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Standard of living in the United States

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Median Equivalised Household Income and GDP per Capita levels in selected developed nations.
Median Equivalised Household Income and GDP per Capita levels in selected developed nations.
The growth in total US GDP vs median US household income.
The growth in total US GDP vs median US household income.

The standard of living in the United States is high by the standards that most economists use, and for many decades throughout the 20th century, the United States was recognized as having the highest standard of living in the world. Per capita income is high but also less evenly distributed than in most other developed countries; as a result, the United States fares particularly well in measures of average material well being that do not place weight on equality aspects.

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Two of the closest countries in the world today are the United States of America and their northern neighbor Canada, or as some of my American friends call it America's hat. While these countries share a massive 5,500 Mile border there are many distinct differences that affect the livability of these nations This is Alex from Lifelong learners. I have family in both America and Canada and today I thought it will be fun to objectively compare America and Canada to see which country is more livable So looking at education, employment, health, happiness, and security we'll compare these countries Both America and Canada has strong education system that are better than Global averages the Elementary school PISA rankings score America in the top 50% with a range of 25 out of 70 Canada however comes in the top ten with a rank of seven. It's important to consider higher Education Canada performed strongly with twenty Canadian colleges in the top 500 in the world America however dominates the top of the list with 41 colleges in the top hundred compared to Canada with just three Let's look at affordability of higher education. The average annual cost of college in the u.s. Is 52% of the median annual individual income more than twice as much as Canada or 22%! While America has better colleges the affordability is much lower. Both of these factors impact on the proportion of young adults completing higher education with 59% of 25 to 34 year old Canadians completing tertiary education Compared to 47% in the u.s. In terms of the economy America is by far the largest in the world Employment levels are high in both America and Canada with an unemployment rate of 4.4% in America compared to Canada's 6.6% The average wage in America also outperforms Canada with a wage of just over 60,000 compared to Canada's 48,000 the tax Rate varies both between and within Canada and America with different rates based on income and location. KPMG lists the individual income tax rate in the u.s. At 39.6% compared 33% in Canada Number o--'s cost-of-living Index ranks America as the more expensive country with a rank of #18 out of 122 countries compared to Canada at #27 While America has a much stronger economy better universities and higher wages Canada Performs better in the health area Adult obesity rates are terrible in both countries with 28% in Canada and 33.7% in America maternal mortality that is the number of Mother's dying per 100,000 live births is quite Low in both countries with seven per hundred thousand in Canada and 14 per 100,000 in America infant mortality the number of children per thousand live births who die before reaching the age of five is similar in both countries with 6.5 per 1000 in America and 4.9 per 1000 in Canada however with hundreds of thousands of births in Canada alone each year this more difference in the rate accounts for a large difference in the absolute number of deaths/ Life expectancy figures shows that the average Canadian lives to 81.7 years Compared to the average American at 79.6 years But as they say a good life is not measured by the number of breaths but the number of moments that take your breath away on the world happiness Index Americans rank a respectable #21 out of 141 Countries however Canada creeps into the top ten with a rank of #9 making Canada one of the happiest places on Earth the rate of Homelessness is relatively high in both countries, but America at 0.18 percent of the population is clearly better than Canada at 0.44% suicide rates also show that America is infront of Canada with nine point nine suicides per 100,000 compared to ten point one in Canada However the death rate by drug overdose shows American loses a hundred and ninety five people per million each year Compared to one hundred and one in Canada Happiness is impacted by safety and security and here there are some large gaps Canada performed strongly in safety and security with a global terrorism index rating of 2.5 compared to 4.9 in America Homicide rates a hundred thousand people are also lower in Canada with 1.7 per 100,000 Compared to 5.4 in America the incarceration rate in Canada Continues to indicate that Canada is a safer place to live with only a hundred and fourteen prisoners per hundred thousand people in the population compared to 666 in America, and The Global Peace Index indicates a large gap between Canada and America with Canada ranked in the top ten at number eight and America in the bottom proportion ranked 141 out of 163 countries So while America has higher wages, better universities, lower unemployment. lower Homelessness and a lower suicide rate Canada is a happier and safer country with healthier people and a lower tax rate Which country do you think is more livable leave a comment below and don't forget to subscribe and give a thumbs up thanks for watching?



In the United Nations Human Development Index, which measures health, education, and per capita income levels, the United States is relatively high, currently ranking 8th. However, the Human Development Index is not considered a measure of living standards, but a measure of potential living standards were there no inequality: rather, the inequality-adjusted Human Development Index is considered the actual level of human development, taking inequality into account. On the inequality-adjusted HDI, the United States ranked 27th in 2014, tied with Poland.[4]

In 2013, the Economist Intelligence Unit's Where-to-be-born Index, which takes into account material well-being as measured by GDP per capita, life expectancy, political stability, the quality of family life based on divorce rates, community life, crime and terrorism rates, gender equality, the quality of governance, climate, and unemployment rates, ranked the United States at 16th place, tied with Germany.[5]

The OECD Better Life Index, which measures quality of life according to 11 factors, ranks the United States as 7th among 34 OECD countries.

The homeownership rate is relatively high compared to other post-industrial nations. In 2005, 69% of Americans resided in their own homes, roughly the same percentage as in the United Kingdom, Belgium, Israel and Canada.[6][7][8] In 2007, Americans enjoyed more cars and radios per capita than any other nation[9] and more televisions and personal computers per capita than any other nation with more than 200 million people.[10][11]

Changing over the past

In colonial America, the standard of living was high by 18th century standards. Americans could choose their diet from a diverse range of plants and animals from Europe and the Western Hemisphere, and this, combined with favorable weather conditions, ensured that Americans never had to deal with harvest failures. There was little exposure to epidemic diseases, and low wealth inequality, ensuring that even the poor were well-fed.

Historians have used height to measure living standards during this time as average adult heights can point to a population's net nutrition - the amount of nutrition people grew up with as compared to biological stress which can cause lower heights in adulthood, stemming from things like food deprivation, hard work, and disease. According to military records of American and European men, Americans were on average two to three inches taller than Europeans.

Average heights showed little change until the second quarter of the 19th century, with the Industrial Revolution. The growth of canals, steamboats, and railways, as well as the public school system, mass immigration, and urbanization, increased exposure to diseases. Food prices rose in the 1830s, and industrialization brought along with it growing wealth inequality and business depressions that further worsened the situations of the poor. As a result, average stature and life expectancy declined, and only rebounded from 1910 to 1950, as incomes rose, urban conditions became less crowded, and public health measures were put in place.[12]

From the 1930s up until 1980, the average American after-tax income adjusted for inflation tripled,[13] which translated into higher living standards for the American population.[14][15][16][17][18][19][19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32] Between 1949 and 1969, real median family income grew by 99.3%.[33] From 1946 to 1978, the standard of living for the average family more than doubled.[34] Average family income (in real terms) more than doubled from 1945 up until the 1970s, while unemployment steadily fell until it reached 4% in the 1960s.[35] Between 1949-50 and 1965–66, median family income (in constant 2009 dollars) rose from $25,814 to $43,614,[36] and from 1947 to 1960, consumer spending rose by a full 60%, and for the first time, as noted by Mary P. Ryan, "the majority of Americans would enjoy something called discretionary income, earnings that were secure and substantial enough to permit them to enter sectors of the marketplace that were once reserved for the affluent."[37] In 1960, Americans were, on average, the richest people in the world by a massive margin.[38]

During the 1960s, median family incomes increased by over 33%, while per capita expenditures on recreation and meals grew by over 40%. From 1959 to 1969, median family income (in 1984 dollars) increased from $19,300 to $26,700.[39] By 1969, 79.6% of all households owned at least one car, 82.6% owned a refrigerator or freezer, 79% owned a black and white television set, 31.9% owned a color television set, and 70% owned a washing machine.[40] Leisure time also increased. By 1970, it was estimated that the average workingman in America had 140 days off work each year.[41] US work hours fell by 10.7% between 1950 and 1979, though the decline was still around half that of Western Europe.

In 1980, the American standard of living was the highest among the industrial countries, according to the OECD. Out of the 85 million households in the United States, 64% owned their own living quarters, 55% had at least two TV sets, and 51% had more than one vehicle. In terms of possession of telephones, TV sets, school enrollments, animal protein in diets, and energy consumption, the United States was far ahead of other industrialized countries.[42] Wealthy and middle class and a majority of poor Americans had higher after-tax incomes than their counterparts almost anywhere else in the world.[38][43] By 1985, the US per capita income was $11,727, one of the highest among industrialized countries. By the mid-1980s, 98% of all households had a telephone service, 77% a washing machine, 45% a freezer, and 43% a dishwasher.[44]

In the 1990s, the average American standard of living was regarded as amongst the highest in the world, and middle class and poor Americans were still, on average, richer than their counterparts in almost all other countries, though the gap with some European countries had noticeably narrowed.[38][45]


In 2006, median income was $43,318 per household ($26,000 per household member)[1] with 42% of households having two income earners.[46] Meanwhile, the median income of the average American age 25+ was roughly $32,000[2] ($39,000 if only counting those employed full-time between the ages of 25 to 64) in 2005.[3] According to the CIA the gini index which measures income inequality (the higher the less equal the income distribution) was clocked at 45.0 in 2005,[47] compared to 32.0 in the European Union[48] and 28.3 in Germany.[49]

The US has... a per capita GDP [PPP] of $42,000... The [recent] onrush of technology largely explains the gradual development of a "two-tier labor market"... Since 1975, practically all the gains in household income have gone to the top 20% of households... The rise in GDP in 2004 and 2005 was undergirded by substantial gains in labor productivity... Long-term problems include inadequate investment in economic infrastructure, rapidly rising medical and pension costs of an aging population, sizable trade and budget deficits, and stagnation of family income in the lower economic groups.[47]

In 2014, median wealth in the United States was $44,900, which put the United States in 19th place, behind many other developed countries.[50] In 2015, median wealth in the United States was 55,775. [51]

The United States has one of the widest rich-poor gaps of any high-income nation today, and that gap continues to grow.[52] Some prominent economists have warned that the widening rich-poor gap in the U.S. population is a problem that could undermine and destabilize the country's economy and standard of living. In 2006, Alan Greenspan wrote that "The income gap between the rich and the rest of the US population has become so wide, and is growing so fast, that it might eventually threaten the stability of democratic capitalism itself".[53] In 2013, George Friedman, the head of Stratfor, wrote that the middle class' standard of living was declining, and that "If we move to a system where half of the country is either stagnant or losing ground while the other half is surging, the social fabric of the United States is at risk, and with it the massive global power the United States has accumulated."[54]

In 2015 a report was done that showed that 71 percent of all workers in America made less than $50,000 in 2014. For a family of four to live a middle class lifestyle, it was estimated that they would need $50,000 a year. For workers that make less than that, their standard of living is lacking.[better source needed][55] Since 1971, the middle income was above 50% of the population in the U.S. In 2015, the middle class income consisted of 49.9% of the population. The middle class continues to shrink and standard of living continues to decrease. [56]

Country Austria Belgium Denmark France Ireland Norway Spain Portugal UK United States Israel Canada Russia
Homeownership rate[6] 56% 71% 51% 55% 42% 77% 77% 85% 64% 69% 69% 68%[57] 72%

International rankings

Index Rank
Human Development Index 8th out of 188
GDP (PPP) per capita 7th out of 183
GDP (nominal) per capita 9th out of 183
Quality-of-life Index 16th out of 111
Human Poverty Index 17th out of 19

Social class

Standard of living in the United States varies considerably with socio-economic status. The table below gives a summarization of prominent academic theories on the socio-economic stratification of the United States:

Academic class models
Dennis Gilbert, 2002 William Thompson & Joseph Hickey, 2005 Leonard Beeghley, 2004
Class Typical characteristics Class Typical characteristics Class Typical characteristics
Capitalist class (1%) Top-level executives, high-rung politicians, heirs. Ivy League education common. Upper class (1%) Top-level executives, celebrities, heirs; income of $500,000+ common. Ivy league education common. The super-rich (0.9%) Multi-millionaires whose incomes commonly exceed $350,000; includes celebrities and powerful executives/politicians. Ivy League education common.
Upper middle class[1] (15%) Highly-educated (often with graduate degrees), most commonly salaried, professionals and middle management with large work autonomy. Upper middle class[1] (15%) Highly-educated (often with graduate degrees) professionals & managers with household incomes varying from the high 5-figure range to commonly above $100,000. The rich (5%) Households with net worth of $1 million or more; largely in the form of home equity. Generally have college degrees.
Middle class (plurality/
majority?; ca. 46%)
College-educated workers with considerably higher-than-average incomes and compensation; a man making $57,000 and a woman making $40,000 may be typical.
Lower middle class (30%) Semi-professionals and craftsmen with a roughly average standard of living. Most have some college education and are white-collar. Lower middle class (32%) Semi-professionals and craftsmen with some work autonomy; household incomes commonly range from $35,000 to $75,000. Typically, some college education.
Working class (30%) Clerical and most blue-collar workers whose work is highly routinized. Standard of living varies depending on number of income earners, but is commonly just adequate. High school education.
Working class (32%) Clerical, pink- and blue-collar workers with often low job security; common household incomes range from $16,000 to $30,000. High school education. Working class
(ca. 40–45%)
Blue-collar workers and those whose jobs are highly routinized with low economic security; a man making $40,000 and a woman making $26,000 may be typical. High school education.
Working poor (13%) Service, low-rung clerical and some blue-collar workers. High economic insecurity and risk of poverty. Some high school education.
Lower class (ca. 14–20%) Those who occupy poorly-paid positions or rely on government transfers. Some high school education.
Underclass (12%) Those with limited or no participation in the labor force. Reliant on government transfers. Some high school education. The poor (ca. 12%) Those living below the poverty line with limited to no participation in the labor force; a household income of $18,000 may be typical. Some high school education.
References: Gilbert, D. (2002) The American Class Structure: In An Age of Growing Inequality. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, ISBN 0534541100. (see also Gilbert Model);
Thompson, W. & Hickey, J. (2005). Society in Focus. Boston, MA: Pearson, Allyn & Bacon; Beeghley, L. (2004). The Structure of Social Stratification in the United States. Boston, MA: Pearson, Allyn & Bacon.
1 The upper middle class may also be referred to as "Professional class" Ehrenreich, B. (1989). The Inner Life of the Middle Class. NY, NY: Harper-Collins.

See also



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  8. ^ "Home Ownership Rate Soars in Canada". Retrieved April 17, 2007. 
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