February 5, 2009

In case we needed an non-economic indicator that the financial system is still in virtual meltdown and economies everywhere are slowing down (despite my previous optimistic predictions), two fashion oriented indicators have been offered by The Economist and The Independent.   The Economist highlights an old theory that lipstick sales tend to go up during recessions, a theory perpetuated by some statistics that cosmetic sales increased markedly during the Great Depression while the rest of the economy was in free-fall.  While the data doesn’t quite convince that there is real correlation, the economic logic is somewhat convincing: women rely on relatively cheap fixes to make themselves feel glamorous in a downturn.  Rather than buying a new and expensive pair of shoes, they opt for a relatively cheaper lipstick.

The Independent, in contrast, makes a link between short hair styles and periods of economic downturn.  This one doesn’t make much sense to me because short hair is more expensive to maintain, as it requires frequent cutting.   In fact, I note that several female friends have started joking about their “recession proof hairstyle” which requires going back to your natural colour and avoiding expensive highlights.  I myself have the longest hair I’ve had since I was about 8 years old after decades of haircuts ranging from pixie to bob, so I am definately bucking The Independent‘s so-called theory.  But perhaps rather than being some insightful piece of “fashionomics,” it is merely an indicator that I am behind the fashion moment.

Thanks to Freakonomics for the links.


Where McCain is King

November 19, 2008

mccain-is-kingA guest post on the Freakonomics blog, based on a best selling book and hosted by the New York Times, caught my attention this evening.   The post notes the fact that a whole swath of counties across the American south and southeast voted much more strongly Republican this year than in 2004, and discusses whether racism was the primary driver for this embrace of the right.  After doing some regressions controlling for the level of education, age, rural / urban divide and percentage of blacks and other minorities both in the county itself and in the state where it is located, he determines that counties that voted for McCain in significantly higher proportions than voted for Bush in 2004 are predominantly white populated counties that live in states which are more racially mixed.  In other words, white people who live with blacks voted in a more “racist” manner than other whites.

While reading this post and trawling through the accompanying NYTimes map, I wanted to know something else.  Which county in America voted most solidly for John McCain?  As far as I can detect (though I challenge you to be dorkier than me and look through every county, not just the southern ones), that particular honour goes to King County Texas.  93% of voters in King County voted for McCain.  So who lives in King County?  According to Wikipedia and the 2000 census, 356 people, 236 of which were voting age (the New York Times reports 151 of them voted for McCain, 8 for Obama and 3 for other candidates).  Main economic livelihood?  Cattle farming and, unsurprisingly, oil production, which might be a stronger predictor than race of your willingness to vote for a ticket who’s unofficial motto is “drill baby drill.”

And which county voted most solidly for Obama, you ask?  Washington DC at 93% (whose demographics require less research than those of King County).  So while McCain is King in King County, Obama is King in the capital.  A very appropriate place to be king indeed.