What Baby Yoda, O.K. Boomer and Hemp Farming Told Us About the 2019 Economy

on Dec24
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As rents approach the stratosphere, people are leaving some of the most expensive places, Census Bureau data suggests. Cities like Charlotte, N.C. — nicknamed the Queen City — and Boston might just emerge as the winners. Search activity for those two places coming from New York is way up, based on data from the real estate website Redfin.

The phrase O.K. Boomer became a rallying cry in 2019, a way to lament the inability of baby boomers to understand — or make room for — people younger than 35. Generational tension also helps to explain why young people are struggling to buy houses. Older owners are staying put and limiting the inventory of would-be starter homes, based on an analysis by the Redfin economist Daryl Fairweather.

Typical American owners had spent 13 years in their house as of 2019, up from just eight in 2010, Ms. Fairweather found in an analysis of 55 markets. That keeps older and smaller houses off the market, pushing up prices and locking first-time buyers out.

There was a moment of reprieve in 2019: Home price growth cooled slightly as demand slowed. But then the Federal Reserve cut interest rates in July, September and October, leaving mortgage rates cheaper and bringing demand back. While that is good news for the overall economy, Ms. Fairweather expects bidding wars to resume in full force come 2020.

Speaking of the young and relatively broke, capsule wardrobes became a big trend on college campuses. Modern fashionistas are buying a few pieces of staple clothing and rewearing creatively, often inspired by social media influencers. For working professionals, it cuts down on waste and encourages “investment” in pricey pieces. For Gen Z, it means buying fewer clothes, which can save money.

That last point is pretty key, because while bachelor’s degree holders earn way more, student debt burdens continue to mount. America’s outstanding student loan balance topped $1.5 trillion for the first time in the third quarter. For context, that is nearly double the nation’s aggregate credit card debt.

There is some — albeit minor — hope. National data shows that the cost of a four-year college degree is finally slipping, very slightly, after decades of upward march.



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