Monday, October 22, 2007

The New Girl Order Saves Capitalism

Kay Hymowitz has written another excellent City Journal article, "The New Girl Order." She writes about the wave of single women around the world with education, careers, busy social lives, and no immediate plans for marriage or children. The Bridget Jones brigade has already had an immediate impact on marriage rates and fertility, leading to gigantic drops in the fertility rate in the rich and growing economies of the world just in the past decade. Most developed nations have fertility rates way below replacement level, which will have severe demographic consequences very soon.

I was struck by another aspect of Hymowitz' description of the worldwide Carrie Bradshaws: they shop. No account of their lives seems to go more than three sentences without mentioning their prodigious appetite for shopping, both for goods and services.

A perennial problem for capitalism is that it has to keep getting people to buy things they don't need. There are, of course, billions of people around the world who would spend more on necessities if they could. The leading edge of the leading economies, though, are pulled by people buying goods and services that are not really necessities. The market for comforts, conveniences, and even outright luxuries is more profitable.

The globalized economy ever totters on the brink of disaster if middle class and rich people bought only what they needed. Which is why the New Girl Order is such good news economically. To have millions of women with money and no pressing need to save it is a boon to the luxury goods industries around the world.

Capitalism is saved. At least until we run out of workers in the next generation.


Anonymous said...

Capitalism saved....yaay.

Excuse me if I'm not overly enthused by the notion that the best aspect of this is that we have plenty of people buying crap they don't need. My sense of social justice must be muffling my energetic cheers.

Gruntled said...

The best feature, I think, is the freedom that women have to make lives of their own choosing. She shopping part is an unavoidable side effect of that freedom.

virginia said...

I would be interested in seeing how "new girl order" spending compares to that of men in similar economic and social circumstances - that is, educated, employed with plenty of disposable income, and sans wife/children. My guess is that the amounts (percentage-wise) would not radically differ, but that the spending habits would. Anecdotally, I see a lot of men in this demographic buying big-ticket electronic items, cars, etc - they're spending a lot of money but doing less actual "shopping."

Either way, it's certainly not a bad era to be an educated woman.

SeeMurphy said...

I'm with Paul on this one.