Introverted economy in the US: Pandemic affected nights out



A modern, sophisticated friend, a long-time New Yorker, recently complained to me about a possible date. “She wanted to meet at 6 o’clock for dinner,” he said. “You can imagine? The earliest I leave the house is 7:30! I nodded sympathetically, but as someone who also dines early, I couldn’t help but wonder, “What does she think this is, 2018?”

While many things are returning to normal, The pandemic profoundly changed American life, sometimes simply accelerating prevailing trends. The technology already existed to allow many Americans to work from home, for example, but the pandemic normalized it. Americans are also shopping online much more than before COVID-19.

Another way the pandemic has altered the United States: It has created what might be called the Introverted Economics. Time at home made Americans less fun. After all, 2023 was a year for daytime office parties and, In general, Americans go out less. And most likely it will remain: It is the younger adults who go out less, and when they do go out, it is earlier.

Take New York City, known for its trendy restaurants and cosmopolitan diners who dare not arrive at their table before 8 o’clock. However, Since the pandemic, 5:30 pm is a more popular time to make a reservation than 8. And it’s not just New York: Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that, post-pandemic, younger Americans (under age 50) are starting their nighttime public drinking and drinking activities earlier.

Younger people were going out earlier, but data shows they are also less likely to drink. The Generation Z It is emerging as the most sober generation in the history of the United States. Also Singles are less likely to approach each other in public, preferring the anonymity and clear social boundaries of online meetings. This means less need to go out.

Older generations still drink, probably too much. This may explain why spending on alcohol continues to increasealthough a smaller proportion goes to bars and restaurants.

Technology has also accelerated changes in social habits. There is evidence that television schedules once had a big impact on people’s schedules. Now that more content is streaming on-demand, people may be thinking about their time differently. Further home entertainment options They may also decrease the desire to go out or stay out. This is another trend accelerated by the pandemic, perhaps because when more people work from home, they save time commuting and can go out to dinner earlier. Or maybe they’re just more eager to get out of the house.

There was a small increase in socializing in 2022, likely in response to years of pandemic isolation. However, The long-term trend is clear: more time watching television or playing video games.

What does all this mean for the US economy? As always, there will be winners and losers. The market for going-out blouses and fitted V-neck sweaters could well collapse, for example, but the outlook is good for sportswear. Many bars and restaurants, which rely on alcohol and late nights to remain profitable, may have to find more creative ways to turn a profit and invest more in delivery. The result could be more restaurant chains, which can better take advantage of economies of scale.

What is more serious and longer term is that If the younger generation continues to drink less, they will be physically healthier. But If they continue to socialize less, they may end up less connected. The result could be a decline in mental health and social cohesion. That might be the best argument against today’s introverted economy: If you don’t have fun now, you’ll pay for it later.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Allison Schrager is a Bloomberg opinion columnist covering economics. She is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. She is the author of “An Economist Enters a Brothel.”