After months of horrific financial news, the latest economic reports have noted an increase in home sales and consumer spending. Yet, despite the momentary hoopla and sharp increase in the stock market, a potentially important economic sign was not mentioned--the Kanye West factor.
The superstar musician turned fashion designer recently released his long-anticipated Nike Air Yeezy sneaker. The Air Yeezy buzz first started at the 2008 Grammy awards when Kanye wore a previously unseen pair of shoes later dubbed the "Mystery Nikes."- Blogging sneaker-fiends ignited a craze with speculation of release dates and availability. This would continue until November of that same year when Nike confirmed that Kanye West would be the first non-athlete to have a signature shoe.
A hypebeast's (i.e. sneaker collecting hipster) dream come true, the bright and bulky sneaker looks like a combination of a NASA-certified soft shoe and the Bo Jackson sponsored Nike Air Trainer of the early 1990's. Despite a $215 price tag to match its extravagance, the shoe has become the must-have item amongst Generation Y'ers and Milliennials.
Thanks to a limited and sequential release of only 3,000 pairs a month from now until June 2009, buyers are actually camping outside of retail outlets for a chance to spend their supposed depressed funds. In fact, the April 2009 edition sold out in minutes and later ignited a markup on Ebay that would make a scandalous payday lender support usury laws.
Perhaps this seemingly anecdotal evidence is proof of a coming economic resurgence led by young people. College age youth are a $200 billion per year market in the American consumer-driven economy. More importantly, most of their income is disposable and goes toward the backbone of America's economy, personal consumption.
Future economic analyses will tell, but the recession could be an indirect catalyst for spending among young people. We do know that more young people are bypassing universities for community colleges close to home due to rising costs and the dire economic standing of parents. In fact, many states have seen an enrollment increase of up to 20 percent at community colleges, where the cost is two-thirds less than a traditional state university.
When attending community college students often find a similar home life to that of high school, with food and lodging paid for by parents. Despite the depressed economy many of these students are finding work in low-pay jobs that enable them to purchase what young people like to spend money on--fashion, electronics and entertainment.
The importance of young adult spending was recognized by the Obama administration, which authorized an increase in Pell Grants, college tuition tax credits and $200 million in funding to create 133,000 work-study jobs. These work-study jobs allow a maximum of 20 hours per week and are often the prime source of a student's discretionary income.
But unlike older adults, who have increased their personal rate of savings during the recession, young adults still save just slightly above zero percent of their income. The altruistic young folks tend to do what is best the country, spend and spend some more.
As the world digs itself out of the current economic rut we will continue to be bombarded with economic statistics from socially awkward brainiacs. However, the keys to a recovering economy may be right in front of us. Just pay attention to the young people forking over their paychecks to purchase the latest version of the Nike Air Yeezy.