Inflation Comes for the Classroom

A Bad Economy Makes it Worse for Education
Tim Gouw, Unsplash

Over the past year, inflation appears to be the sole constant in the American economy. Consequently, with back-to-school shopping in full swing as the summer begins to dwindle, parents should expect higher prices for numerous items on students’ supply lists. 

On Wednesday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the consumer price index has risen by 9.1% over the past year, a frightening number as America appears to have entered a recession. Such can be seen as according to preliminary data from the Atlanta Federal Reserve, the nation’s gross domestic product contracted by 2.1% in the second quarter of this year. 

Meanwhile, in 2021, the average family spent almost $500 on back-to-school shopping. Consequently, after adjusting for the consumer price index over the past year, it can be expected that the average family will spend about $545.

It should be noted that some products have faced higher levels of inflation than other back-to-school staples. For example, clothing prices have risen by approximately 4.9% since last year and school supplies have by 8.4%. Furthermore, the price of paper, which saw an uptick of 48% in 2021 alone, has increased by another 2% over the past six months. Such a dramatic shift can be evidently seen as the first result for “loose-leaf paper” on Amazon has seen a price increase of over 150% since the beginning of the year. 

Families should also be wary of “shrinkflation”—the economic phenomenon where commodity sizes shrink but prices remain constant or increase. For example, last month, Kleenex chose to reduce the number of tissues in each box by approximately 8%. Likewise, many pencil manufacturers have reduced their packs of thirty pencils to twenty-four, a twenty percent decrease.

Furthermore, one user on Reddit claimed that Crayola has drastically reduced the size of their colored pencils in their sixty-four pack. While the standard pencil size is approximately 7.5 inches, Crayola has shortened their length to the dimensions of a 3 inch golf pencil, or a reduction of 60%. 

Put simply, regardless of what grade a student is in, families should expect to pay more in their back-to-school shopping for virtually every item on their shopping list. Moreover, even if prices appear to have not increased, corners will likely be cut in the quantity and quality of the products sold. As such, for those on a tight budget, it is advisable that families attempt to wait on some items until the school year starts as stores may offer clearance sales near Labor Day.

Daniel Elmore
Daniel Elmore is the Data & Analytics Coordinator at the Chalkboard Review.

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