Will the Ashley Madison hack help or hurt the economy? Justin Wolfers explores in NYT Upshot

August 21, 2015

In an August 20 column for The New York Times’ Upshot, Justin Wolfers and Josh Barro ponder the likely economic impact of the recent Ashley Madison leak, which has exposed millions of cases of adultery and is likely to instigate an uptick in divorce rates.

The column, “An Ashley Madison Recession? Or an Ashley Madison Stimulus?” is a back-of-the-envelope calculation of the economic impact—both demand-side and supply-side—determining that while the macroeconomic effect will be minimal, there are other costs.

“The big costs here are real,” says Wolfers, “it’s just that most of them aren’t measured in our economic statistics. They’re broken homes and broken hearts. Just as a natural disaster is terrible though not necessarily a major macroeconomic event, the Ashley Madison leak may be terrible for families, though not a macroeconomic event.” 

Justin Wolfers is a professor of public policy and economics at the University of Michigan and a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.