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Investopedia unveils its list of 10 most-searched economic words and phrases in 2023

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Every year, the finance website Investopedia offers a list of 10 most-searched words and phrases. I wonder if Investopedia is ever one of them. Anyway, Wailin Wong and Adrian Ma from NPR's The Indicator looked into what the 2023 results say about our collective economic psyche.

ADRIAN MA, BYLINE: Caleb Silver is editor-in-chief at Investopedia.

CALEB SILVER: The No. 1 term, and this was a little bit of a surprise, but this was a really deep term, is the American dream.

MA: Oh.

WAILIN WONG, BYLINE: Yeah. No, it's a really weighty term.

MA: I mean, Caleb says that he has never seen American dream in the top 100 terms in previous years. But for some reason, in 2023, it shot all the way to the No. 1 spot.

WONG: I was surprised that American dream is even a term on Investopedia, because to me, it's much more of a literary term than a financial term or an economic term.

SILVER: Yeah. It is not a classic financial term. It is a metaphysical term packed with meaning.

MA: But here is how Investopedia currently defines this term. Quote, "the American dream is the belief that anyone - regardless of where they were born or what class they were born into - can attain their own version of success in a society in which upward mobility is possible for everyone."

WONG: The Investopedia article says the term was coined by the historian James Truslow Adams in a 1931 book. The article also points out that home ownership is considered one of the hallmarks of the American dream.

MA: All this is why Caleb, you know, when he sees American dream suddenly appearing in the top 10 list, to him, it is a sign of something dark.

SILVER: I think this was a year - 2023 - when a lot of people came to terms with the fact that that's not real anymore or it's not real for them, and I think that has a lot to do with this big spike we had in mortgage rates, housing became very expensive and very tight, no supply and people were realizing for the first time they may never, ever be able to buy that house.

WONG: Caleb says there is this undercurrent of anxiety that runs through the list. Like, No. 2 is bank failures. You know, RIP Silicon Valley Bank.

MA: No. 3 is artificial intelligence - another big news topic that, for a lot of people, might stir up worries about the future and job security.

WONG: And like we said, American dream is not really a financial term, it's a literary term. So we wanted to call up someone with more of a literary brain than a coldly rational economist. In other words, we wanted to talk to a poet.

TIANA CLARK: I am Tiana Clark, and I am a poet and essayist.

WONG: We asked Tiana to give her impressions of the Investopedia list.

CLARK: Honestly, looking at the list, the first emotion that came to me was that people are afraid.

MA: Yeah. For Tiana, the term American dream brings to mind this famous Langston Hughes poem titled "Harlem," and it opens with a question.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LANGSTON HUGHES: What happens to a dream deferred?

CLARK: I think money is very emotional. The younger generations are rethinking if they want to get married, if they even want to have a home.

MA: We have covered on the show how negative feelings about the housing market have soured consumer sentiment this year, even though many other economic indicators are pretty good. There's a lot of contrasting feelings in the economy, which for Tiana, means there is also room for hope amid the anxiety.

CLARK: When I looked at this list, it just looks like they're trying to educate themselves to maybe translate that fear into something, into actionable steps, into a way to make them feel more capable and more possible.

MA: Adrian Ma.

WONG: Wailin Wong. NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Wailin Wong
Wailin Wong is a long-time business and economics journalist who's reported from a Chilean mountaintop, an embalming fluid factory and lots of places in between. She is a host of The Indicator from Planet Money. Previously, she launched and co-hosted two branded podcasts for a software company and covered tech and startups for the Chicago Tribune. Wailin started her career as a correspondent for Dow Jones Newswires in Buenos Aires. In her spare time, she plays violin in one of the oldest community orchestras in the U.S.
Adrian Ma
Adrian Ma covers work, money and other "business-ish" for NPR's daily economics podcast The Indicator from Planet Money.

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