Signs of the Times

HemlinesThere’s an old idea among American economists that the stock market and hemlines are correlated.  The hemline refers to the length of a woman’s skirt (technically, the hemline is at the very bottom of the skirt, were the fabric or material is folded over and sewn).  A low hemline is a skirt that is very long, that covers up most of a woman’s legs.  The opposite is a high hemline, which is something like a miniskirt or a skirt that shows more of a woman’s legs.  To be correlated means to be related, so that when one thing goes up, the other thing goes up.  The traditional wisdom is that hemlines follow the stock market: When the stock market goes up and times are good, women tend to wear shorter skirts.

More recently, there have been several studies by economists that have tried to look at what else changes during good versus bad economic times.  Here are some of the things they have found, according to a recent article in the New York Times:

  • During a recession or bad economic times, more people buy laxatives.  A laxative is a type of drug that makes you go to the bathroom more.  The reason is probably that people are under more stress, which causes changes to their body’s digestive system (the part of the body that gets energy from the food you eat).
  • During an economic boom (good economic times), deodorant sales go up.  Deodorant is something you put usually underneath your armpits (the part underneath your shoulder) in order to make you smell better.  One theory is that people are more active and go out dancing more when economic times are good.
  • In a recession, people buy food that is not perishable, such as rice, beans, and other grains.  When we say that food is perishable, we mean that it spoils or goes bad quickly.
  • Not surprisingly, certain kinds of crime increase during a recession.  Although there is no direct connection with the murder rate (the number of people who are killed by criminals), there is definitely an increase in what are called property crimes, when someone steals or damages something that you own.  This includes burglary, which usually involves someone coming into your house and stealing things from you.   It also includes motor vehicle theft, when someone steals your car.
  • More young people decide to go to college during a recession, since there are fewer jobs for them when they graduate from high school.  Unfortunately, the government usually has less money during a recession, so universities are often not able to accept everyone who wants to go.  This is happening now here in California.
  • Many (but not all) people are actually a little bit healthier during a recession.  This is because they smoke less (because they can’t afford expensive cigarettes), they drink less alcohol (again, because it is expensive), and they exercise more.  However, someone who loses their job or loses a lot of money during the recession is often under a great deal of more stress, and those people are not necessarily healthier (especially the ones who are buying all of those laxatives).
  • According to one study, songs that are popular during a recession are usually longer, slower, and more serious or meaningful.  This is perhaps because people are looking for reassurance (someone telling them that things are not that bad, that things will get better).

Of course, these are all general trends and don’t necessarily work in every situation or for every person.  But they do indicate that our national and international economy affects our everyday behaviors in ways that we perhaps did not realize.  They are indeed “signs of the times,” indications of what life is like in this period of time.


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14 Responses to Signs of the Times

  1. Julio says:

    Of course, I think you and those economists are right about all of the highlighted topics. Effectively such items do work not for everyone and every country but in general terms or on an average basis. The worst thing in a recession like that is the usual lost of confidence from the most people and it implies consumption habit changes and different ways to express their state of mind, as the length of the women’s skirts.
    Very interesting piece of news. Thank you, Jeff.

    Best regards,

    Julio, Spain.

  2. Ilia says:

    Thanks a lot, Jeff!
    I think I’ve got the idea. Russia is also included in economic crisis.
    So, since there is a certain correlation, we have to encourage our
    women to put on miniskirts! Winter will not be the obstacle. I wonder,
    what our government is thinking about? =)

    Best regards,

    Ilia from Kremlin (Moscow, Russia)

  3. emiliano says:

    As we are going through a very bad time here in Spain it should be interesting to watch about all these symptoms that I think they are true in the majority, but what is true indeed is that people is going to have lot of trouble everywhere.

    Another thing that I have seen in this time is that there are also a lot of comedy and musical movies made by the big productions, may be because is what people need in hard time in oder to cheer up spirit. Laughing and having a good time at the theatres it is possible to think less in our personal problems.

  4. Rodrigo says:

    It’s very interesting, though some of them seems to be popular myths, however I think that the increase of certain crimes are facts connected to economic recessions, and also the influence in the movie industry, which many films were inspired in the recession, namely It´s a wonderful life, the grapes of wrat, the postman always rings twice, the roaring twenties, they drive by night, a city for conquest, to kill a mockingbird among others

    from Venezuela

  5. Elisângelo says:

    Well, in fact so many things happen when the economy is doing bad. Another day I was watch the abc news and I got shocked when I heard that a man has mudered his 5 daughters and his wife after he lost his job. In crisis time we really have to have much more faith over everything and ask God very wisdom in order to support and face theses tough moments.

    I really hope that the Obama’s administration can do pretty good and take us off outside this crisis as soon as possible, cause I don’t want see another tragedy like that one happen again.

    jeff, thanks a lot for the outstanding report that you let’s known.

    to all of you that join the esl blog,
    my best regards!

  6. emiliano says:

    I was talking with my wife this evening about this subject of the blog and she told me that she has listened that the consume of lipstick has encreased a lot and it is
    common the use of lipstick or make up by women when we are through economic difficulties.
    It should be another form of cheering up the spirit looking more beautiful without spending not too much money in new dressing.

    I have asked her about it and she told me that is not neccesary to spend money buying make up or perfume as you can make up your face with a smile and of course is
    so nice that I think it is a wonderful idea that I want to share.

    We have a said in spanish that it is ” a mal tiempo buena cara ” it should be: ” a good face for the bad time “

  7. elcomandant says:

    Good times are over, at least for now. It seems the crisis is happening in most part of the world. Some economists tell us that it will last a couple of years, and others tell us will last about ten years. As a Spaniard I don’t know very much about how this crisis affects to rest of the world; However, due to the fact I’m not an economist, actually I don’t understand much how this crisis affects in Spain. But everyday I listen to the radio and I read the newspapers. That’s why I know Spain is the country strongest beaten and it is situated at the end of the line.

    The signs of this times here in Spain, the thing is that women don’t wear neither low nor high hemline, people don’t buy neither less deodorant nor more laxative. In fact most of people are in shock. Just they don’t buy anything. Why?. Well, I think, the shock has happened due to our President socialist Mr. Zapatero has lied to all of citizens.

    On March 9, 2008 were General Elections, and the President socialist, Mr. Zapatero, told all of citizens that Spain didn’t have any crisis, despite that all organisms Europeans and worldwide press, were warning to Spain a long time ago that it was in serious danger of depresion.

    Mr. Zapatero won the elections lying, and four or five months later he started to to tell us that Spain had the bigest crisis of its history. This it was too much.

    One of the two, or Mr. Zapatero was lying to all of us or, The President was a naïf and didn’t even realize the real situation of the economy. Whatever of two are enough reasons to resign as a President of Spain. However, he still has very much support from citizens. I can’t understand it.

    As Jeff says “The signs of times don’t necessarily work in every situation or for every person.

    I’m sorry but this is my opinion.


  8. Jose Maria, San Sebastian says:

    Dear Comandante
    About the situation in our Spain, I am quite agree with you, and the question for me is: till when ?
    Best regards.

  9. Jose Maria, San Sebastian says:

    What do you want to say: “grape of wrat” ?
    I can´t find in “”
    Is it possible translate to spanish ?

  10. faissal says:

    thx a lot for the information…it’s really useful…….
    but why the crisis didn’t hit the arab world, strickly speaking the Islamic banks…..?????

  11. elcomandant says:

    Hi, José María,

    I’m glad to hear what you say, or rather, I’m glad to read what you have written. Then it seems we are already two people in whole Spain who think the same way.


  12. emiliano says:

    A good question faissal, and I haven’t the answer, may be you weren’t living up your possibilities as we did?.

    Absolutely, I agree with elcomadant and Jose Maria but my point of view is even worst, and my thoughts about Mr. Zapatero and his Goverment is …..impossible to be worst, but as elcomadant said is amazing that people support him yet, till them?. Nobody konws.
    The opposition now is really bad too, so we don’t know what is going to happed with this poor country. I am very dissapointed with all politicians.

    Much better to think about other things. Regards.

  13. Mirim says:

    To Jose Maria San Sebastian

    The movie called The Grapes of Wrath based on a romance by John Steinbeck/ In Spanish would be something like Las Uvas de la Ira.

  14. Andrea says:

    Hi all,

    Here in Brazil everyday in all TVs, radios, magazines and newspapers the main information is about the world crisis effects in brazilian economy; every event that happens has something to do about the crisis; the food’s price increase, the dollar’s value increase, people are fired from their jobs, market data decreases, petrol increases (even with the price of barrel decreasing) and so on, and the crisis is the guilty. Our President and almost all congressmen say that the crisis comes late here in Brazil, that our economy is strong and that with government help all is gonna be ok, but unfortunatelly it is not what we citizens are living. In my business many people were fired and those who stayed are afraid about the future.

    The Brazilian people are known about the optimist spirit and the hability to deal with really difficult situations, but I believe that at real a large ammount of the population do not realize what is going on by the lack of the education in lower levels of the society.


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