If you uncorked a lot of Champagne in the past year, you might be in for a raise (or you might just be a bartender who works a lot of weddings). According to research conducted by NPR's Planet Money team, consumption of Champagne in the U.S. can predict, with 90 percent accuracy, the average American household income a year later [source: Davidson].
The researchers tracked Champagne sales and average household income from 1996 through 2011 and found an alarmingly accurate trend. The line for inflation-adjusted household income perfectly tracked how much Champagne Americans downed the year before. The peak bubbly years were, not surprisingly, 1999 and 2007, right before the Internet and housing bubbles were about to burst.
For lots more information about odd economic trends and predictions, check out the related links below.
Author's Note: Unexpected Connections: 10 Oddest Indicators
Conducting research for a story like this, I'm always struck by the gap between my self-perception and the larger statistical reality. I like to think of myself as a unique person who makes choices based on my own unpredictable whims and desires. But when I pull back to the macro level, I see how my supposedly individual choices — particularly what I buy — fall squarely within the bounds of "average middle-class white guy." I'm even proposing a new sociological term for it: Ikea syndrome. When I shop at a store like Ikea, I feel like the things I buy reflect my own quirky and colorful yet sensible style. Yet a week later, I visit a friend's house and notice the same exact throw pillows and curtains at his place. It turns out that our personal choices are strongly influenced by collective tastes and broad economic trends. My New Year's resolution — to become a statistical anomaly.
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- The Economist. "Index of happiness?" July 3, 2008. (Nov. 20, 2013) http://www.economist.com/node/11670946
- Jordan, Miriam. "Latin Migrants Shift Sights from U.S. to Neighbors." The Wall Street Journal. Nov. 18, 2013. (Nov. 20, 2013) http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303531204579203861742570436?mod=ITP_pageone_0
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- Ng, Serena. "What Sales of $3 Nail Polish Say About the U.S. Economy." The Wall Street Journal. Sept. 17, 2013. (Nov. 20, 2013) http://blogs.wsj.com/corporate-intelligence/2013/09/17/what-sales-of-3-nail-polish-say-about-the-u-s-economy/
- NPR. "Alan Greenspan's Underwear Drawer." The Bryant Park Project. Jan. 1, 2008. (Nov. 30, 2013) http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=17759341
- Obel, Mike. "Economic indicator: Look inside the cardboard box." Tampa Bay Times. April 7, 2009. (Nov. 30, 2013) http://www.tampabay.com/news/business/economic-indicator-look-inside-the-cardboard-box/990416
- Sincere, Michael. "Hemline Index falls out of fashion." MarketWatch. Nov. 24, 2010. (Nov. 20, 2013) http://www.marketwatch.com/story/hemline-index-falls-out-of-fashion-2010-11-24?pagenumber=1
- Trefis. "Coca-Cola Slurps Up More Emerging Markets Growth." Forbes. Feb. 14, 2013. (Nov. 20, 2013) http://www.forbes.com/sites/greatspeculations/2013/02/14/coca-cola-slurps-up-more-emerging-markets-growth/
- Wolverson, Roya. "What Lipstick Tells Us About the Economy." Time. Sept. 14, 2011. (Nov. 20, 2013) http://business.time.com/2011/09/14/what-lipstick-tells-us-about-the-economy/
HowStuffWorks looks at the concept of Veblen goods, where demand goes up when the price does. But why?