 10 months, according to a MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse report.
Unemployment among the younger generation has been a festering issue. And their temporary solution? Moving back in with the parents. The number of adults living with their parents has jumped 25.5% since 2007, according to Census data.
But it is not just the 'boomerang' kids that are part of the trend, the number of unmarried couples living together increased 13% between 2009 and 2010, which experts noted to be a shift in living patterns that generally does not happen within a year.
This could be due to a changing standard and view of marriage itself, but there are key economic benefits to cohabitating - and usually unmarried partners that live together enjoy greater financial stability, according to a Pew centre study. But there is a catch, the research noted that the financial benefit is only enjoyed by college educated cohabiters.
In the UK, sales for cheaper ties in man-made materials shot up to 21.4 million in 2007 from 19.6 million in 2006, while sale numbers for more high quality silk ties remained relatively unchanged, according to the Financial Times. Men may have been gearing up in anticipation of the teetering economy - for a possible a job search, job interviews, or just trying to look more professional at the workplace to help preserve their job. They just weren't willing to splurge to do it.
Property crime rates have been falling for the last two decades, and that trend seems to be recession-proof. Data from the U.S. Department of Justice on regional crime showed that states with the largest decreases in income per-person also had the biggest drops in property crime rates, according to The Economist.
The correlation between lower income and a lesser crime rate was actually strongest during 2008 to 2009, when the recession was at a head, especially in states like Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii. This chart from The Economist shows the pattern well.
A possible explanation. for the bizarre correlation are that criminals might be migrating to states with bigger cities. Also: the recession hasn't left the rich unscathed - so their items might become less desirable for some criminals.
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