According to YouGov, just under a fifth of Brits aged 18-39 said they thought star signs gave insights in people’s personality, and almost one in ten said horoscopes can predict the future. Horoscope websites and apps that cater to a Millennial audience are also popular. One app, Co-Star, has been downloaded 3 million times since 2017. The Cut, an online media outlet, says astrology articles got 150 percent more readers in 2017 vs 2016.
‘So what?’ some of you are probably thinking (undoubtedly the fire signs, you impatient bunch). Well, there’s a theory going around that this whole astrology moment is linked to the economy. Specifically, it’s said that because many Millennials feel insecure about their financial and economic future (not being able to get on the housing ladder, working in the gig economy, Brexit etc.), they’re seeking solace in the stars. There is some data to back this theory up: research suggests that Millennials as a generation are generally quite stressed about the future, and a separate study has linked feeling stressed with getting into astrology.
If astrology is stress-lowering, then there’s an argument that its newfound popularity should be viewed positively by economists. Being stressed and unhappy tends to make us a worse version of ourselves, whether at work or home or in the voting booth. Plus, increased demand for astrology-related stuff will benefit some individuals and businesses by creating a bunch of profit-making and job-creating opportunities.
But an uptick in pseudoscientific beliefs may also have negative consequences. Studies suggest horoscope-checkers are more likely to act impulsively or indulgently. So if astrology pushes more people to, say, be reckless with their money or consume unhealthy products then its recent popularity is gonna have some bad knock-on effects. And while a fatalist attitude towards disliked events can be reassuring (“there was nothing I could do about it anyway”) it can also discourage people from pushing for the economy they want - whether by voting or protesting or whatever.
…So where next? Not only do economic ideas shape the institutions and communities we live in, they also influence our own ideas of personal success – be it earning well, achieving a ‘Dr.’ or ‘CEO’ at the front of our label, or living a sustainable life. But what with the speed at which technology is transforming our economies, we can barely predict what ‘s in store for our economies and where we’ll fit in…