Dec 14, 2023 - Economy

"College" tops decade of Google searches questioning cost

Data: Google Trends; Graphic: Simran Parwani/Axios
Data: Google Trends; Graphic: Simran Parwani/Axios

In recent years a convergence has occurred in U.S. online searches bemoaning expensive items, according to a new Google Trends analysis.

The big picture: With the exception of this year's eggflation and last year's gas price crisis, what has most consistently puzzled U.S. consumers as far as rising costs go is revealed by their search for "Why is college so expensive?"

  • Eggs claimed the top-searched spot in all states and D.C. in 2023, the analysis found. A decade ago, there were 23 different top-searched items among all the states.
  • From 2012-2020, "college" was the top item in "why is ___ so expensive?" searches in over 20% of the states.
  • In 2019, "insulin" dominated the national conversation on expensive items, being the top item in nearly 40% of states.

By the numbers: From 2013 to 2018, at least one state's top search was, "Why are pistachios so expensive?"

  • "Lululemon" was mentioned in 2019 and 2020.
  • Connecticut was most curious about "Hamilton tickets" in 2017.

Zoom out: In 2023, 14 other countries joined the U.S. in asking why eggs are so expensive, but the most globally-searched item was "flights."

  • "Apple products" have made an appearance on the why-so-expensive list each year, peaking in 2015 as the top search in 21 countries — the year the Apple Watch was released.
  • Overall, people in the U.S. asked about the high cost of "college" more frequently than any other country, signaling the exorbitant price tag of college tuition.
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