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Despite Frustration, Americans' Economic Behavior Indicates "Indifference" to Gasoline Prices?

1 min. read

Could it be that, despite their anger and frustration at high gasoline prices, Americans' actual behavior patterns tell a different story? That's what a New York Times article, citing economic research, suggests.  A few key points:

  • Americans spend about 5% of their income on gasoline -- "less than half of what we spend on restaurants and entertainment."
  • Economic research indicates that rising gasoline prices led to "no significant effect on the consumption of movies, bowling and billiard[s], casino gambling and only insignificant declines for recreational camps, sightseeing, spectator sports and spectator amusements."
  • Americans' "enthusiasm for car pooling, enhanced public transportation and fuel-efficient vehicles remains relatively low."
  • Americans are particularly incensed at higher gasoline prices mostly because gasoline "is the only volatile commodity that most Americans deal with directly: we are buffered from most other price swings by our relative wealth."

Finally, the article points out that, "as unpopular as it may sound, the best possible future for most Americans may involve much higher gas prices," with increased oil  drilling in the United States unlikely to have any significant impact.  In the long term, perhaps those higher prices for oil products like gasoline will increasingly persuade Americans to finally break their "oil addiction," for instance by converting the economy to clean, renewable energy. In the short term, however, behavior patterns appear far less amenable to change, no matter how high the professed frustration level.