The recession officially ended in June 2009, the National Bureau of Economic Research announced on Monday (Sept. 20). Yet the financial pain lingers for many, and the downturn caused profound shifts in everything from consumer habits to the rate of births. The recession affected the United States in some other, more peculiar ways, too.
Shark attacks declined
In 2008, attacks worldwide dipped to their lowest level in five years, a sign that Americans may have forgone vacation trips to the beach, according to ichthyologist George Burgess of the University of Florida. The total number of shark attacks declined from 71 in 2007 to 59 in 2008— the fewest since 2003, when there were 57, said Burgess.
Energy consumption declined
Americans used significantly less coal and petroleum in 2009 than in 2008, and significantly more wind power, according to energy flow charts released by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), a government national security laboratory in Livermore, Calif. There also was a decline in natural gas use and an increase in use of alternative energy sources, including solar, hydrothermal and geothermal power, the researchers said.
Fewer babies were born
Birth rates in the United States started to decline in 2008, after rising to their highest level in two decades, and the decrease appears to be linked to the recession, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of state fertility and economic data. The analysis found a strong association between the magnitude of birth rate change from 2007-2008 and the housing foreclosure rates in 2007. Over the past decade, birth rate trends roughly mirrored the nation’s economic ups and downs.
Violent crime went down
Violent crime decreased 4.4 percent in 2009 compared with 2008, according to the FBI's preliminary crime report released in May. The Uniform Crime Reporting Program, which collects and reports crime data to the FBI, defines violent crimes as crimes that involve force or threat of force.
Heavier women became more beautiful
Two studies, one using American movie actresses, the other Playboy Playmates of the Year, found that in uncertain economic times, beauty icons tend to be slightly more "mature" looking women — taller, heavier and sporting larger waists and less babyish facial features. Social and economic conditions, such as unemployment and homicide rates, influence what traits are viewed as attractive, according to Coastal Carolina University researchers.
Dead bodies piled up
Family members became unable to afford proper burials for deceased relatives due to economic hardship. For example, the Wayne County morgue in midtown Detroit had 67 unclaimed bodies in October 2009, according to news reports. As neither the deceased's families nor the county could afford to bury the dead, the corpses remained stacked up in the morgue's freezer. In July 2009, cremation went up 36 percent in Los Angeles, Calif., because of unclaimed bodies, according to news sources.
Adulthood was delayed
Young Americans took more time than before to leave home and become full-fledged adults, according to Richard Settersten, a professor of human development and family sciences at Oregon State University, and Barbara Ray, president of Hired Pen, Inc. As young people became more financially insecure and took home lower wages, they relied more heavily on their parents for financial assistance, the researchers observed.