A look into everyday economic indicators

Trinity News looks at some niche economic indicators, and suggests some Trinity-centric Indexes

The Irish economy has been in quite a precarious position for some time; with the cost of living crisis and energy supply fears causing inflation to go through the roof, it’s difficult to keep track of the state of things from one day to another. However, economists have theorised some lighthearted indicators for the economy that display its effects on everyday life, past the stress of increasing bills.

“If a country’s GDP increases, this usually indicates that the economy is growing.”

The economy is measured through a variety of indicators that show whether an economy is growing or declining. One of the main indicators used by economists is the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of a country. A country’s GDP measures the value of goods and services produced by a country within a certain time period, usually one year. It is one of the key reference points for a country’s economic health. If a country’s GDP increases, this usually indicates that the economy is growing. Another important economic indicator is the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures the prices of goods and services in a country over a period of time. Inflation causes prices to rise, which would be reflected in an increase in the CPI. 

Ireland’s economy seems to be resting on unstable grounds, and this precarious situation is reflected in its economic indicators. According to the Central Statistics Office, inflation was at 9.2% from October 2021 to 2022, with a staggering 27.8% increase in costs in “Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas & Other Fuels.” This can be attributed to a number of factors, including the energy crisis generated by conflicts in Ukraine, as well as the state of the Irish housing market.  

While traditional economic indicators clearly depict the state of the Irish economy, economists have found other niche effects of the economic circumstance, which can then be reflected back and connected with its cause.  

The High Heel Index

This theory describes the idea that more women opt for high heels during an economic downturn. IBM’s Dr Trevor Davis notes: “usually, in an economic downturn, heels go up and stay up as consumers turn to more flamboyant fashions as a means of fantasy and escape.”  High heels offer people the opportunity to emulate a more luxurious lifestyle, even if that is not the reality within the economy. According to Business Insider, this was reflected during the Great Depression in the United States, when high heel markets rose.

The Hemline Index

The hemline index notes a correlation between the length of women’s skirts during different economic periods. It appears that hemlines rise and fall in line with stock prices, with shorter skirts being more prevalent during times of economic prosperity. However, while this may have been quite simple to track in the early twentieth century, with the ever-increasing speed of trends in the contemporary fashion industry, this may not be the most dependable index to decide your investments on.

The Chinese Zodiac Indicator

This economic indicator suggests that the market is contingent, or at least reflected, on the year reflected in the Chinese Zodiac. In this sense, the Year of the Dragon is believed to reflect prosperity, and thus the market is believed to flourish during this year. This may be because those who follow the Chinese Zodiac choose to get engaged and buy houses during this prosperous year. Conversely, the Year of the Rat, which fell in both 2008 and 2020, carried a prediction of poor price performance.

The Netflix Indicator

This is a new economic indicator, with its correlation rooted in the social and economic effects of the pandemic. It describes the surge in Netflix’s stocks that seemed to occur when the overall market was plummeting in 2020. Tangentially, there is a correlation between an increase in overall Netflix watch time and the downturn of the economy. In 2020, this connection was rather obvious: people were out of work and staying at home, which would clearly give rise to an increase in time available for binge-watching.

“Recently, one of the most prevalent economic indicators to be found on Irish social media is the cost of a deli Chicken fillet roll.”

These economic indicators can both give consumers insights into the state of the economy, and conversely depict its knock-on effects and how pervasive the economy is in our everyday lives. In Ireland, we seem to have our own economic indicators, most of which centre around the level of inflation happening in the country. Recently, one of the most prevalent economic indicators to be found on Irish social media is the cost of a deli Chicken fillet roll. Aptly termed the Recession Roll in many Irish convenience stores, a chicken fillet roll was often offered with a bottle of water, can of coke, or even a bag of crisps, for the affordable price of €3. However, with Ireland’s rising inflation, the humble chicken fillet roll can cost up to €7. It has become a trend to post a picture or TikTok of the “outrageous” prices of chicken fillet rolls in recent times, often a reflection of the cost of living crisis and rising inflation levels.

The Chicken Fillet Roll Index seems to be a predecessor of a more retro food-related price index pervasive in Ireland: the Freddo Index. The price of a Freddo chocolate bar seems to reflect Ireland’s inflation, often causing similar outrage online. At its 1994 launch in the UK, the price of a Freddo was a mere 10p, but has been rising slowly since then, coming to a head when it announced a price increase to a whopping 40 cents in Ireland in 2018. While many tweets joked at its increase, citing that the “Boom is Back,” the subsequent backlash the new price received caused Cadbury’s to announce a reduction in the price of the frog-shaped bar.

Food-related economic indicators are extremely common in reflecting inflation and this can be seen in and around College’s own campus. According to a study done by Students4Change, which can be viewed on their Instagram, Trinity’s food prices across campus have increased by 25%, far surpassing the national inflation in that area. 

Additionally, Carluccio’s pasta boxes, a College student staple, have increased the price of a half-portion of pasta from €4.50 to €5.50 in the past year. Thus, the Carluccio’s Pasta Index is a constant reminder of the state of the economy for hungry students. 

While most economic indicators are retrospectively created, and may often correlate to only one period of economic growth or decline, they are still a useful tool in recognising the impacts of the economy on our everyday lives, as well as the covert influences they can have on behaviours and trends. Certainly, we may never see the price of a chicken roll fall to its glory-days prices, but at least you can indulge in them through the guise of tracking the country’s economy.

Lara Mellett

Second Year English Studies student at Trinity