Harbinger Households of Doom

Certain neighborhoods and zip codes excel at buying products that will discontinue, investing in real estate that will go upside down, and donating to political candidates that will likely lose. (#)

Using data from multiple sources, we have shown that the phenomenon of harbingers is surprisingly widespread. We begin by showing that harbinger zip codes exist. Households in these zip codes are more likely than households in other zip codes to purchase new products that fail. Their adoption of a new product is a signal that the new product will fail. We interpret this finding as evidence that households in these zip codes have tendencies that are not representative of households in other zip codes. We then show that the evidence of unusual tendencies extends across retail product categories and across retailers.