Something as simple as a lost tooth might give clues about the nation's economic outlook.
Your incisors and canines may not have Magic 8-Ball powers, but losing them could indicate how strong the economy is.
According to Delta Dental, a national dental insurance company, what the tooth fairy leaves under a child’s pillow has a direct correlation to how well the stock market is doing. And this year teeth are at a record-high average of $4.36 each.
“We keep our eye on all kinds of economic indicators, and the Tooth Fairy’s record giving tracks with big gains in the major stock indexes in 2014,” said Jennifer Elliott, vice president of marketing at Delta Dental Plans Association.
Maybe you think comparing tooth fairy visits to the stock market is a weird, arbitrary comparison. But Delta Dental has been doing this “Tooth Fairy Index” since 1998, and it hasn’t been wrong since 2006. As you can see below, it consistently tracks with the S&P 500, an index of 500 stocks used as a benchmark for the whole stock market.
After you see the correlation, it might seem obvious. But we looked at other data, including regional debt figures in the Federal Reserve’s quarterly reports on household debt, and couldn’t make a similar connection. That leads us to believe that, as the tooth fairy goes, so goes the nation.
It’s better in the South
Delta broke down their Tooth Fairy Index by region, giving us a better idea of the biggest payouts per tooth loss…
- The South was ranked the most generous region, with kids receiving an average of $5.16 per tooth;
- The West was second best, at $4.68 per tooth;
- The Northeast paid out a below-average $4.16 per tooth;
- And kids in the Midwest had to suffer the lowest tooth rates at $2.83 per tooth.
That rate’s a double whammy for the Midwestern kids: They’re even getting less than a year ago, when the tooth fairy bestowed an average of $3.30 per tooth in that region.
And it keeps getting better each year
The Midwest aside, tooth rates have been trending upward. In 2013, the tooth fairy paid $3.50 per tooth. In 2012, it was an even $3, and the year before was $2.60. (That’s a 68 percent jump from two years ago — so keep those teeth in your mouth as long as you can for the best payout, kiddies.)
First-time teeth losers hit the jackpot, at an average $5.74 per tooth last year. All told, the tooth fairy left $255 million for lost teeth in 2014. Like the S&P 500, tooth rates have had double-digit increases for the third year in a row.
The tooth fairy’s going rate
Delta says children with younger parents are likely to receive more money. Kids whose parents are under 35 received an average $5.40 per tooth, while kids with parents over 45 give $2.45 per tooth. (Maybe that’s the problem with the Midwest.)
How does the tooth fairy know what to leave? Maybe she uses Visa’s free Tooth Fairy Calculator app. Entering your gender, age, state, education level, marital status, family size, and annual income to find out what kids from families like yours usually find under their pillows.