For the 20th century since the Depression, we find a strong correlation between a ‘literary misery index’ derived from English language books and a moving average of the previous decade of the annual U.S. economic misery index, which is the sum of inflation and unemployment rates. We find a peak in the goodness of fit at 11 years for the moving average. The fit between the two misery indices holds when using different techniques to measure the literary misery index, and this fit is significantly better than other possible correlations with different emotion indices. To check the robustness of the results, we also analysed books written in German language and obtained very similar correlations with the German economic misery index. The results suggest that millions of books published every year average the authors’ shared economic experiences over the past decade.
This paper has been widely covered by popular and scientific media. Here some examples:
Why Wasn’t it ‘Grapes of Glee’? Study of Books Find Economic Link, The New York Times.
Literature gloom mirrors economic misery, study finds, The Guardian.
Information is power, Radio3 Scienza (a radio interview in italian, I start around minute 18, download the podcast here).