We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is the Misery Index?

Mary Elizabeth
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The Misery Index was devised by Arthur Okun, who is better known for Okun’s Law, which relates changes in unemployment to changes in gross national product (GNP), but only when unemployment is with the range of 3 to 7.5%. Okun was on the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) for President Kennedy and President Johnson, and created the index in the 1970s, after he had left the CEA and gone to work for the Brookings Institution.

Devised during a period of “stagflation” — a sluggish economy at a time of high unemployment and inflation — the Misery Index links those three factors in a simple measure that is meant to reflect the well-being of an economy. It is computed by summing the unemployment rate for a given period with the inflation rate during that period. The formula can be written:

Unemployment Rate + Inflation Rate = Misery Index

An increase in the index signals a decline in the economic climate because rising inflation and unemployment spur an economic slow-down, while a decrease in the index signals an improvement in the economic climate. It is common to line up the rating with presidential terms. Several analysts point out that in the period 1950 to 2010, it was lowest in July 1953 at the beginning of President Eisenhower’s term — at 2.97% — and highest in June 1980 during President Carter’s term — at 21.98%.

Other analysts have criticized the index for an inaccurate portrayal of the economy. This has led to creation of alternate indexes, including the Real Misery Index, the Ultimate Misery Index (UMI), and the Household Misery Index.

There are other offshoots as well. A sports writer, Jim Caple, worked out a 60-point MLB® (Major League Baseball) Misery Index in 2004. He then followed up with an NFL® (National Football League) Misery Index. The term is also the name of a deathgrind band formed in Maryland in 2001, the music of which is described as a combining of death metal with grindcore.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary Elizabeth
By Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to writing articles on art, literature, and music for WiseGeek, Mary works as a teacher, composer, and author who has written books, study guides, and teaching materials. Mary has also created music composition content for Sibelius Software. She earned her B.A. from University of Chicago's writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont.
Discussion Comments
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the...
Learn more
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.