As debt threatens the security of nations and individuals, the rediscovery of thrift becomes urgent. The Institute for American Values is running a thrift project (the Centre for Thrift and Generosity) in conjunction with the John Templeton Foundation and last year staged the first national Thrift Week since the 1960s. The launch, seen in the video above, was hosted by the City of Philadelphia.

A study released by the IAV in January this year — fifty months after the Great Recession began–shows that Americans have become somewhat thriftier but still have a long way to go.

The first ever U.S. Thrift Index measures six separate components of thrift: valuing hard work over luck; entrepreneurship; personal savings; avoiding credit card debt; municipal recycling; and charitable giving. For each one, it assigns a score from 0 to 100. The average of these scores is the overall thrift score.

In 2010, Americans scored 40.1 out of 100. They earned low scores on personal savings and charitable giving–26.5 and 20.0 out of 100 respectively.

Americans also fell short on the measures of entrepreneurship [34 out of 100] and municipal recycling [33.8 out of 100].

The Index does show some positive signs of thrift, however. Americans continue to overwhelmingly value hard work more than luck, an attitude essential to thrifty industriousness. [69.6 out of 100] Also, because the thrift index uses indicators that can be measured since at least 1996, and in some cases as far back as 1960, the evidence suggests that thriftiness may be enjoying a gradual comeback. A reduction in credit card debt is one sign of increased thrift behavior.

For decades, the public has received frequent reports and updates of consumer attitudes, behaviors, preferences and trends. The Thrift Index seeks to add a measure of thrift attitudes and behaviors to the stream of economic reporting, says the IAV.

What a great initiative. Maybe we could all stir up interest in our own communities.


Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet