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This is the second installment of articles from students in Andrew Biggs’ economics class at New Technology High School in Napa. Earlier this spring, they began exploring the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in Napa County with a two-fold assignment, first to research a specific topic, then to turn their findings into an article. The next logical step was to publish them. — Sasha Paulsen, features editor
Gentrification in Napa?
Wine country rises and falls
By KRYSTLEE LOPEZ and EMMA ONTELL
Have you been in need of buying a house but you can’t afford any?
Housing and real estate prices have skyrocketed up due to inflation. People, typically adults (18+), will buy houses, simply because they need a home to live in. Not only is it important to Napans, but it is also important to the world because having a home to live in is a necessity, but unfortunately not everyone can afford one.
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Due to the rise of production and goods, the prices of housing have shot up extremely. This isn’t just the pricing of housing, though; it’s also the salary of realtors, the price of wood, gas, electricity and markets, etc.
Inflation has to be based on your living life and salary. The extra dollar bill you were saving up, is now going to your water bill rather than the pair of shoes you need for work. Your work life now requires you to overwork yourself for minimum wage, to still live from paycheck to paycheck– and that is not a lifestyle, that is survival at its finest.
Everything around you has been affected by this economic hell. Can’t pay rent? Vallejo is cheaper, but your job is here in Napa, and gas is now $6, and you drive a truck. Tthe babysitter also has to be paid, but in order for her to pay her rent, instead of $30 a day, now it’s $45.
Inflation is a never-ending circle that is not just within your wallet, but your everyday life. Inflation occurs when our economy raises the price of our products, which then increases the price of production for these goods.
Another reason prices in homes have risen is due to house-flipping. House-flipping is when you buy a house, and “fix it up” and “make it better” just to sell it for a higher price. Realistically, this is the rule that is non-existent in our society. There are people who have two homes and still choose to house-flip here in Napa Valley. Ever think how you still live in an apartment but your multimillionaire friend has three houses? Ding ding ding! They flip for profit, and this may not mean that it’s wrong, it means that those without a current home, will go a bit longer without one. Until the $19-an-hour (that is equivalent to $7 an hour back then) is raised to an realistic minimum wage, then sorry, your $24 an hour job will never cut it here in wine country.
The price of what we were used to paying for homes really depends on your timeline and where you grew up. We all have a different price we would consider as average for a home. If we use Napa as an example, then we would certainly have to choose a specific timeline. Napa homes today, versus Napa homes 10 years ago, would be at completely different average prices.
According to Google, the average price for a home in Napa today is around $863,140. Prices are most definitely changing, and as we see that everything is going up in price, most people want or need to buy a home but cannot afford to do so. The demand for wanting to buy a home, mentally, is certainly high, but with homes being priced so high, services such as plumbing, electricity, etc., are also very high in price.
The supply and demand is high, but if we are talking in a sense where we say if everyone can afford it, that is a whole different conversation.
What can we do? Unfortunately we can’t do much about this issue, we mostly just have to wait it out for the prices to drop down. Do your best to save up as much money as you can, and hopefully it can keep you financially stable and can afford your basic needs.
The human impact of this is built on gentrification in our community, pushing out those who have been here for generations, bringing in rich people who wish to buy their third house. Until our minimum wage is raised for everyone to be comfortable, we can’t expect to move forward as we’d like.
The booming book industry
The beginning of the pandemic was a tumultuous time for many industries. With the current trend of physical retailers closing down and businesses like the service industry dying out, many thought the publishing industry would follow suit. With online buying becoming the new norm, the market thought it would be the downfall of mom and pop bookstores. Little did they know it would be the saving grace of the industry as we enter a new era of buying.
Since the pandemic began, there has been a boom in the book industry. With so many people stuck at home, books have once again provided much needed escapism people craved with huge props to social media platforms even with the rising prices.
Book prices have been rising steadily over the years ranging from $14to $18, in part due to inflation. However, with the times we are in right now it seems as though book prices have soared tremendously. That is not to say COVID has not affected the industry. The pandemic has hit transportation lines, and these physical books are in need of transportation and storage, adding to the cost of production. The rising costs and added stress of the pandemic on the book industry had people thinking the worst; one thing they didn’t account for was the lockdowns driving people restless and wanting to try new things.
A big contributor to the success of the industry despite the social environment of the world is social media, specifically, BookTok. This niche part of TikTok awoke a new wave of readers with time on their hands and increased the sales.
It also helped that online buying was already commonplace and formats such as ebooks much cheaper, allowing more people access to books and boosting the industry. The sudden change of environment for everybody also pushed individual bookstores to digitize much quicker, allowing them to survive and keep up with bigger competitors.
Consumers who wanted to support local businesses were able to, due to this. Not only did digitization help small businesses, it also diversified the market, where places like Amazon and Barnes & Nobles aren’t the only spots to buy books anymore. Hopefully, further on, we will see positive effects on the online market.
The future of the book industry proves to be resilient even in the confusing times we live in now, even proving to come out on top despite negative expectations.
As an avid reader myself, if I were to write this article with only my own knowledge of the situation to back me up, I wholeheartedly thought that business was not booming. I only saw the prices and the delayed release dates and came to the conclusion that this industry was suffering the same fate as others. This just goes to show how unpredictable the market can be but profitable due to current human trends.
By ESTRELLA ALDAMA and CATHERINE VEGA
Milk has been a household necessity for centuries. It is a natural resource that provides calcium, potassium and a variety of other vitamins. According to Healthline, drinking milk can prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures. Milk has proved to be beneficial in our diets, resulting in its being sold everywhere from major grocery stores to small corner stores.
After COVID-19 hit in 2019, it affected the supply of milk as well as other dairy products like eggs and butter. This caused many businesses to shut down, which affected transportation and manufacturing. This has been a big struggle and continues to be one. Dairy farmers had also been finding it difficult to hire people since the pandemic caused employees to retire early or simply quit working.
With it being a known necessity, people began taking advantage of these types of products. Eventually, some stores began limiting their products to two dairy products per person. With that, the pandemic caused a shift in demand. Aside from that, there continued to be an extremely high supply of milk, due to cows consistently needing to be milked. Farmers had no choice but to begin dumping their milk.
As stated by weforum.org, dairy farmer Jason Leedle was contacted by the DFA (Dairy Farmers of America), and they asked him to begin dumping his milk. Despite the strong demand for these products, the pandemic caused disruptions that prevented dairy farmers from getting their products to market.
The beginning of the pandemic had also incited newfound boredom for everyone stuck at home. As more people found entertainment on social media, Tik Tok in particular had gained numerous accounts globally. Trends and recommendations had soon taken over the internet, and many people were introduced to milk alternatives. These alternatives consisted of dry milk, oat milk, almond milk, coconut milk and many others. As recipes trended on social media, people began to experiment with making their own oat milk and almond milk.
All in all, COVID impacted milk prices and production and continues to do so to this day. However, milk is a necessity in everyday lives and people have become accustomed to the pandemic, so the demand has been relatively consistent.
The COVID effects on drinking water
Drinking water is a necessity. People buy it because they want their water to be purified and also in a bottle. Some people don’t trust tap water and the way it is filtered, and some people just want it for the convenience.
Water systems can also be compromised during emergency situations, which means bottled water is a better option during those times. It’s important for people in Napa because people in Napa need to drink water to survive and also California is hot.
When the pandemic started, the demand for drinking water went up because many people were preparing for quarantine by stocking up on water. A lot of times when an emergency situation happens, people panic and stock up on as much stuff as possible in order to survive through the condition.
This change in demand caused the equilibrium price, which was around $1.10, to go up. When the demand for a product or service increases, the price would have to go up in order for production to stay as efficient as possible.
According to data from the Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC), bottled water outsold all other packaged beverages in 2020, and the sales increased by at least 4.7%. The cost isn’t usually changed very dramatically because of its low elasticity. Most bottled drinking water is cheap as it is, important for our health and doesn’t have a ton of substitutes.
Water was being sold out because of so many people buying so much at once. This had a negative impact on people who buy bottled water. However, the panic that caused people to buy so much at once has calmed down since then, so waiting is a good solution for when something like this happens. A limit on how much people can buy at a time could help to give people equal access, because then the demand wouldn’t go up so suddenly.
The bottled situation in California
Bottled water is mainly bought by, but not limited to, fitness enthusiasts, hikers and a group of older people who have gotten accustomed to buying the cheaper, more common water bottles.
There are also multiple other people who still buy those types of water bottles for the same reason; they are our biggest source of water because they are cheap and easy to get.
While water may be a necessity, buying it in the form that most people buy it isn’t necessary. The only reason big businesses still make bottled water is that they will keep making money for the reasons I’ve stated before. What a lot of people don’t understand yet is that buying reusable water bottles could save them a lot of money as well as help out the environment.
The price of bottled water hasn’t changed a whole lot over the year, though the demand has gone up for a variety of reasons. The first and biggest reason is due to the pandemic. Since the pandemic started many people felt that they needed to exercise more, and due to the increase in exercising,the demand for bottled water has gone up.
The reason bottled water has been purchased more than the alternatives is that they are cheap and reliable. The second biggest reason for Californians to buy more bottled water is the yearly wildfires. Charity groups, homeless shelters and evacuation centers needed more water bottles to give to the people in need, and giving bottled water is the simplest way to provide it.
What you could do to decrease the amount of bottled water produced is purchase more alternatives. It may seem that bottled water is a cheap alternative for getting access to drinkable water, but buying a trustworthy source of water could be the better option because you’ll be spending less money in the long run.
If you are someone who buys many recyclable plastic bottles of water, I would recommend you purchase a metal (or sturdy plastic) bottle of water from a trustworthy brand. Even if you don’t drink a lot of water because you don’t go out often. Buying an alternative could last longer and be less harmful to the environment even if it’s put away.
The demand for over-the-counter antitussives
Over-the-counter antitussives are a household commodity that many do not think twice about owning, especially in current times as we endure a global pandemic.
Among popular over-the- counter cold medicine is Robitussin DM, which is most commonly bought to treat congestion and cough. According to Villanova University more than 1 billion people suffer from the common cold a year, and 36,000 die from the flu. This necessary product can save lives and minimize suffering caused from illness
The accessibility of this product dwindled severely over the course of the pandemic. Normally, it would cost anywhere from $5 to $12 for a bottle of Robitussin DM. While prices have stayed relatively the same, as surges in coronavirus case numbers became more and more frequent, panic buying and household stockpiling made this product virtually unavailable to many. Soaring demand for over-the-counter and prescription medication caused a 9% sales increase in 2020, netting pharmaceutical companies $9.4 billion in sales.
Alternatives to Robitussin such as Delsym or Mucinex fell victim to the same fate with shortages and pricing increases. Many people began substituting over-the-counter medication with home remedies like steam therapy or hot tea to soothe their symptoms. While it may seem like panic buying and supply shortages are a thing of the past, you may still find yourself unable to find cough syrup or toilet paper at your local convenience store.
What about art supplies in Napa?
By NARANGOO ERDENE-OCHIR
Sketchbooks are for everyone, including artists and the general public. Artists purchase them more than the general public who use them for school art programs or just for their hobbies. Furthermore, depending on the customers, sketchbooks are a necessity for artists while a luxury for others. This means that artists use them like essentials, like drinking water everyday, whereas some people only use them on occasion. Overall, sketch pads are important for Napans, since a lot of people care about art in the community.
According to a New Technology High school art teacher, “I think school art is important. Kids can get off of the screen. They need to be authentically creative and they get to explore and express themselves. They get to express their culture, ethnicity, gender, etc.”
Because sketchbooks are expensive, the schools provide more expensive good quality sketchbooks for advanced art students while providing less expensive ones for beginner art students. Sketchbooks are really great for keeping the drawings in place while getting used to create amazing art.
Due to COVID-19, a lot of people started taking care of themselves by drawing or creating art, and so it increased the demand for sketchbooks. Many of us go for sketchbooks rather than canvas especially if you’re a beginner. According to Artnet, not only did COVID-19 affect the art supply price, but also it has been increasing on its own over the past several years.
For example, the sketchbooks used to be around $5 to $10, in general. Now, depending on the name, brand of sketchbook, size, pages or the type of sketchbook, prices can fluctuate. In illustration, artist-grade Jackson’s large watercolor sketchbooks cost $35 while Jackson’s regular sketchbook is around $10 to $15. Less popular sketchbooks, however, are way cheaper, like $5 or less. So the equilibrium price will go up since there is more change in demand.
As for how this is impacting sketchbook sales, there has been no negative impact. Artists are just absorbing the price, while limiting how much they buy. People can purchase whichever sketchbooks they want depending on their budget and the type of sketchbooks they want. Overall, sketchbooks are still valuable and keep us productive and creative when it’s combined with art.
The toilet paper challenge
Toilet paper is a common everyday item we see in our lives. It has become one of the most hygienic products that is used in our world that we use to clean ourselves. It is one of the most important luxuries that is out there for Americans across the country and Napans that live here.
It does go for around $6 to $30 in stores and departments but with recent inflations and COVID-19, those prices changed. One graph from Prisync showed one brand increasing in price from $3.71 in March 2020 to $50.16, a 907.74 % increase in two months.
COVID-19 caused a massive change by having a high demand but a low supply, because it was always being sold out. We are used to paying a low price for it but when COVID-19 hit us, these prices spiked up really high as the demand went up but the supply went down; it was hard keeping up with the demands.
The impact it caused was negative with people going into panics and fighting to try and just get some toilet paper. With the recent slow down of COVID, people have been more calm about it and the issues with toilet paper have seem to have stopped. Currently, there is no need for solutions, but if there needed to be one, it would be to wait and stock up on toilet paper until you can find more.