It’s a Barbie girl summer for economists, too.
Mattel’s (MAT) famous doll has been everywhere this summer, dominating the box office with the best opening weekend of 2023 and even getting a mention in the Federal Reserve’s latest press conference.
But the story of Barbie’s intersection with finance news is about more than the industry’s most prominent purple-tied official Jay Powell answering a question about pink attire and Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour, because both are proving to be legitimate drivers of a resilient US consumer keeping America out of a recession.
“These events are getting more highlighted specifically because of the situation we’re looking at,” Bank of America US economist Shruti Mishra told Yahoo Finance.
“Is the consumer going to drop? Is it still resilient? Those questions are the most important questions leading up to any Fed press conference, FOMC meeting, and just generally for the economic outlook.”
Fed Chair Powell, for his part, didn’t fully bite last week when asked about the impact of Barbie and Taylor Swift on the US economy. But even he noted it doesn’t hurt.
“The overall resilience of the economy, the fact that we’ve been able to achieve disinflation so far without any meaningful negative impact on the labor market, the strength of the economy overall, that’s a good thing,” Powell said.
“It’s good to see that, of course. It’s also you see consumer confidence coming up and things like that, that will support activity going forward.”
And these aren’t just any popular summer events, either.
Reports have estimated Swift’s Eras Tour could be the first billion-dollar concert tour ever.
Meanwhile, “Barbenheimer” — the dual box office hits of “Barbie” and Christopher Nolan’s biopic “Oppenheimer” — combined for the fourth-biggest overall weekend in box office history.
In the latest release of the Fed’s Beige Book, the Philadelphia Fed highlighted Taylor Swift’s three-night stop at Lincoln Financial Field as a boost to the local economy.
“Multiple contacts reported that the amount of money guests spend at their leisure destinations declined modestly in recent months,” the report read.
“Despite the slowing recovery in tourism in the region overall, one contact highlighted that May was the strongest month for hotel revenue in Philadelphia since the onset of the pandemic, in large part due to an influx of guests for the Taylor Swift concerts in the city.”
Analysis from Moody’s shows Swift’s impact wasn’t just a one-off in Philadelphia, either.
Moody’s had seen an increase in revenue per available room in every city Swift has stopped in that the firm tracks through its report’s publication July 21.
According to University of Michigan clinical assistant professor of marketing Marcus Collins, it’s rare for a movie and concert tour to have this kind of impact.
With Barbie pink taking over wardrobes and Swift’s Eras Tour bracelets dominating social media, the marketing behind both messages have transcended into a cultural moment. And culture, Collins told Yahoo Finance, is the “most influential external force of human behavior, full stop.”
“The salience of (Barbie and the Eras Tour) makes it so that it’s undeniable,” Collins said. “You can’t not talk about it because it’s everywhere.”
Jefferies US economist Thomas Simons told Yahoo Finance he hasn’t seen anything like the obsession with Barbie and Taylor Swift in his more than 15 years working in economic research.
Simons likens the interest from economists to the rise of social media and the “casualization” of economics, which leads to economists being both more aware of pop culture impacts and more willing to look for them.
And as economists and researchers alike have turned to the data to look for the impact of these cultural phenomena, the answers have been eye-popping.
In addition to the findings from Moody’s and the Fed, recent data from Bank of America showed card spending on entertainment and clothing both spiked the week of Barbie’s release with entertainment sales up about 13%.
“There’s (likely) a Barbie and Oppenheimer effect to play out here,” Mishra noted.
Josh Schafer is a reporter for Yahoo Finance.
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