As the recession persists, we can watch social shifts and cultural trends. Some are good, some are bad. But in either case, one way to control how the recession affects you is to watch the larger trends and decide where you want to fit.

Here are five trends that are emerging in the face of the largest job-loss numbers in the last four decades.

1. Being cost-conscious is cool.
These days, for the wives of the few investment bankers who still have jobs, shopping couture is something to do in secret. Hermes gives unmarked bags for customers who request it. The Obama girls showed up to the inauguration wearing J. Crew. And they looked adorable, which should inspire the reasonably-priced shopper in all of us.

And cost-cutting isn’t just about fashion. Michelle Obama has to overhaul the White House décor. (Great quote from Barack: “I’m not a plates-on-the-walls kind of guy.”) And she’s heading toward Pottery Barn. I love that!

This trend is very freeing to me because my favorite dress for this winter is from Target. It is velvet but not really velvet — sort of crap, cheap velvet. And when I bought it, in September, I worried that it was over-the-top-cheap. But now, I feel more uncomfortable wearing my $400 boots than I do wearing the $20 dress.

2. An increasing backlash against baby boomers.
Newsflash: The baby boomers got us into this mess. They borrowed against future generations. They mishandled SEC regulations. They ignored the environment. They set up a social security system that is going to break as soon as they’re done taking from it. And they took the best education this country had to offer, and then depleted the education system for the next generation.

Obama is the first Gen-X president. And, to the surprise of all the baby boomers who have been trash-talking Gen-X forever, it’s Gen-X that will bail this country out of the mess the baby boomers got us into.

In the meantime, Generation X is the first generation in the US ever that will earn less than their parents. And Generation Y has an incredible amount of debt due to baby boomers pushing up college costs and housing costs while real wages went down.

The under-45’s are stunned by the selfishness of the baby boomer era.

3. More Sex.
When I was a Boston Globe reporter, one of my best interviews was with David Blanchflower, professor of economics at Dartmouth, who has analyzed the relationship between money and sex.

He says that more money does not get people more sex, it merely gets them more choices of people to have sex with. This makes sense. I’ve never heard of someone abstaining from sex until they make enough money to date a model. And anyway, we know from Dan Airley’s research that if someone has too many choices, they don’t do anything. Sure, this research applies to jam samples in grocery stores, but maybe someone should investigate if people actually have less sex when they earn so much money that they can choose from anyone.

Okay. But back to the recession. Amazingly, it turns out that less money equals more sex. I am not totally sure why this is, because the research comes from what is now one of my most favorite resources, Durex condoms, a site that does provide a lot of qualitative analysis for their statistics.

Still, Durex reports that drugstore sales of their condoms were up 6% during the time Lehman went under. And sales in the New York City sex toy emporium Babeland increased 25% in that same time period. So the deeper the recession, the more sex people are having.

4. Women are earning all the money.
We already knew that in big cities women earn more than men. The trend is probably going to spread to smaller cities because the men comprise the majority of people being laid off during this recession: finance, manufacturing, construction, all men.

What will this mean for social fabric? If the pitches I receive from publicists are any indicator of what’s coming, things will be very bad at home. More than one press release has instructed women to use the fact that they are earning the money to force the guy to do more around the house.

Here’s a pitch for the book, Breakdown, Breakthrough: The Professional Woman’s Guide to Claiming a Life of Passion, Power, and Purpose. She encourages women to use their earning power to “commit to breaking the female pattern of overfunctioninig.” Presumably this means getting the guy to do more cleaning even though we know that men absolutely do not think the toilet needs cleaning as soon as the woman does.

So basically, women are being encouraged to use the fact that their husbands were laid off as a way to get the men to act like women at home. Bad. Very bad.

5. Companies are finding more cost-effective ways to recruit.
Business Week reports that the recruiting models are broken, and in the downturn, companies aren’t spending money on stuff that doesn’t work. Instead, companies are turning to online networks. And pundits are declaring that 2009 will be the year that corporations understand how cost-effective it is to leverage social media for corporate messaging.

What this all adds up to is a shift in recruiting. Candidates have known for years that sending a resume to Monster is like sending it into a black hole. Online networks are finally giving recruiters an alternative to the old ways of doing business.

And really, that’s the silver lining of the whole recession, right? It’s an opportunity for each of us to look at what we’ve been doing before that wasn’t working anyway. Because in a bad economy the stuff that we could sort of get by ignoring will kill us if we don’t take action. And taking action to do things better is what we’d want for ourselves in any economy.