Lots of Bad Things are Pro-Cyclical

We remember the year 2000 as a boom time for the US economy (my first teaching job interview lasted around five minutes), but lots of bad things spike when the economy is good, too. Take, for example, pedestrian deaths from getting hit by cars:

deathratePedestrian Deaths

It looks to me like pedestrian deaths took a tumble when the economy did, but have come roaring back even stronger, perhaps because of distracted drivers and distracted pedestrians.

By analogy, I tend to be skeptical of claims that increasing drug deaths are a straightforward result of economic despair. Lots of things get worse when the economy is humming along faster.

One thought on “Lots of Bad Things are Pro-Cyclical

  1. This strikes me as an example of the utility paradox of economic growth. Economic growth seems like the most straightforward path to more utility, to a better outcome, but some things have gotten worse as we have gotten richer, with uncertain effects on people’s lived experience (my first time using that phrase in a non ironic way):

    1. Civic spirit in a general sense has certainly gotten worse in the West

    2. Religion has declined– whether that’s good or bad is hard to answer straightforwardly.

    3. Divorce rates have gone up

    4. More speculatively: my vague intuition is that people are generally lonelier than they used to be. It’s weird to read about all the associations and voluntary societies people used to belong to outside of work, the very dense, crowded, no-privacy but also hyper social small communities that were more common 50, 75, and 100 years ago.

    I’m certainly glad to live in the time I live in. It’s the most unearned privilege I can imagine and I’m very grateful. But there’s something to learn from the less atomized older way of life.

    Liked by 1 person

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