To Be And To Last #21

This week we explore COVID’s impact on the world around us: on park usage globally, on socio-economic financial security, and on the vibrations of our planet.

A time for walking

Since COVID hit, I’ve walked an average of 125 miles each month. Mostly engrossed in various audiobooks while completing errands or simply meandering around Singapore.

As it turns out, I’m not alone. Although time spent outside the home is down (primarily due to office closures), time spent in parks is up in some countries (US is +54%, FR is +129%, KR is + 58%).

Working with private companies, economist Raj Chetty and team built this wonderful tracker to visualize economic recovery across various tiers: employment, education, recreation, consumer spending. While the tool is unfortunately US-only, many of the data sources are more international.

Economic recovery… for some

K-shaped recovery: Using anonymized data from payroll providers like Intuit, Raj Chetty has found that high wage jobs (>US$60k per year) have recovered nearly to pre-COVID levels. Low wage jobs (<US$27k per year), on the other hand, remain well down with a much steeper drop and slower recovery.

Concerningly, similar socio-economic deltas appear across measures such as student progress in math and consumer spending (low income spending is back to normal levels, while high income spending remains below previous levels).

(thanks to The Pomp Letter)

Increasing wealth disparity?

“The resiliency of the housing market is likely due to the pandemic-induced recession impacting renters more than homebuyers.” - Texas Border Economy | Sept 2020

Cutting through clickbait headlines, I often enjoy learning directly from publications like A&M’s monthly Texas Border Economy updates. And the data is stark: while employment remains well below normal levels, the housing market is actually growing rapidly. Since real estate has historically been the most reliable wealth building tool in the US, could a few years of this impact wealth disparity for generations to come?

Our planet is on silent mode

On a somewhat lighter note, I enjoyed this beautiful graph of seismic noise during COVID lockdowns:

I generally associate seismometers with earthquakes, but they actually pick up all manner of noise vibrations, including planes, manufacturing, and even football matches. During COVID lockdowns, most of the world became substantially quieter than normal, which gave seismologists a rare chance to measure natural vibrations more cleanly.

(thanks to Celeste Labedz and Ed Henry)


To Be And To Last: Thinker Nate Desmond’s weekly roundup of long reads, contrarian thoughts, and hidden jewels that aren’t getting enough attention.

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