Economists don’t usually rely on memes to communicate the complexities of federal interest rates and supply shock. But Joey Politano sure does.
Armed with wit, screenshots and data, the 24-year-old economic analyst is carving out a name for himself with his much-loved newsletter, Apricitas Economics. Scores of journalists and experts have come to rely on Politano’s insights on everything from big-picture questions like “Is the U.S. economy shrinking?” to the gamification of finance.
The venture began as his solution to the boredom he felt at his day job with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. About a year and a half later, the New Jersey native’s passion project has exploded in popularity — it now has 17,000 subscribers — and become a full-time gig. It’s an outcome he hardly expected when he set out to publish two articles a week on macroeconomics trends that interested him.
“The kind of stuff I'm writing about is, by nature, very niche and can be pretty boring,” he says. “It's fundamentally economic journalism, which does not sound exciting to most people.”
He’s not wrong — the mere mention of the yield curve is enough to make readers’ eyes glaze over. Apriticas, a Latin term Politano chose as his newsletter’s name to convey “positivity, optimism and a commitment to seeking truth through evidence,” aims to change that. Not only has it made the Gen Zer a darling among economics aficionados, but it’s also turned Politano into one of the few people who can call themselves an economics influencer.
How did a recent George Washington University graduate cut through the noise of the internet to attract 34,000 Twitter followers while discussing monetary policy, of all things? Is he the next Nate Silver? These are hard questions to answer, but at the heart of Apricitas is Politano’s drive for service (he joined the Peace Corps before COVID-19 sent him back home) and love of information (his parents are former Star-Ledger journalists).
Ultimately, he says, his goal is to make economic study more accessible. As for the other ingredients to his success, Politano attributes much of it to timing, determination and being his authentic, nerdy self.
“There's so much chaos in the world right now,” he says. “A lot of the success of the newsletter is being able to say, ‘Hey, I am very weirdly interested in niche plant utilization surveys from the Census Bureau, and I'm gonna make you interested, too.’”
Combining internet culture and economics is another move that has served Politano well.
Take the “Epic Handshake” meme, for example. It’s an image typically used as a Venn diagram of sorts, a way to show what two wildly different things have in common. Politano saw it as an opportunity to make the Federal Reserve funny, essentially asking: “What do the Fed and dudes on Tinder have in common?”
“Only talking about hiking,” Politano jokes, then turns his attention to recent interest rate increases. “Actually, today is a good day to retweet that one.”
The analyst-turned-entrepreneur is only a few months into taking Apricitas full-time, a risk he calculated was worth it when leading minds like economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman started mentioning Politano by name. (“I was at Chipotle with my friends when I found out. It was pretty cool,” he adds.)
But when it comes to looking toward the future, he’s not fretting about it as much as you might expect from someone who once wrote 2,000 words comparing national debts from various countries, complete with illustrative charts. Instead, Politano is enjoying the ride on his way to capturing the attention of everyone who could possibly be interested in what he has to say about the economy.
“I don't think I'm there yet,” he says. “And when I am there, I'll be figuring out a way to go even further.”