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Size Inflation

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Apr 13, 2012    •    332 Views

Inflation is not only at the cash register.

Our story starts at H&M where an Esquire journalist tried on a size 36 pants that were too tight. He continued his search for pants with the 36″ waist label at Old Navy and they were too loose. After that, he sampled a pair of Dockers. Curious, this gentleman did the math. The H&M pants had a 37″ waist, Old Navy, 41″ and Dockers, 39.5″.

Women also have experienced some “downsizing.” Graphing size changes in the UK, The Economist concluded that women’s sizes have plunged by 2 numbers. If you wore a  size 14 several years ago, now it is labeled a 10. If you wore a 4 or a 6, your size might have declined to a double zero.

Size inflation–the trend toward smaller sizes getting larger—has its pros and cons. While smaller sizes make us feel good and might elevate retail sales, they enable us to ignore weight gain.

The bottom line: Price inflation also has pros and cons. Saying that inflationary policy helps borrowers, lowers unemployment, and makes holding cash less attractive, Paul Krugman supports expansionary Fed policy. By contrast, a more traditional view suggests that inflation is a hidden tax that distorts price signals, punishes savers, and creates a less stable business environment.

So, whether we are at the clothing rack or the cash register, we should think about inflation.

Here is the journalist who looked for the size 36″ waist, an Economist chart of size inflation, a Bloomberg columnist worrying about inflation and Paul Krugman asking for more. The CPI data is here.

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