Measuring the health of the economy with the Men’s Underwear Index

The Men’s Underwear Index (MUI)

Did you know that some economists look to the underwear drawers of American men to determine the health of the current economy? The Men’s Underwear Index (MUI) is an unconventional economic indicator that measures how the economy is performing based on the sales of men’s underwear. We’re not making this up, we swear!

The logic behind the MUI is that because men’s underwear is a necessity, not a luxury, sales are steady, but when the health of the economy is poor, sales dip as the necessity becomes a luxury. When sales improve, the health of the economy is said to improve along with it, according to subscribers of the MUI theory.

It isn’t just crackpot economists smoking a pipe full of pretentiousness, no, even former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan was a believer in the MUI. He said that because so few people ever see men’s underpants, this is the first thing men stop buying in a down economy.

So how is the MUI right now? As of August, men’s underwear sales rose 7.9 percent from August 2011, according the retail research firm NPD Group, indicating that while we are down substantially from past years, the improvement is in line with other economic indicators that claim the economy has not recovered but is showing signs of doing so, thus at least for now, the MUI is on course.

Critics argue that it is typically women that buy underwear for men, thus the MUI is bunk, and other critics say the theory is flawed because men wear underwear until the holes are too big to stand, thus it does not correlate to the economy.


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