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11:52 pm - Wednesday September 28, 2016

Surprising (and Promising) Aspects of the Financial Crisis

| Economics, Psychology | Rating: 4.5
by Numan

What do Playboy Playmates have to do with a very interesting article in the NY Times regarding the impact of financial crisis?

Bloomberg reported yesterday that the number of visitors to the baseball hall of fame has reduced by 12%, on average. Fewer visitors and fewer donations find their way to the museum which is located in Cooperstown, 200 miles from New York City. The slump in visitors is naturally attributed to the current financial crisis.

Naturally, at times of economic hardship people almost immediately save on what they perceive as luxuries, the impact of which is quickly felt everywhere. Private consumption is one of the strongest economic forces there are and is necessary for real growth.

The Surprise

There are, however, more interesting aspects and phenomenon which manifest in times of economic hardship and financial crisis (with all due respect to Baseball of course). In a very interesting article titled “A Hemline Index, Updated“, Tamar Lewin (NY Times) discusses the more surprising aspects of financial crisis and bad times in general as studied by various researchers. Here’s a quick summary (I recommend reading the entire article for more interesting indicators):

  • Looking at Billboard No. 1 songs from 1955 to 2003 for a study to be published in the journal Psychology of Music, prof. Pettijohn found that in uncertain times, people tend to prefer songs that are longer, slower, with more meaningful themes.
  • Playboy magazine’s Playmate of the Year in bad times tended to have a more mature appearance — that is, to be older, heavier, taller and less curvy — than those selected when times were good.
  • During a recession, laxatives go up, because people are under tremendous stress, and holding themselves back. During a boom, deodorant sales go up.

The Promise

I’ve tried researching more on the subject and found another, not so surprising, but rather promising aspect financial crisis.

There are winners to financial crisis as well. An interesting line of thought is presented by Andrew O’Connell for Harvard Business Publishing in this regard. Mr. O’Connell discusses the merits of what he calls Intergenerational transfer of wealth: “As housing prices fall, older generations of Americans are seeing significant amounts of their wealth evaporate, but the decline presents opportunities for younger people”. Surprisingly enough, the fact that many homeowners are seeing their life savings evaporate (to put it rather drastically) is beneficial to the younger ones of us, who may now be able to afford actually becoming homeowners and seeing their net worth rise with their property by sitting out the housing slump.

Apparently in 1929, before the great depression, the social inequality in the US was at a peak. Financial crisis serve as stress relief in this regard as the rich get much less rich while the poor get a bit poorer. It’s almost like the financial nature restores balance through systematic shocks.

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