I dropped Maddie off at college this week. 

And that’s about all I did. I might have a bruise on my ass from the door hitting me on the way out of her dorm. 

She was ready to go.

It was a far cry from my first day at college. Although my parents definitely hightailed it out of there too. We were in Florida. I’m sure they were going somewhere awesome.

But I was a deer in the headlights. I had never stepped foot on Rollins’ campus before the day I moved in. I’d only ever been away from home for a week of Boy Scout camp. 

It took me all of ten minutes to realize I was in a distinct minority at Rollins – one of a few people who didn’t go to a New England boarding school, drive a 3 Series, or own a pair of Nantucket red shorts and loafers. 

My first night alone was a hot mess. I went to an off-campus party, drank way too much, and threw up on a pretty girl who mercifully never mentioned it again. Alcohol poisoning quickly turned into homesickness. Within a month I was researching schools to transfer, somewhere closer to Pittsburgh. 

Had I not eventually found a fraternity – and friends – that changed my life, I would’ve been gone by Christmas. Thank God I stayed. I wouldn’t be a fraction of the person you know.

But it was hard. I wasn’t emotionally prepared. And I didn’t know how to talk about it.

This generation of kids is different. Data we published in April found that 73% of kids aged 18-24 saw a mental health professional over the past two years. Sixteen percent of Gen Xers did the same. 

MAGA-types were quick to lament those numbers as a sign of snowflakery. Bullshit. It’s a feature, not a bug. 

Despite (or because of) all our efforts to fuck them up – subjecting them to a pandemic in their formative years, sending them to schools with mass shooters lurking in every dark corner, shoving social media in their face, and modeling the worst in political discourse – Gen Z is wise and introspective beyond its years. Beyond anyone, ever, before them. 

They see no stigma in talking about mental health. It’s like brushing their teeth or wearing sunscreen. It would be stupid not to. 

They’re so much better prepared than we ever were. 

And I’m so proud of them – and hopeful – for it.

Here’s what we’re seeing:      

Stranger Things unites us. I usually (always) start the insights portion of this email with nerdy data about the economy or some other serious topic. But I’m starting with Stranger Things, not because it’s awesome (it is), but because of what it says about macro-cultural and even political trends in our country. Netflix’s 2nd most popular show ever (Season 4) crosses generational lines, with remarkably similar “likability” stats among Gen Z, Millennials, Gen Xers, and Boomers alike. Nostalgia is a powerful force when the modern-day world is burning. Even kids know life was better before.  

A show as popular as Stranger Things isn’t enough to lock young people into a streaming service. Spend five minutes talking to a media executive and you’ll hear the word “churn” at least once. Viewers want freedom and control (which they don’t get from cable or satellite), but it’s a conundrum for the streaming platforms, to say the least. Give the consumers what they want and risk losing them as soon as your good content runs dry. Deprive them of the choice to easily cancel, and risk never getting them at all. It’s particularly acute with tech savvy Gen Zs and Millennials. Something has to give.

Since I can’t get through one week without talking about the economy and consumer spending, at least it’s mostly positive. The good news is people are clearly more optimistic about the price of consumer goods lately, which means category-level spending cutbacks are slowing across the board. The bad news is we published ill-timed data about the impact of imminent student loan payments three days before President Biden decided to go rogue, delay payments another four months, and forgive a boatload of liability. I suppose you can get an early glimpse into how people will react when (if) payments (minus $10K) come due at the end of December. I won’t hold my breath. 

On that note, Americans are obviously very divided on the president’s student loan forgiveness move. Because we’re the fastest draw in the research industry, we already ran a study gauging reaction to the controversial student loan announcement. Strong opposition (at 37%) is much higher than strong support (28%), with overall numbers breaking 44% oppose, 41% support. No surprise, 71% of people who have student loans support the measure, compared to 41% who never had student loans, and 39% who already paid them off. These numbers may evolve as it sinks in. We’ll keep you posted.

Most U.S. adults and 100% of adults in our house don’t get enough sleep. Largely thanks to persistent stress, the majority of Americans are reporting insufficient amounts of sleep on a regular basis – particularly people who like their bedroom temperature at 67 degrees or warmer. The correlation with stress and (un)happiness is super-high, though we can’t prove which is cause and which is effect. Sleep deprivation is especially high among adult women because of course it is. Four percent of people who get 8+ hours of sleep every night say they don’t get enough. In related news, I’d like to punch 4% of people in the face.

Interest in fantasy football is down slightly this year. I normally don’t ascribe the findings of my personal focus groups to the full U.S. population, but this is a trend I’m definitely seeing in real life – one if not two of my regular fantasy leagues are likely to disband this year. Indeed, interest in fantasy football – particularly daily fantasy – is down from 2021. Maybe everyone will change their minds over the next two weeks. Incidentally, among online sports bettors, DraftKings has further distanced itself as the, um, king.   

We could solve a lot of societal problems in this country if everyone just understood how the economy works. The guest on our podcast this week was the uncannily relatable and brilliant Michelle Meyer, the Chief Economist for North America at Mastercard. She will make you feel so much better about the economy, if only because you’ll understand it. Listen. Then make your kids listen.

More awesomeness from the CivicScientists:

  • Young people are gearing up to watch Serena Williams’ last run;
  • On Cloud shoes are running on to the scene;
  • Sedan drivers are more likely than SUV drivers to visit national parks, and other interesting factoids.

The most popular questions this week: 

Answer Key: Hard shell; For sure; Meh; Puppies – I’ve seen some ugly babies; Playing, by far.

Hoping you’re well. 


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