Friday, April 13, 2018

How's the Tchotchke Index Doing?

If you want proof of the economic recovery, look no further than the Tchotchke Index. As defined by Demo Memo nearly a decade ago (see post), the Tchotchke Index is the amount of money spent by the average household on "decorative items for the home," one of the detailed categories in the Consumer Expenditure Survey. As explained all those years ago, the Tchotchke Index is "an excellent gauge of the economic wellbeing of American households...Spending on tchotchkes tracks the economy's ups and downs with the precision of other, better-known measures such as the Consumer Confidence Index, the unemployment rate, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average."

No one needs tchotchkes. Decorative items for the home are purely discretionary and an impulse buy. Spending on them rises when times are good and falls when times are bad, which is why they are a good measure of household economic wellbeing. Here is the latest on the Tchotchke Index for selected years since 2000 (in 2016 dollars)...

Tchotchke Index
2016: $162.75
2015: $137.97
2014: $112.66
2013: $105.87 (low)
2007: $179.33
2000: $266.50 (high)

In 2016, the Tchotchke Index was higher than at any time since 2007 and fully 54 percent above the $105.87 post-Great Recession low of 2013. But the 2016 Index was still well below the $266.50 of 2000. Why was the Tchotchke Index so high in 2000? Because American household incomes peaked one year earlier, in 1999.

Source: Demo Memo analysis of the Consumer Expenditure Survey

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