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Bitcoin Price History: 2009 – 2023

Bitcoin’s past performance can help you understand where its value is heading. Here’s bitcoin’s price history delineated since its inception.



Bitcoin’s past performance can help you understand where its value is heading. Here’s bitcoin’s price history delineated since its inception.


How many times has bitcoin been declared dead? At least 463 times. And it’s never been because of its monetary system failing or its technical operation breaking down, but because of its price crashing.

Some may argue that those two things — tech development and price actions — are inherently connected, but that’s not the case.

Price swings in bitcoin are mainly driven by its own halving cycles as well as macroeconomic events. Since it roared into life from humble beginnings, bitcoin has had a turbulent history. Its infamous volatility has resulted in multiple appreciations of 1,000% in value, only to later drop by as much as 80% or even 90% — such as in 2014.

Every single time, though, it has bounced back, recovered its previous highs and gone on to set new ones. This resilience has proven some of the most seasoned investors wrong and won new supporters along the way.

In this article, we take you through bitcoin’s price history in detail, year after year, around the critical events that shaped it as an innovative monetary system.

Price History

Bitcoin was created in 2008 to challenge the existing system of centralized, credit-based money issued by bureaucrats and unstable banks. By trusting code instead of human vulnerabilities, bitcoin offered a way out of that debacle.

At first the new invention was nothing more than an experiment, but those who read the white paper and were knowledgeable of cryptography, money and finance, could already see it turning into something much bigger than a simple cryptographic toy.

For the first year, bitcoin didn’t have a market price; it had no premine or any rounds of investment from big venture capital firms. Something changed in 2010 when it started to be traded for goods and services which would set it on the path toward today’s innovative and alternative currency system — a journey from $0 in 2009 to $68,000 in only 13 years.

Next, we’ll explore how bitcoin grew from a tech plaything with lofty ambitions to a bona fide monetary asset that’s continuing to deliver on its promise.

January 2009-December 2013

Bitcoin’s proof-of-concept was emphasized in the white paper published on October 31, 2008, by Satoshi Nakamoto. All through 2009, anyone could join the network by mining blocks of Bitcoin with their computers’ CPUs without much effort. All things considered, the price was still $0.

2009: Genesis

Price Range $0-$.0009

Satoshi mined the genesis block with the famous text note and headline from the London Times, “Chancellor on Brink of Second Bailout for Banks” — a clear reference to the 2008-2009 financial crisis. 

The block reward was 50 bitcoin and people were mining thousands of bitcoin every day. The New Liberty Standard Exchange recorded the first exchange of bitcoin for dollars in late 2009, though people were mostly trading bitcoin over the BitcoinTalk forum.

The European sovereign debt crisis began in November when Greece revealed that its budget deficit was nearly double the prior estimates. While this event was too early in Bitcoin’s history to affect the price in any meaningful way, indebted sovereigns would continue to be a worry in the legacy monetary system against which bitcoin compared itself.

On October 12th, 2009 a member of the BitcoinTalk forum traded 5050 BTC for a sum of $5.02 via Paypal, which implies a price of $0.00099 per coin and one of the lowest prices per BTC ever recorded. This transaction kicked off a series of OTC purchases in the succeeding months. 

2010: Bitcoin Begins Trading

Price Range $.00099-$0.4

On the 20th of February, a person on reddit using the username theymos claims to have sold 160 BTC for $.003, which would make it the lowest ever price recorded.

On May 22, Laszlo Hanyecz bought two pizzas for 10,000 bitcoin which is held as an iconic first exchange of bitcoin for a real-world product; Bitcoin Pizza Day was born.

The first large-scale bitcoin exchange, Mt. Gox, made its appearance on July 18.

In August, the most significant vulnerability in the history of the Bitcoin network was exploited when an attacker managed to spend billions of bitcoin they did not own. The bug was spotted and fixed within hours, and miners had to fork the network and release a new, updated Bitcoin protocol without the malicious transaction included.

2011: Dollar Parity

Price Range $0.4-$4.70

Bitcoin achieved a milestone in February when it reached parity with the U.S. dollar for the first time. On April 26, 2011, Satoshi Nakamoto sent his final email to fellow developers stating he had “moved on to other projects” — and was never heard from again.

Bitcoin payment processor BitPay was founded in May to allow companies to accept bitcoin as a form of payment. By June, the price of one bitcoin had reached $30 but slowly dropped back to the $2-$4 range that it sustained for the rest of the year.

Nonprofits like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and WikiLeaks began taking bitcoin in donations, the latter turning to bitcoin after PayPal had frozen WikiLeaks’ accounts in December 2010.

In June of 2011, Mt. Gox experienced its first hack in which hackers managed to access the company auditors’ computer and change the price of bitcoin to 1 cent.

2012: European Debt Crisis

Price Range: $4-$13.50

The beginning of 2012 was still marked by the European sovereign debt crisis, with some member states becoming highly dependent on the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund to service their debts. Cyprus was particularly hard hit, with incremental demand for bitcoin coming from the areas most affected by the Cypriot financial crisis.

Coinbase was founded in June 2012, offering a new way to buy and sell cryptocurrencies.

On the 9th of August, a Mt. Gox glitch caused bitcoin to be priced at $1B a piece on the exchange. 11 days later on the 20th of August, the price tumbled 50% from $15.28 to $7.60 as news of a dubious Bitcoin savings and trust fund scheme offering a 7% weekly interest rate was closed. The operator of the fund, Trendon Shavers would later be sentenced in the first Bitcoin securities-fraud case.

Bitcoin spent the remainder of the year consolidating, and in November it went through its first Halving. The price at the end of the year was $13.50.

2013: The Silk Road Seizure

Price Range: $13-$755

Bitcoin experienced its first post-halving bull run. The year started with a price of just above $13, rallying to $26 over the course of a month. The rally continued in April and quickly rose to $268, before crashing 80% to $51 from the 10th to the 13th of the same month.

In June Mt. Gox stopped processing US withdrawals and by July, the price had retraced back to $68.50. It continued to trade at just above $100 when Silk Road was seized by the FBI in October.

On the 12th of August, the German regulators officially declared Bitcoin a unit of account.

By December, it had spiked to a new all-time high of $1,163, rising 840% in 8 weeks and then fell back to $687 only days later. In December, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) prohibited Chinese financial institutions from using bitcoin, resulting in a drop to just above $700. It wouldn’t be the last time China “banned” bitcoin. 

January 2014-December 2017

This period is identified by the advent of altcoins and the injection of big funds into the cryptocurrency market, components of the ICO mania of 2017. Bitcoin went from just over $800 in 2014 to trading at close to $20,000 in 2017.

With big money came greater attention from the media and financial institutions, and governments started to observe Bitcoin and its phenomena more closely — sometimes putting pressure on the market through strict regulations, especially in China.

2014: Mt. Gox Is Hacked

Price Range: $767-$321

Bitcoin’s infamous volatility was very high in 2014. The year started with a price recovery to above $1,000, but by the end of February, it had already retraced back to under $600 with a flash crash down to $111 (a 90% drop from its $1,000 high!) due to troubles at Mt. Gox. — the hack involved user funds of around 750,000 bitcoin. The exchange had to file for bankruptcy following the episode.

The PBOC instructed domestic lenders to close the accounts of Chinese bitcoin exchanges by April 15.

Bitcoin spent the turbulent rest of the year recovering and crashing shortly thereafter and closed 2014 at just over $300.

In December, the first Bitcoin hard fork, Bitcoin XT, was released by Mike Hearn, who aimed to increase maximum transactions per second from 7 to 24. Such an increase meant the block size had to be expanded from one megabyte to eight megabytes.

2015: The Beginning Of The Blocksize Wars

Price Range: $314-$431

On January 4, Bitstamp suffered a serious security breach, losing approximately 19,000 BTC, with a market value of about $5.1m at the time.

Bitcoin started the new year at $314 and kept on relatively quiet compared to 2014, with little volatility and more consolidation. Ethereum was launched on July 30, and its platform triggered the creation of thousands of new cryptocurrencies eager to compete with Bitcoin in the years to come.

On June 22, 2015, Gavin Andresen published BIP 101 which called for an increase to the block size. The Blocksize Wars continued in August with Gavin Andresen and Mike Hearn proposing to increase the block size limit to 20 MB.

In September, the U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) defined bitcoin as a commodity. In contrast, the EU decided against imposing value added tax (VAT) on crypto transactions in October. This effectively defined bitcoin as a currency.

2016: Price Recovery

Price Range: $434-$966

The second Bitcoin Halving occurred on July 9, and throughout the year the price of bitcoin was relatively stable, trading between $350 and $700 in the summer months, only to hit $966 at the end of the year.

2016 was marked by the hack of the bitcoin exchange Bitfinex in August, which resulted in nearly 120,000 BTC stolen from users.

2017: Crypto and ICO Mania

Price Range: $998-$14,245

Like 2013, the year that followed the first Bitcoin Halving, 2017 was also historic for bitcoin. In the beginning of the year, the price hovered around $1,000, broke $2,000 in mid-May and skyrocketed to $19,892 on December 15, recording a 20x rise in less than 12 months.

The chart above refers to bitcoin’s dominance in the cryptocurrency market. With the creation of thousands of new cryptocurrencies, and the explosion of the ICO mania, bitcoin’s dominance fell dramatically, as investor funds and gambling money made their way from bitcoin into the altcoin markets.

The ICO mania signaled that venture capital firms had arrived and thousands of crypto projects began to get funding, turning the crypto market into a casino of sorts. Incidentally, the misinformation and FUD around Bitcoin increased around this time.

On August 2, a major bitcoin exchange, Bitfinex, was hacked and nearly 120,000 BTC (around $60m at the time) was stolen by hackers. The bitcoin price immediately tumbled 14% to $214 in a period of just 30 minutes, before it rebounded upwards the very same day — a typical flash crash.

In August, a major upgrade — SegWit — was implemented on the Bitcoin network, which brought some relief to Bitcoin’s scalability issue and enabled the implementation of the Lightning Network.

After breaking $5,000 in the beginning of September, news that China wanted to crack down on bitcoin and cryptocurrencies crashed the price down to the $3,600 range. By October, the cryptocurrency had already recovered to $5,000, and the following epic surge to $20,000 awaited.

Bitcoin futures contracts were first introduced in December, trading on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME).

2017 was the year everyone took notice of bitcoin, from institutional and retail investors to governments and economists. They all started their own battle to back or oppose Bitcoin.

January 2018-November 2021

After the previous era of failed ICOs, the altcoin market tried other ways to raise capital, including STOs (“security token offering”) and IEOs (“initial exchange offering”) — all with poor results. In the meantime, Bitcoin was preparing for a series of technological advances that would benefit its scalability and security, culminating in the Taproot implementation in November 2021.

This was the Covid era, when the world and its economy shut down for nearly two years, bringing dramatic consequences to financial markets and bitcoin. Yet, this was also the era when bitcoin hit the current all-time high of over $69,000 — against all odds.

2018: Bear Territory

Price Range: $14,093-$3,809

After the bullish action at the end of 2017, bitcoin spent 2018 in bear territory, and by the end of the first quarter, its price had already retraced almost 50% from January’s value.

In January, Chinese authorities ordered the closing of mining operations. The notice called for an “orderly exit” without setting a deadline.

On the 18th of June, Facebook announce their cryptocurrency project, Libra. The announcement prompted a swift reaction from government regulators worldwide. The announcement didn’t impact the price of bitcoin too much.

For most of the year, bitcoin traded within the $6,000 and $8,000 range, hitting a bottom of $3,250 in December and closing the year at just over $3,700, down 73% from the beginning of the year.

2019: Leaving The Bear Behind

Price Range: $3,692-$7,240

Bitcoin mainly moved sideways during 2019, with a significant spike in June when positive news about institutional investors and wider adoption of cryptocurrencies converged and triggered a positive move upwards.

Bakkt, the long awaited and much hyped futures contracts was released on the 22nd of September.

For the rest of the year, bitcoin price hovered around the $7,000 mark, ending 2019 at just over $7,200.

2020: Covid Surge

Price Range: $7,194-$28,841

2020 will be remembered as the year of Covid, which affected many aspects of life, including financial markets and bitcoin. When the deadly flu was declared a pandemic in March 2020, markets went into significant turmoil, crashing to price levels that had not been seen since the 2008 economic crisis.

Bitcoin crashed to a low of $4,000 on March 17, as the world witnessed the events unfolding. In May, the third Halving in Bitcoin’s history occurred, and the price slowly recovered, pushing up to over $10,000 again.

MicroStrategy was the first publicly traded company to start accumulating bitcoin in its cash reserves. Micheal Saylor, who had once fiercely opposed Bitcoin, admitted that he did not understand Bitcoin at the time and he had now realized that bitcoin was the world’s only conceivable safe haven and sound money. The company went on to purchase in excess of 130,000 BTC and is showing no signs of stopping.

From the end of August, the series of positive news around bitcoin adoption started to push the price up, as well as the U.S. government’s attempts to help the economy recover by more money printing — bringing the amount of dollars in circulation from 15 to 19 trillion over just a few months. More money printing led many to believe that their dollars were no longer a safe haven, and they started looking at the sound money qualities that bitcoin could offer.

By the end of the year, bitcoin price was back to its previous ATH of $20,000 and surpassed it, closing on December 31 at over $29,000.

2021: From Hope To Despair

Price Range: $29,022-$47,191

After an exciting end to 2020, bitcoin started 2021 with great optimism and had a wild first quarter culminating with the first all-time high of the year in mid-April, at $64,594. Such a bullish movement was likely triggered by claims of continuous liquidity injection in the markets by the Federal Reserve, coupled with news that Elon Musk, Tesla and other businesses had started allocating bitcoin instead of USD in their treasuries. Tesla announced in February that it had acquired $1.5 billion worth of bitcoin — 10% of its treasury — for “more flexibility to further diversify and maximize returns on our cash.”

In May, a new China restriction hit Bitcoin, announcing that financial institutions and payment platforms were prohibited from transacting in cryptocurrencies. Furthermore, all the bitcoin mining plants had to close down. Bitcoin crashed to $32,450 on May 23 and to a new low of $29,970 on July 21. This China ban also had repercussions on the mining industry, with the hash rate dropping significantly in the following months, as miners relocated their ASICs primarily to Russia, Kazakhstan and North America.

In September, renewed optimism followed a series of events, including the hash rate recovery, the news that El Salvador had made bitcoin legal tender and the first futures-based Bitcoin ETF launching in October — which led to the second all-time high for the year at $68,789, on November 10, 2021.

Bitcoin closed out the year by retreating 20% from that all-time high. This decline in bitcoin’s price occurred in conjunction with broader market declines that were triggered by concerns over a new COVID-19 virus variant.

Imminent interest rate hikes, soaring inflation and announcements that the Fed would begin to reduce its bond purchases and slowly drain liquidity from financial markets, were all signs that the world economy was going into recession mode.

January 2022-Present

2022: Liquidity Is Drained and Insolvencies Begin

Price Range: $46,319-$16,537

The world’s economic and financial turmoil continued in 2022, made worse by a new war on Europe’s doorstep, the removal of Russia from global payment systems like Visa and SWIFT, rising interest rates (.75 basis points each month — totaling 4.25% by year-end), Bank of England bailout, rising inflation, gas and energy crisis and a general recession looming over most of the Western world.

Stricter regulations on Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies called for by governments and regulators added extra FUD to the general mood, further distancing investors from riskier assets.

By January, bitcoin had dropped to $35,000 over the surging threat of an imminent Russia-Ukraine war, which promptly erupted at the end of February. By March, bitcoin had recovered to $47,459, but the global geopolitical and economic crisis caused a new and more durable crash down to the $20,000 range, a level that bitcoin kept for months as the economy tried to find relief.

Beginning in March, the Luna Foundation Guard bought bitcoin as a reserve asset intended to support the Terra Network’s algorithmic stablecoin, UST, in case of “volatile market conditions.” The company acquired 80,000 bitcoin in the process, worth nearly $3 billion at the time.

On May 7, there were early signs of a capital flight from UST as $85 million UST was swapped for $84.5 million USDC, causing UST to lose its peg to the dollar in the process. By the 14th, the Luna Foundation Guard had sold all but 313 of their 80,000 bitcoin in an unsuccessful attempt to defend the stablecoin peg. The bitcoin price was severely affected, dropping 44% between May 6 and May 18.

The fall of Terra caused contagion in the market, leading to the collapse of major CeFi firms Celsius, Voyager and hedge fund Three Arrows Capital (3AC). 3AC was unable to meet obligations toward its partners and creditors, and the default on its loans created a domino effect on all parties involved. FTX rescued these companies in an apparent show of strength.

Tesla sold 75% of its bitcoin holdings in Q2 after the fall in value in previous months.

Mining firm Core Scientific also began selling their bitcoin stack in June, bringing the number of BTC held from 9,618 BTC in April to only 24 at the end of the year. Core Scientific’s liquidity problems only emerged in October, and the company raised the possibility of filing for bankruptcy, listing among the reasons for its struggles the financial exposure to Celsius and its affiliates.

Another bitcoin miner, Argo Blockchain, also experienced financial troubles in October, failing to raise $27 million from a strategic investor and its stock losing over 41% of its value on Nasdaq.

In September, Ethereum differentiated itself further from Bitcoin by switching to proof-of-stake.

At first, November provided respite for the bitcoin price — until Coindesk published a revealing article on Almeda’s balance sheet and the collapse of FTX began. A few days later, Binance’s Chengpeng Zhao (CZ) ignited an exchange war by tweeting his intention to sell $2.1 billion USD equivalent in cash (BUSD and FTT), which triggered a 27% crash over the course of the following two days.

With rumors circulating wildly about Grayscale’s insolvency, Grayscale was forced to release a statement on the 18th declaring that their coins were safe with Coinbase. The markets remained on tenterhooks, and so on the 21st, bitcoin reached a new low of $15,477 as rumors of Genesis insolvency continued.

Bitcoin closed the year at $16,537, down 64% from 12 months earlier.

2023: Price Recovery

Price Range: $16,537 -

With the new year came some fresh optimism as investors began to believe the U.S. Federal Reserve’s interest rate increases would slow down. The bitcoin price broke out on January 10, increasing 24% over the course of four days.

On January 21, Casey Rodomor launched Ordinals, which enabled on-chain Bitcoin native digital artifacts. The price increased 45% in January, closing out the month at $23,150 and showing signs of a strong recovery from a difficult bear market. 


How much was bitcoin when it first came out?

Bitcoin didn’t have a price when it was first introduced into the world. For several years, there were no exchanges where users could trade it for fiat money and it was only possible to accumulate bitcoin through mining — or buying it peer-to-peer from someone who had mined it.

What is bitcoin’s highest-ever price?

Bitcoin’s highest-ever price is $68,789, reached on November 10, 2021.

Is now a good time to buy bitcoin?

The best time to buy bitcoin depends on the investor’s situation; however, when the price is low, it is cheaper to accumulate more. This article explores bitcoin’s price patterns and the macro environment around it, which should make it easier for investors to more conveniently identify when it’s the best time to buy or sell bitcoin.


It should be clear by now that bitcoin is an asset like no other. Its ecosystem tends to operate on four-year cycles, while its price may be defined by factors relating to monetary policy, such as the implementation of quantitative easing or quantitative tightening policies.

In just 14 years, bitcoin’s incredible growth has established it as a new asset class everyone started to pay attention to.

Bitcoin Magazine provides a lot of help for those who’d like to do their homework to better learn about bitcoin’s price movements and how to make informed investment decisions.

Consider education as a tool to understand why Bitcoin has gone so far in just over a decade, and you may be able to shift to a longer-term vision beyond its day-to-day volatility. 

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Beer bankruptcy apocalypse claims another fan-favorite brand



Before the covid pandemic, craft breweries had a moment. Beer snobs ruled the day, creating a market for local brewers to expand their businesses into regional distribution.

The demand for interesting beers was clear: Younger drinkers drove a movement that pushed local brewers to challenge the established brands. But that movement was wiped out once covid hit because craft brewers relied on people visiting their breweries.

Related: Retailer goes from Chapter 11 bankruptcy to Chapter 7 liquidation

Even brands that had good distribution in grocery and liquor stores suffered during the period where people could not visit their brewery/bar locations. It was a financial drain that pushed a number of these popular brands to the edge of ruin.

And after the pandemic ended, many of these beer brands suffered as younger consumers moved away from drinking beer, Some embraced the alcohol-free mocktail movement while others simply swapped cocktails, hard seltzers or other alcohol for beer.

Now, the craft beer industry is facing an apocalypse. Most famously, Anchor Brewing, the San Francisco icon that had national distribution, shut down last summer. A wave of bankruptcies followed, including regional favorites like Chicago’s Metropolitan Brewing, New Jersey’s Flying Fish, Denver’s Joyride Brewing, Tampa’s Zydeco Brew Werks and Cleveland’s Terrestrial Brewing.

It has been a devastating run for the craft-beer industry, and the bleeding has not stopped.

It has been a rough period for craft breweries.

Image source: Shutterstock

Another brewery files Chapter 11 bankruptcy

A brewery that touts being at an 8,530-foot elevation, Guanella Pass, also has the distinction of being the first brewery in Georgetown, Colo., since Prohibition. The company described its two locations on its website,   

“At the foot of the Guanella Pass Scenic Byway in Historic Georgetown, CO, sits the original Brewery, and at the foot of Berthoud Pass in downtown Empire sits our second tap room and kitchen. A true mountain brewery,” the company says. 

“We believe that where you drink beer is as important as what beer you drink. So leave the grind behind, sit for a bit, and share a story or two. Because here, all you need is what you have and a good beer.”

The brewery also distributes its beers regionally at a number of locations in Colorado.

Guanella Pass continues to operate after its late-December Chapter 11 filing and the brewery has an upcoming big event scheduled for Feb. 17.

“Pass it along, there’s a Pig Roast in town! Join us at Guanella Pass for our piggy throw down! We’ll be smokin’ this bad boy starting late Friday night to get ready for our grand meat cutting at 3pm. Feel free to swing by and say hi to our BBQ crew. It’s $15 per plate, come and grab some before we run out,” the company said on its website. 

Guanella Pass has a lot of debt

In its bankruptcy filing, Guanella Pass disclosed that it had $2.3 million of debt while bringing in only $860,000 of revenue in the previous year. The company showed $72,000 in assets at the time of the filing. 

The brewer, which hopes to restructure its debt and keep operating, has a significant number of creditors,

“It owes $573,000 to First Savings Bank, which loaned it money in 2021, and $256,000 to the Clear Creek Economic Development Corp., a nonprofit that loaned it money in 2019. Both loans are collateralized by the property at 501 Rose St. in Georgetown,” the Denver Post reported.

The brewer also owes its majority shareholders, Steven and Stacey Skalski, $700,000. In addition, the company has an unpaid $135,000 loan with the U.S, Small Business Administration and owes the Colorado Department of Revenue $100,000 along with $32,000 to its food vendor, $22,000 to its bookkeeper and $10,000 to its power company, the newspaper reported.

Related: Veteran fund manager picks favorite stocks for 2024


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Public Health from the People



There are many ways to privately improve public health. Such responses make use of local knowledge, entrepreneurship, and civil society and pursue standard goals of public health like controlling the spread of infectious diseases. Moreover, private responses improve overall welfare by lowering the total costs of a disease and limiting externalities. If private responses can produce similar outcomes as standard, governmental public health programs—and more—perhaps we should reconsider when and where we call upon governments to improve public health.

Two Kinds of Private Responses

Following Vernon Smith and his distinction between constructivist and ecological rationality, private actors can engage in two general kinds of public health improvements. They can engage in concerted efforts to improve public health, and they can engage in emergent responses through myriad interactions.1 Three stories below—about William Walsh, Martha Claghorn, and Edwin Gould—indicate concerted efforts to improve public health.

Walsh, a Catholic priest and President of the Father Matthew Society in Memphis, Tennessee, used the society to organize a refugee camp outside of the city and helped hundreds of people avoid yellow fever during the 1878 epidemic—one of the worst yellow fever epidemics in the country.2 Shortly after learning mosquitos carried diseases prior to 1901, Claghorn chaired the Civics committee of the Twentieth Century Club in the Richmond Hill area of Long Island and led a community-wide anti-mosquito campaign, which rid the area of potentially infectious mosquitos.3 After realizing that many of his employees were sick with malaria, Gould—president of the St. Louis Southwestern Railway—used his wealth and business firm to finance and develop an anti-mosquito campaign throughout Texas.4

These stories show how individuals recognize a public health problem given their circumstances and use their knowledge and available resources to resolve the problem. More recently, we might all be familiar with private, constructivist responses to Covid-19. We all made plans to avoid others and produce our desired amount of exposure. Many people made facemasks from old clothes or purchased them from facemask producers. Businesses, retailers, restaurants, and many others adapted in various ways to limit exposure for their workers and customers. My favorite example, albeit not relevant for most, is the so-called bubble that was implemented by the NBA, which housed teams, encouraged play, and limited infection. The NBA finished their season and crowned a 2020 champion only because of the privately designed and implemented bubble solution. The key is that the bubble pursued all of those objectives, not just one of them. All of these responses indicate how private interactions among people can minimize their exposure, through negotiation, discussion, and mutually beneficial means.

In addition to privately designed solutions, emergent public health responses are also important, perhaps even more so. Long-term migration and settlement patterns away from infectious diseases, consumption to improve nutrition, hygiene, sanitation, and the development of social norms to encourage preventative behavior are all different kinds of emergent public health responses. Each of these responses—developed through the actions of no one person—are substantial ways to improve public health.

First, consider how common migration operates as a means of lowering prevalence rates. As soon as people realized that living near stagnant bodies of water increased the probability of acquiring diseases like malaria, they were more likely to leave those areas and subsequently avoid them. Places with such features became known as places to avoid; people also developed myths to dissuade visitors and inhabitants.5 Such myths and associations left places like the Roman Campagna desolate for centuries. These kinds of cultural associations are also widespread; for example, many people in North and South Carolina moved to areas with higher elevation and took summer vacations to avoid diseases like malaria. East End and West End, in London, also developed because of the opportunities people had to migrate away from (and towards) several diseases.6

While these migration patterns might develop over decades, movement and migration also help in more acute public health crises. During the 1878 yellow fever epidemic throughout the southern United States, for example, thousands of people fled their cities to avoid infection. They took any means of transportation they could find. While some fled to other, more northern cities, many acquired temporary housing in suburbs, and many formed campsites and refugee camps outside of their city. The refugee camps outside of Memphis—like the one formed by William Walsh—helped hundreds and thousands of people avoid infection throughout the Fall of 1878.

Second, more mundane public health improvements—like improvements in nutrition, hygiene, and sanitation—are also emergent. These improvements arise from the actions of individuals and entrepreneurs, often closely associated with voluntary consumption and markets. According to renowned medical scientist Thomas McKeown, that is, rising incomes encouraged voluntary changes in consumption, which helped improve nutrition, sanitation, and lowered mortality rates.7 These effects were especially pertinent for women and mothers as they often selected more nutritious food and altered household sanitation practices. With advancing ideas about germs, moreover, historian Nancy Tomes argues that private interests advanced the campaign to improve house-hold sanitation and nutrition—full of advice and advertisements in newspapers, magazines, manuals, and books.8 Following Tomes, economic historians Rebecca Stein and Joel Mokyr substantiate these ideas and show that people changed their hygiene, sanitation, house-hold cleaning habits, and diets as they learned more about germs.9 Such developments helped people to provide their desired exposure to germs according to their values.

Obviously, there were concerted public health improvements during this time that also explain falling mortality rates. For example, waterworks were conscious efforts to improve public health and were provided publicly and privately, with similar, positive effects on health.10 The point is that while we might be quick to connect the health improvements associated with a public water system, we should also recognize emergent responses like gradual changes in voluntary consumption.

Finally, social norms or rules that encourage preventative behavior might also be relevant kinds of emergent public health responses. Such rules identify behavior that should or should not be allowed, they are enforced in a decentralized way, and if they follow from the values of individuals in a community.11 If such rules pertain to public health, they can raise the cost of infectious behavior or the benefits of preventative behavior. Covering one’s mouth when sneezing is not only beneficial from a public health perspective, it also helps avoid earning disapproval.

The condom code during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is another example of an emergent public health rule that reduced infectiousness by encouraging safer behavior.12 People who adopted safer sexual practices were seen to be doing the right thing—akin to taking care of a brother. People who refrained from adopting safer sexual practices were admonished. No single person or entity announced the rule; rather, it emerged from the actions and interactions of individuals within various communities to pursue their goals regarding maintaining sexual activity and limiting the spread of disease. Indeed, such norms were more effective in communities where people used their social capital resources to determine which behaviors should be changed and where they can more easily monitor and enforce infractions. This seems like a relevant factor where many gay men and men who have sex with men live in dense urban areas like New York and Los Angeles that foster LGBTQ communities.

Covid-19 provides additional examples where social norms encouraged the use of seemingly appropriate behavior, e.g., social distancing, the use of facemasks, and vaccination. Regardless of any formal rule in place, many people adapted their behavior because of social norms that encouraged social distancing, the use of facemasks, and vaccination. In communities that valued such behaviors, people that wore face masks and vaccinated were praised and were seen as doing the right thing; people that did not were viewed with scorn. Indeed, states and cities that have higher levels of social capital and higher values for public health tend to have higher Covid-19 vaccine uptakes.13

Improving Public Health and More

“Private approaches tend to lower the total costs of diseases and they limit externalities.”

While these private approaches can improve public health, can they do more than typical public health approaches cannot? Private approaches tend to lower the total costs of diseases and they limit externalities. Each aspect of private responses requires additional explanation.

Responding to infectious diseases and disease prevention is doubly challenging because not only do we have to worry about being sick, we also have to consider the costs imposed by our preventative behaviors and the rules we might impose. Thus, the total costs of an infectious disease include 1) the costs related to the disease—the pain and suffering of a disease and the opportunity costs of being sick—and 2) the costs associated with preventative and avoidance behavior. While disease costs are mostly self-explanatory, the costs of avoiding infection warrant more explanation. Self-isolation when you have a cold, for example, entails the loss of potentially valuable social activities; and wearing condoms to prevent sexually transmitted diseases forfeits the pleasures of unprotected sexual activity. Diseases for which vaccines and other medicines are available are less worrisome, perhaps, because these are diseases with lower prevention costs than diseases where those pharmaceutical interventions are not available. Governmental means of prevention also add relevant costs. Many readers might be familiar with the costs imposed by our private and public responses to Covid—from isolation to learning loss, and from sharp decreases in economic activity to increased rates of depression and spousal abuse.14 Long before Covid, moreover, people bemoaned wearing masks during the Great Flu,15 balked at quarantine against yellow fever,16 and protested bathhouse closings with the onset of HIV.17

Figure 1 shows the overall problem: diseases are harmful but our responses to those diseases might also be harmful.

Figure 1. The Excess Burden of Infectious Diseases

This figure follows Bhattacharya, Hyde, and Tu (2013) and Philipson (2000), who refer to the difference between total costs and disease costs as the excess burden of a disease. That is, excess burden depends on how severely we respond to a disease in private and in public. The excess burden associated with the common cold tends to be negligible as we bear the minor inconvenience of a fever, a sore throat perhaps, or a couple days off work; moreover, most people don’t go out of their way to avoid catching a cold. The excess burden of plague, however, is more complicated; not only are the symptoms much worse—and include death—people have more severe reactions. Note too that disease costs rise with prevalence and with worsening symptoms but eventually decline as more severe diseases tend to be less prevalent. Still, no one wants to be infected with a major disease, and severe precautions are likely. We might shun all social interactions, and we might use government to impose strict quarantine measures. As disease severity rises along the horizontal axis, it might be the case that the cure is worse than the disease.

The private responses indicated above all help to lower the total costs of a disease because people choose their responses and they use their local knowledge and available resources to select cheaper methods of prevention. Claghorn used her neighborhood connections and the social capital of her civics association to encourage homeowners to rid their yards of pools of water; as such she lowered the costs of producing mosquito control. Similarly, Gould used the organizational structure of his firm to hire experts in mosquito control and build a sanitation department. These are cheap methods to limit exposure to mosquitos.

Emergent responses also help to lower the total costs of a disease because such responses indicate the variety of choices people face and their ability to select cheaper options. People facing diseases like malaria might be able to move away and, for some, it is cheaper than alternative means of prevention. Many people now are able to limit their exposure to mosquitos with screens, improved dwellings, and air conditioning.18 Consider the variety of ways people can limit their exposure to sexually transmitted diseases like HIV. If some people would rather use condoms to limit HIV transmission, they are better off doing so than if they were to refrain from sexual activity altogether. Similarly, some people would be better off having relatively risky sexual activity if they were in monogamous relationships or if they knew about their partner’s sexual history. That people can choose their own preventative measures indicates lower total costs compared with blunt, one-rule-for-all, governmental public health responses.

Negative and positive externalities of spreadable diseases indicate too much infectious behavior and too little preventative behavior, respectively. Hosting a party is fun, but it also incurs the internal costs of the drinks and appetizers and, more importantly, perhaps the external costs of raising the probability that people get sick. Attending a local cafe can be relaxing, but you have to pay for a cup of coffee and you might also transmit a disease to other coffee drinkers. The same could be said for many other public and social activities that might spread diseases like attending a class or a basketball game, transporting goods and people, and sexual behaviors. Our preventative behaviors from taking a vaccine to covering your mouth and from isolation to engaging in safer sexual practices emits positive externalities. If left unchecked, negative and positive externalities lead to higher rates of infection.

Overall, we should continue to think more critically about delineating how private and public actors can improve public health and overall welfare. More importantly, we should recognize that private actors are more capable than we often realize, especially in light of conscious efforts to improve public health and those efforts that emerge from people’s actions and interactions. These private efforts might be better at advancing some public health goals than public actors do. Individuals, for example, have more access to local knowledge and can discover novel solutions that serve multiple ends—often ends they value—rather than the ends of distant officials. Such cases and possibilities indicate cheaper ways to improve public health.


[1] Smith (2009), Rationality in Economics: Constructivist and Ecological Forms, Cambridge University Press.

[2] For more on Walsh, see Carson (forthcoming), “Prevention Externalities: Private and Public Responses to the 1878 Yellow Fever Epidemic,” Public Choice.

[3] For more on Claghorn, see Carson (2020), “Privately Preventing Malaria in the United States, 1900-1925,” Essays in Economics and Business History.

[4] For more on Gould, see Carson (2016), “Firm-led Malaria Prevention in the United States, 1910-1920,” American Journal of Law and Medicine.

[5] On the connection between malarial diseases, dragons, and dragon-slaying saints, see Horden (1992), “Disease, Dragons, and Saints: the management of epidemics in the dark ages,” in Epidemics and Ideas by Ranger and Slack.

[6] For more on migration and prevalence rates, see Mesnard and Seabright (2016), “Migration and the equilibrium prevalence of infectious disease,” Journal of Demographic Economics.

[7] The American Journal of Public Health published several commentaries on McKeown in 2002:

[8] Tomes (1990), “The Private Side of Public Health: Sanitary Science, Domestic Hygiene, and the Germ Theory, 1870-1990,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine.

[9] Mokyr and Stein (1996), “Science, Health, and Household Technology: The Effect of the Pasteur Revolution on Consumer Demand,” in The Economics of New Goods, NBER.

[10] See Werner Troesken’s work on public and private waterworks in the U.S. around the turn of the 20th century. See Galiani, Gertler, and Shargrodsky (2005), “Water for Life,” Journal of Political Economy.

[11] Brennan et al., (2013), Explaining Norms, Oxford University Press.

[12] For more on the condom code, see Carson (2017), “The Informal Norms of HIV Prevention: The emergence and erosion of the condom code,” Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics.

[13] Carilli, Carson, and Isaacs (2022), “Jabbing Together? The complementarity between social capital, formal public health rules, and covid-19 vaccine rates in the U.S.,” Vaccine.

[14] Leslie and Wilson, “Sheltering in Place and Domestic Violence: Evidence from Calls for Service During Covid-19.” Journal of Public Economics 189, 104241. Mulligan, “Deaths of Despair and the Incidence of Excess Mortality in 2020,” NBER, Betthauser, Bach-Mortensen, and Engzell, “A systematic review and meta-analysis of the evidence on learning during the Covid-19 Pandemic,” Nature Human Behavior,

[15] On the great influenza epidemic, see CBS News, “During the 1918 Flu pandemic, masks were controversial for ‘many of the same reasons they are today’.” Oct. 30, 2020.

[16] On yellow fever quarantine in Mississippi, see Deanne Nuwer (2009), Plague Among the Magnolias: The 1878 Yellow Fever Epidemic in Mississippi.

[17] On these closures, see Trout (2021), “The Bathhouse Battle of 1984.”

[18] Tusting et al. (2017), “Housing Improvement and Malaria Risk in Sub-Saharan Africa: a multi-country analysis of survey data.” PLOS Medicine.

*Byron Carson is an Associate Professor of Economics and Business at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, where he teaches courses on introductory economics, money and banking, health economics, and urban economics. Byron earned his Ph.D. in Economics from George Mason University in 2017, and his research interests include economic epidemiology, public choice, and Austrian economics.

This article was edited by Features Editor Ed Lopez.

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Analyst unveils new Lowe’s stock price target ahead of earnings



They are three letters that represent a multi-billion dollar industry: DIY.

Mention do-it-yourself home repairs, and some people will probably think of This Old House or the 1990s sitcom “Home Improvement,” where Tim Allen portrayed the host of the fictional “Tool Time” TV program. 

Others might think of HGTV, the Property Brothers Jonathan and Drew Scott, or Joanna and Chip Gaines of Magnolia Network. Whatever your particular cultural reference, rest assured that the DIY market is a revenue monster.

An estimated 75% of U.S. homeowners take on DIY projects, and 62% named saving money a top reason for their home improvement efforts. As a result, total U.S. home improvement sales amounted to $538 billion in 2021, according to Statista, and is projected to grow to $621 billion in 2025.

The number of do-it-yourselfers climbed during the COVID-19 outbreak as people had more time on their hands, interest rates were at rock bottom, and stimulus checks were flowing. 

That was good news for home improvement retailers like Lowe’s, which saw its stock price soar in 2021 thanks to higher demand. 

Unfortunately, rising interest rates, inflation, and job uncertainty have increased, denting demand and causing investors to wonder what could happen to Lowe’s shares next.

Lowe’s shares are facing headwinds as do-it-yourself demand slips. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

Bloomberg/Getty Images

Pullback in DIY spending

Young homeowners are more likely to attempt do-it-yourself projects because they tend to have less disposable income and believe that the DIY approach will be less costly than hiring a contractor.

The most common types of DIY projects are home interior projects, such as painting, flooring, and décor, which are taken on by 31% of homeowners surveyed.

Unfortunately, those younger DIYers are also most susceptible to tighter budgets, and as a result, Lowe’s  (LOW) – Get Free Report revenue has declined year-over-year for three straight quarters.

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Lowe’s, which reports quarterly earnings on Feb. 27, is the second-biggest name in the home improvement game, behind Home Depot  (HD) – Get Free Report, which is slated to release updated earnings results on Feb. 19.

Lowe’s posted better-than-expected third-quarter earnings in November but trimmed its full-year profit forecast, echoing Home Depot’s warning that consumers were spending less on big-ticket items- those worth more than $1,000- heading into the holidays.

“While we’ve seen a more cautious consumer for some time now, this quarter, we saw some of these consumers increasingly prioritizing experiences over goods, spending on travel and entertainment,” Chairman and CEO Marvin Ellison said during a conference call with analysts at the time.

Ellison reminded the analysts that DIY customers drive 75% of the company’s revenue while professionals only account for 25% of sales, as opposed to the broader market where the market is roughly fifty-fifty. “As a result, whenever the DIY customer becomes cautious, it disproportionately affects us.”

Given that backdrop, analysts surveyed by FactSet expect Lowe’s to report earnings of $1.68 per share on sales of $18.3 billion, down from earnings of $2.28 per share and revenue totaling $22.45 billion one year ago.

Lowe’s CEO ‘Bullish’ on home improvement

Ellison said that Lowe’s remained bullish on the home improvement industry’s medium- to long-term outlook.

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“We expect home prices to be supported by a persistent supply-demand imbalance of housing, while at the same time, 250,000 millennial household formations are expected per year through 2025, and their parents and grandparents, the baby boomers, increasingly prefer to age in place in their own homes,” he said.

Nevertheless, on Feb. 5, Truist lowered its price target on Lowe’s stock to $244 from $252.

Analyst Scot Ciccarelli told investors in a research note that he is reducing his margin assumptions for fiscal years 2024 and 2025 and cutting his earnings estimates to $12.80 and $14.20 a share from $13.35 and $14.75, respectively.

He did, however, keep his buy rating on the company.

“For the medium-term, we are becoming increasingly bullish on the home improvement sector given general spending resilience, home equity increases, easing comparisons, and the recent positive inflection in Private Residential Fixed Investment PFRI data,” he said.

Ciccarelli said that he believed consumer spending remains fairly steady due to healthy personal balance sheets and strong employment. 

In addition, while the tightening cycle should slow spending, it shouldn’t derail it, he said.

The analyst said that while Lowe’s comparable store sales have decelerated notably over the last two quarters—down roughly 7% to 8%– he believes the company will also get to compare against these easier results in the second half of the calendar year.

Ciccarelli added, “We remain buyers and think that LOW can move sharply higher if we are indeed at the early stages of an easing cycle.”

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