A Day in the Life of the American Woman's Wallet

What's a typical day in the life of a twentysomething woman worth to the economy? Hundreds of billions of dollars.

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Every morning, a woman walks into a coffee shop, removes the earbuds from her iPod, and orders a bottle of water. It costs $2. But what is this simple routine worth to the U.S. economy when multiplied across the country?

The Money ReportTens 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.

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 woman 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 click here for our article on the typical American man.


Michelle wakes up leisurely wrapped in a Perry Ellis duvet. She walks, half-asleep, to the fridge, where she removes an open Evian bottle and pours the remainder into a Cuisinart coffee machine. As the pot brews, she takes a quick shower, making efficient use of the last traces of Dove soap and shampoo. After toweling off, she spritzes her hair with some Aveda hairspray, massages Nivea face cream into her cheeks, and brushes her teeth with Colgate. She slides open her closet door and selects a gray Banana Republic pencil skirt with black stockings and short heels. She pours the joe into a thermos and she walks to the door, her hungry cat Emerson tracing her steps with hungry mewls



Michelle walks the ten blocks to work and pushes through the marketing firms' glass doors at 9am. On the way to her desk, she picks up the latest New York magazine to glance at her company's new eco-awareness ads. As she scans the latest full-page drafts on her desk, she opens her Kate Spade and takes out a stress ball to squeeze and pass between her hands as she scans the copy. After three hours, she logs online to browse the latest bikini sales from Zappos. In the middle of entering her credit card number, her boss reminds her she has a client lunch at Panera at one. Michelle grabs her things and leaves early: she needs half an hour for a personal detour at the tanning salon.


Michelle leaves work at 7pm to meet her boyfriend for drinks at a new dive bar. She considers walking but it's been a long day, so she takes a yellow taxi 15 blocks. She tips a buck, steps out, and locates him through the window. He's already ordered her favorite drink, a hot toddy with herbal tea and strong bourbon. A man selling roses approaches the couple and, out of pity, Michelle buys one for two dollars and places it daintily on the table as a kind of joke. They ask for ice cream, coffee for her and Rocky Road for him. After a few minutes they decide to catch an 8 o'clock movie next door. Two hours later, they kiss goodbye, and she takes the bus home to finish edits for the next project and slip back under the Perry Ellis duvet.

The Full List

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