Finding Good, Even in a Recession
It’s pretty hard to find anything good about gasoline prices hovering at an all-time high in the U.S. But I know that my grandmother would find something to point out. That’s just the way she was. She could always find a rainbow no matter how dark the storm.
I thought about her recently when I read about professors Michael Morrisey, Ph.D. of the University of Alabama and David Grabowski, Ph.D. of Harvard Medical School. They studied traffic fatalities from 1985 to 2006 when the price of gas hit $2.50 a gallon. They’ve found that for every 10 percent increase in gas prices, there’s been a 2.3 percent decline in auto-related deaths. Now that gas prices have pierced the $4-a-gallon mark, they expect to see a drop of about 1,000 deaths per month. In those terms, it’s pretty difficult to loathe the high cost of gas. Well, maybe not loathe it quite as much.
And there’s another good thing about rising gas costs. People are shifting where they want to live and shop so they stay closer to work and home. That means that some blighted areas close to inner cities are getting revitalized—all because of the high cost of gas.
By staying closer to home, shoppers are helping out the smaller local stores that struggle to survive. That’s what is happening in Thomasville, Alabama, a town that was slowly dying and now is seeing a major resurgence. In fact, the once-sleepy town is experiencing traffic jams on its main street from shoppers who can no longer afford the gas to drive many miles away to a big, fancy mall.
If it’s any further consolation for the poor economy, Americans are racking up debt at a slower pace these days because it’s getting increasingly difficult to acquire new credit.
We’re also eating out less which, I can only assume, means we’re cooking at home more. Could it be that this slowing economy might actually be good for families by bringing them back to the dinner table?
There are a few economists who argue that a recession could make us healthier. When times are economically tough, they say, we take better care of ourselves, are more likely to look after others and, surprisingly, we become less anxious. Edward Glaeser, economics professor at Harvard, says that a recession becomes a time of possibility, despite the inevitable human suffering that accompanies it.
I don’t know all the ways the slumping housing market, high gas prices and soaring food prices are affecting you specifically. But I do know this: in every difficult situation, there is always a bright spot, be it ever so tiny. If we look deeply enough, we will find something for which to give thanks. Even in a recession.
© Copyright 2008 Mary Hunt
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