Each day we wake up into a national economy of bed sheets, coffee beans, and contact solution. But how do Americans actually spend their money on the products, large and small, that constitute what we've come to consider a typical day?
Image: Youtube/Old Spice
Every morning, a man walks into a coffee shop, removes the earbuds from his iPod, and orders a bottled water. It costs him $2. But what is this simple routine worth to the U.S. economy when multiplied across the country?
Tens of billions of dollars, it turns out. The coffee shop economy was worth $11 billion last year. Bottled water sales contributed another $15 billion. Portable music players add another $11 billion. You can throw in his jacket (part of a $3 billion men's suit industry), Ray-Bans ($750 million for sunglasses), and the Captain Crunch crumbs on his shirt ($13 billion in cereal sales).
The Atlantic wanted to figure out the economic magnitude of our daily routines. So we asked IBISWorld, a global leader in measuring industry sizes, to estimate the size of dozens of industries we come into contact with each day -- from bed sheets to bars and beers. Here is a day in the life of a typical man in the U.S. economy, with the annual market size of each industry in bold graphed in billions of dollars to the left.*
See the industries ranked from largest to smallest in the clickable graph at the bottom, and stay tuned for our forthcoming article on the typical American woman.
As he drowsily kicks off his black linen sheets, Michael knows he'll be late for work. Those Ambien pills always work too well. He scrambles across the apartment and into the shower, where he finds the hot water is all but exhausted by his roommates. Shivering in the lukewarm drizzle, he smushes a dollop of Pantene Pro-V on his head and works the last drops of body soap from the Axe container. Ten minutes later, he's toweled off, rolled Old Spice under his arms and assembled his suit: a blue pinstriped Oxford button-up, a solid red tie, black cotton socks, a matching pair of slacks, and lace-less black leather shoes. He massages a pair of contacts onto his pupils, snatches his Ray-Bans from off the floor and slides his arms into a blue blazer, feeling a tug in his tricep. Overdid it on those lat pull downs, he thinks as he disappears behind the door.
Michael's commute is a bona fide workout itself -- a breakneck bike ride down Connecticut Ave. and a sprint up the office stairs, three at a time. An empty Starbucks cup is waiting on the black ergonomic seat, the shell of last night's latte. He tries to dispose it with a fadeaway jumper, but it falls short of the can, a reminder of his 1-10 performance in last night's basketball rec league. He returns to his desk to check NFL labor news, blog updates on new video game releases, Groupon discounts, concert tickets at local clubs ... anything but work. Finally he chugs a Five Hour Energy shot, plugs into Pandora online radio, and starts to work on Excel. Four hours later, it's 1PM, lunch time. In the elevator downstairs, he plugs into his iPod Touch. Approaching his favorite street vendor, he remembers there's still Corn Pops stashed in the office kitchen. He orders something small: grilled cheese.
The rest of the day is a blur of words and red ink, and by 6 o'clock Michael's walking back out the glass doors to meet his date Julia at a local bar. She orders something hard with soda. He goes with a Bud Lite. It's a typical first-date conversation: overeager, eclectic and skin-deep. They both love golf but hate Tiger Woods. They smoke cigarettes but only the weekends after three drinks. They both have roommates who work for Politico. After two hours, the date feels like a success and they make plans to catch the latest Apatow movie next weekend. Michael bikes home with a light buzz. He puts away his backpack, hangs up his suit, and skips the Ambien. It's been a full day. He doesn't need any help falling asleep.
* Please note that the X-axis changes throughout the day to help show the scale of large and small industries. Data not provided by IBISWorld: the U.S. bicycle industry (the National Sporting Goods Association), the coffee shop industry, the video game industry, and the sleeping aids industry, and the contact lens industry.