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Standard of living in the United States: Wikis


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Median household income and GDP per capita levels in selected developed nations.

The standard of living in the United States is one of the top 20 in the world by the standards economists use as measures of standards of living. 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.

On comprehensive measures such as the UN Human Development Index the United States is always in the top twenty, currently ranking 15th. On the Human Poverty Index the United States ranked 16th, one rank below the United Kingdom and one rank above Ireland.[4] On the Economist's quality-of-life index the United States ranked 13th, in between Finland and Canada, scoring 7.6 out of a possible 10. The highest given score of 8.3 was applied to Ireland. This particular index takes into account a variety of socio-economic variables including GDP per capita, life expectancy, political stability, family life, community life, gender equality, and job security.[5 ]

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] Residents of the United States also enjoy a high access to consumer goods. Americans enjoy more radios per capita than any other nation [9] and more televisions and personal computers per capita than any other large nation.[10][11]

The median income is $43,318 per household ($26,000 per household member) [1] with 42% of households having two income earners. [12] 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,[13 ] compared to 32.0 in the European Union[14 ] and 28.3 in Germany.[15 ] |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. -CIA factbook on the US economy, 2005.[13 ]

The United States has one of the widest rich-poor gaps of any high-income nation today, and that gap continues to grow.[16] In recent times, some prominent economists including Alan Greenspan 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 stating 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".[17 ]

Country Austria Belgium Denmark France Ireland Norway Spain Portugal UK US Israel Canada
Homeownership rate[6 ] 56% 71% 51% 55% 42% 77% 77% 85% 64% 69% 69% 82%


International household income comparison

Median household income for other countries is shown in the table below. The data for each country has been converted to US dollars using Purchasing Power Parity (obtained from the OECD).[18 ]

Country Median household income national currency units Year PPP rate (OECD) Median household income (PPP)
Switzerland [19] (gross) 107,748 CHF, $99,482 2007 1.787236 $60,288
California, US [20] 55,450 USD 2007 1.00 $55,450
United States 50,233 USD 2007 1.00 $50,233
Canada [21] 53,634 CAD 2005 1.21 $44,000
Switzerland [19] (after taxes and health insurance) 75,312 CHF, $69,534 2007 1.723465 $43,698
New Zealand [22 ] 62,556 NZD 2007 1.54 $41,000
United Kingdom [23] 24,700 GBP 2004 0.632 $39,000
Australia[24 ] 53,404 AUD 2006 1.41 $38,000
Israel[25 ] 107,820 ILS 2006 2.90 $37,000
Ireland 35,410 EUR 2005 1.02 $35,000
United Kingdom[26 ]
21,892 GBP 2005 0.649 $34,000
West Virginia, US [27] US state $33,000
Hong Kong [28] 186,000 HKD 2005 5.96 $31,000
Singapore [29] 45,960 SGD 2005 1.55 $30,000

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.
The Rich (5%) Households with net worth of $1 million or more; largely in the form of home equity. Generally have college degrees.
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
Middle class (plurality/
majority?; ca. 46%)
College educated workers with incomes considerably above-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 craftsman 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; 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-Colins.

See also


  1. ^ a b "US Census Bureau news release in regards to median income". Retrieved 2006-06-29.  
  2. ^ a b "US Census Bureau, personal income distribution, age 25+, 2006". Retrieved 2006-12-28.  
  3. ^ a b "US Census Bureau, income distribution of individuals, employed full-time, year round, age 25-64, 2006". Retrieved 2006-12-27.  
  4. ^ "Human Poverty Index". Retrieved 2007-02-14.  
  5. ^ "Economist, quality of life index". Retrieved 2007-02-14.  
  6. ^ a b "EU homeownership rates, 2002". Retrieved 2007-02-15.  
  7. ^ "OWNED DWELLINGS, Israel". Retrieved 2007-04-17.  
  8. ^ "Home Ownership Rate Soars in Canada". Retrieved 2007-04-17.  
  9. ^ "Median radios per capita". Retrieved 2007-02-15.  
  10. ^ "Median TVs per capita". Retrieved 2007-02-15.  
  11. ^ "Median PCs per capita". Retrieved 2007-02-15.  
  12. ^ "US Census Bureau, income quintile and top 5% household income distribution and demographic characteristics, 2006". Retrieved 2006-12-28.  
  13. ^ a b "CIA factbook, US gini index". Retrieved 2007-01-04.  
  14. ^ "CIA factbook, EU gini index". Retrieved 2007-01-04.  
  15. ^ "CIA factbook, Germany gini index". Retrieved 2007-01-04.  
  16. ^ "Rich-Poor Gap Widening". Retrieved 2006-07-27.  
  17. ^ "Rich-poor gap gaining attention". Retrieved 2006-07-27.  
  18. ^ "OECD, PPP conversion rates". Retrieved 2006-01-20.  
  19. ^ a b "Household income and expenditure 2007". Retrieved 2009-07-13.  
  20. ^ "California Median Household income, 2007". Retrieved 2009-06-05.  
  21. ^ "Canada median household income". Retrieved 2008-5-2.  
  22. ^ "New Zealand income survey showing median household income". Retrieved 2007-10-04.  
  23. ^ "UK parliament discussion showing median household income". Retrieved 2006-12-31.  
  24. ^ "Census QuickStats". Retrieved 2007-10-07.  
  25. ^ "israeli median household income, 2006". Retrieved 2008-01-15.  
  26. ^ "Scottish Economic Statistics 2007". Retrieved 2007-10-09.  
  27. ^ "West Virginia, Median Household Income, 2005". Retrieved 2007-03-22.  
  28. ^ "Hong Kong median household income, 2005". Retrieved 2007-01-19.  
  29. ^ "Singapore median household income, 2005". Retrieved 2007-01-19.  

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