Smile, you’re in a recession

Happier people, more education, low gas prices and fewer babies are what make this recession great.

Julian Switala

If youâÄôve read anything about the U.S. economy recently, chances are that it contained more doom and gloom prophesying than a Nostradamus manuscript. Economists foretell of a double-dip recession, conjuring up images of further economic turmoil and a classic Seinfeld episode.

However, instead of merely focusing on the negatives, the recession is bringing unseen advantages to Americans and the world, if you look at it from the right angles.

Given a 9.6 percent unemployment rate, dismal projections for growth and a historically low level of consumer confidence, it seems impossible to be optimistic about the economy. The effects are even starker for recent college graduates who face a 30 percent unemployment rate, according to the Bureau of Labor.

Yet unemployment isnâÄôt as bad as previously thought. Last monthâÄôs Economic Journal published a study finding the unemployed are generally less satisfied with life than those with jobs, but that their day-to-day emotional well-being is the same, if not superior.

The employed are least satisfied while working or commuting, noting that they were most stressed and annoyed during work hours, says the study.

But âÄî and hereâÄôs the kicker âÄî almost all people, regardless of employment status, reported being happiest during leisure time, something which the unemployed have relatively more of than the employed.

Additionally, high unemployment is typically positively correlated with higher graduate enrollment, since students would rather stay in school when they cannot get jobs. The opportunity cost of going to graduate school probably doesnâÄôt offset the potentially high payoff of having a graduate degree and it results in a more educated workforce.

Moreover, instead of a myopic U.S.-centered focus, looking at the global economy paints an incredibly optimistic picture. While the U.S.âÄô GDP is expected to grow 2 percent at best, both India and China sport growth rates above 8 percent. That growth rate is expected to continue for at least a decade.

China and IndiaâÄôs combined population is nearly 2.5 billion people, eight times more than the U.S. population of 307 million. As such, the economic prospects for more than one-third of the worldâÄôs population are promising âÄî and almost overshadow the U.S. economic downturn.

Prior to the recession, the United States consumed 25 percent of the worldâÄôs oil. But during and after the recession, U.S. demand for oil fell, causing the price of oil to drop. This price drop has made it “possible for economic development to continue on a world scale, outside the U.S.,” according to James Leigh, professor of cultural geography at the University of Nicosia, Cyprus.

Finally, the birth rate in the U.S. has been sinking for two years due to the recession, setting the record for lowest birth rate in a century. People are simply less willing to have children when their financial future is uncertain. Consumption patterns show the U.S. consumes more resources per capita than any other country on earth, meaning that a lower birth rate can free up resources for non-Americans.

The recession isnâÄôt cause for celebration, but there have been overlooked advantages, at home and across the globe. Looking at the bright side of the sagging economy may actually make it a blessing in disguise.

 

Julian Switala welcomes comments at
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