The State of Thanksgiving 2014

BUSINESS

Gas prices are down, air travel is up, shoppers are bracing for Black Friday, and a traditional Thanksgiving meal is slightly more expensive. Blame the sweet potatoes. (NPR)

Use our resources to learn more about Thanksgiving.

Discussion Ideas

Gas prices around Berkeley, California, where Interstate 80 seems to be moving pretty well here, hover at about $3.26. Photograph by Minesweeper, courtesy Wikimedia. CC BY-SA 3.0

Gas prices around Berkeley, California, where I-80 seems to be moving pretty well here, hover at about $3.26.
Photograph by Minesweeper, courtesy Wikimedia. CC BY-SA 3.0

  • Gas prices are the lowest they’ve been since 2009. The average gallon is hovering around $2.85, compared with $3.28 last year, according to AAA. Which state do you think has the lowest gas prices? Which state do you think has the highest? Why? Use GasBuddy to help you navigate your guesses.
    • Missouri has the lowest gas prices in the nation. Why Missouri? “Taxes, pipelines, and ethanol.” Read this terrific article from Slate for a real-world geography lesson:
      • Missouri’s gas prices are relatively low.
      • Missouri is crossed by pipelines from Texas, Oklahoma, and the Gulf Coast. Barges also transport oil along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. “Proximity to producers reduces transportation costs a little, but it also makes Missouri less susceptible to price spikes when individual refineries run into problems.”
      • The distribution of gas stations in Missouri tends to favor big-box retail stores or convenience stores. Prices are often lower at these locations because gas is not the primary item being sold.
    • Hawaii has the highest gas prices in the nation. Hawaii does not mine or refine any natural sources of petroleum, and all gas must be imported from halfway across the Pacific Ocean.
    • Bonus: What cities do you think have the highest and lowest gas prices? (Albuquerque, New Mexico, has the lowest prices, while Honolulu, Hawaii, has the highest.)
  • How do you think the price of gas impacts a holiday weekend such as Thanksgiving?
    • Lower prices allow more people to travel.
    • As more people travel, lower gas prices also mean more traffic jams. According to the New York Times, “Inrix, a company that sells traffic data, says the cities where delays will be much worse than last Thanksgiving are Boston (up by 22 percent), San Francisco (13 percent), Los Angeles (8.5 percent) and Seattle (up 7 percent).”
    • More vehicular traffic also means more emissions entering the atmosphere.
    • According to the New York Times, “Lower gas prices also affect Thursday’s dinner: The price of flour-based fixings like stuffing mix, pie shells and dinner rolls is down this year because energy costs are lower for food producers.”
    • According to NPR, the price of turkey has also dropped.
New climate models suggest "clear-air turbulence" could be rocking and rolling the skies in the near future. Photograph by Michael Walker

According to Airlines for America, “During the first nine months of 2014, the nine largest U.S. carriers (Alaska, Allegiant, American, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit and United) reported net earnings of $6.8 billion, resulting in a net profit margin of 5.7 percent—up from $4.5 billion in 2013.”
Photograph by Michael Walker

  • Airlines for America, the airline trade group, says 24.6 million passengers will fly over the Thanksgiving holiday period. Where do you think the busiest airport in the country is? Why?
The classic: Oven-roasted turkey with hearty veggies. Photograph by TheKohser, courtesy Wikimedia. CC BY-SA 3.0

The classic: Oven-roasted turkey with hearty veggies.
Photograph by TheKohser, courtesy Wikimedia. CC BY-SA 3.0

Strings of street lights, even stop lights, blink a bright red and green as the shoppers rush home with their treasures. Photograph by 松林 L, courtesy Wikimedia. CC BY-SA 2.0

Strings of street lights, even stop lights, blink a bright red and green, as the shoppers rush home with their treasures.
Photograph by 松林 L, courtesy Wikimedia. CC BY-SA 2.0

  • What is Black Friday? What is Cyber Monday? Are you ready?
    • Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, when the rush to buy holiday gifts traditionally begins. “Black Friday” originally had a negative association. It called attention to the sometimes-violent “heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic” that accompanied the frenzied shopping sprees. The “black” referred to dark days such as the “Black Tuesday” that started the Great Depression. However, retailers embraced the term to refer to traditional accounting: red signifies debt, while black signified profit. The day after Thanksgiving often takes retailers from the “red” to the “black.”
    • Cyber Monday is the Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday, when marketers encourage shoppers to start their online shopping for the holidays.

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

NPR: The Economics of Thanksgiving

Nat Geo: Thanksgiving

GasBuddy: USA and Canada Current Average Gas Prices by City/State/Province

Salon: Why is Gas So Cheap in Missouri?

Annenberg Media Center: LAX Predicted to be Busiest Airport Over Thanksgiving

Nat Geo: The United States of Thanksgiving

Minn Post: Minnesota to New York Times: We do not eat grape salad for Thanksgiving

New York Times: The Thanksgiving Recipes Googled in Every State

About.com: Why Is Black Friday Called Black Friday?

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