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Bruno Lavrentiev
Bruno Lavrentiev


Call it the peril of an unlucky draw. Our research offers evidence that the transitory economic shock of a recession experienced during a formative period may put some young adults on a riskier, economically less successful life trajectory.


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Whether we are willing to admit it or not, many of us are superstitious. The condition manifests itself in many different ways. We avoid black cats and walking under ladders. We don't change socks or headgear during the playoffs. We throw salt over our shoulders or count the cracks in the sidewalk to avoid breaking our mother's back. Superstitions often begin because we seem to get lucky or unlucky depending on whether we engage or avoid certain behaviors.

The number 13 still carries certain superstitious weight. Today, although a Sunday, is still the 13th day of the month. In his new book "13: The Story of the World's Most Notorious Superstition," Nathaniel Lachenmeyer examines the unlucky number 13, and he's in our New York bureau.

Mr. LACHENMEYER: The number 13--first record of it being a superstition was in the late 17th century, and the first incarnation of unlucky 13 was '13 at a table.' If you sit 13 people at a table, one will die within a year. And at the time, everyone knew, really, the origin of the superstition, and it was the 12 plus one of Christ and the disciples at the Last Supper. It's only in the centuries since that there's been sort of confusion and alternative theories that have come up.

HANSEN: OK, now tell us, then, about the 13 Club. This was a club that used to get together once a month and try to dispel that myth, that superstition, that it's unlucky to sit 13 to a table. Elaborate a little bit on--about this club and its mission.

Mr. LACHENMEYER: But it's interesting, though. The missing-13th-floor phenomenon actually perpetuates today, not just the 13th floor. Sort of architects and developers will more often than not still omit the 13th floor, but also people who design--I've talked to architects who design mausoleums, and they'll also skip the number 13. But basically that works by, you know, sort of inertia at this point--it's an established tradition and no one knows how many people are still--wouldn't rent or buy an apartment if it were labeled the 13th floor. So it's, you know--it's easy to continue the tradition. The effect of that, though, is it kind of--it exaggerates for the general public the sense that the superstition is very much with us. I think that really unlucky 13 exists more today as a--less as a national superstition and more as public awareness of what was once a national superstition.

Let's look back at the first 10 weeks of the season and use the evidence I've found to try to identify teams that have been lucky or unlucky. If you want to substitute fortunate or well-timed for lucky, that's fine, too. I'll get into why each team deserves to be in their respective category and what it means for their season moving forward. I'll also finish with one team that somehow has simultaneously been both lucky and unlucky.

Tampa also has been unlucky when footballs have hit the ground this season. The average team recovers just under 58% of their fumbles on offense, but the Bucs only have recovered three of the nine balls they've put on the ground, or 33%. Doing the math, you can probably guess that teams recover a little more than 42% of the fumbles they force on the defensive side of the ball, but despite forcing 12, the Bucs only have recovered four. They're tied with the Browns for the worst fumble recovery rate in the league.

The Falcons have exceeded my expectations. I thought they would be one of the league's worst teams. Instead, they've been competitive in just about every one of their games. Fans of this team might argue they're unlucky to have a losing record, given that they came within a furious comeback of beating the Saints in Week 1, then failed to capitalize on a Cooper Kupp fumble that gifted them a short field in the fourth quarter of a close game against the Rams the following week.

Dolphins fans are rightfully over the moon. Tua Tagovailoa has been the league's best quarterback on a snap-by-snap basis this season. Mike McDaniel looks to be the right head-coaching hire after years of disappointing decisions. The defense has struggled, but Miami has won every game Tagovailoa has completed so far in 2022. If anything, given that the Dolphins lost the three games Tagovailoa mostly or entirely missed because of a concussion, Fins supporters might feel like they've been unlucky.

So, why aren't they listed as an unlucky team? Because there is lots of other evidence they have benefited from good fortune. They've recovered nearly 69% of fumbles, the league's top rate. Their offense ranks 22nd on early downs and fifth by EPA per play on third and fourth down. Opposing kickers have gone 11-for-17 on field goals against them, the worst conversion rate. As bad as it has gone for the Raiders, somehow, it could be even worse.

The number 13 is synonymous with bad luck. It's considered unlucky to have 13 guests at a dinner party, many buildings don't have a 13th floor and most people avoid getting married or buying a house on a day marked by this dreaded number.

"No data exists, and will never exist, to confirm that the number 13 is an unlucky number," said Igor Radun of the Human Factors and Safety Behavior Group at the University of Helsinki's Institute of Behavioural Sciences in Finland. "There is no reason to believe that any number would be lucky or unlucky." [10 Weird Things Humans Do Every Day, and Why]

Since the 1993 study, other studies have been written showing that it's just women who have more accidents on Friday the 13th, with further studies determining that that's actually not the case. Other research results attempting to measure just how unlucky the number 13 is are mixed.

Based on our findings, we approximate that the roughly 6.8 million young US labor market entrants looking for their first full-time job in 2020 might give up about $400 billion in earnings over the first 10 years of their working lives. That projection is based on a swift economic recovery in 2021. If the pandemic-induced recession continues or deepens next year, 2020 graduates might fall even further behind, and an additional unlucky group of new entrants would face the same dire outlook in 2021.

Those unlucky enough to start careers in a recession have been found to experience lower earnings for 10 to 15 years after graduation, or longer. Less educated and non-White workers experience prolonged episodes of unemployment and temporary increases in poverty. More highly educated workers take jobs with lower-paying employers and partially recover by switching to better employers. Studies have also found that those in this group are more likely to have lower self-esteem, commit more crimes, and distrust government.

Bottom line: Entering the labor market in a recession is associated not only with significant income losses in the short term, but also with broad social and health consequences that persistently hurt household finances, family formation, and longevity. The evidence discussed here is from industrialized countries, where the data required to study long-term consequences of an unlucky start are more readily available. Yet unlucky cohorts might experience even larger or longer-lasting penalties in lower- or middle-income countries, where in addition young people are also at increased risk of dropping out of school. Given the unprecedented magnitude of the COVID-19 economic contraction, it is more important than ever to develop policies and individual-level strategies to lessen the lasting scars for these labor market entrants. FD

Each day of the week in Thailand has an associated auspicious and inauspicious color: For example, red is lucky on Sunday but unlucky on Monday, whereas green is lucky on Wednesday but unlucky on Saturday, Bernards said. Though these associations are associated with Theravada Buddhism, they are derived from Hindu cosmology. 041b061a72


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