The rise in popularity partly stems from the 1990s influx of Japanese anime and manga. But America’s own post-bubble economic funk is also probably playing a role. U.S. economic growth has averaged just 1 percent annually since 2006, as the Great Recession has been followed by a weak recovery. And that anemic growth has dimmed prospects for young job seekers. The unemployment rate for men and women 20 to 24 years old is 11.4 percent, versus a low of 7.2 percent in 2007. And as a new White House report notes, workers who get their first jobs during a recession earn as much as 9 percent less per year than those who do not — and the effect lasts for as much as 15 years.
When you’re disillusioned with the reality of your early adult life, dressing up like Doctor Who starts looking better and better. It’s not to say that all or even most cosplay aficionados are struggling to find work. It’s only to say that any rise in people fleeing reality for fantasy suggests problems with our reality.