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Standard of living in the United States

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 12th. On the Human Poverty Index the United States ranked 16th, one rank below the United Kingdom and one rank above Ireland. 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.

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

The median income is $43,318 per household ($26,000 per household member) with 42% of households having two income earners. Meanwhile, the median income of the average American age 25+ was roughly $32,000 ($39,000 if only counting those employed full-time between the ages of 25 to 64) in 2005. 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, compared to 32.0 in the European Union and 28.3 in Germany.

{{cquote |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.

The United States has one of the widest rich-poor gaps of any high-income nation today, and that gap continues to grow. 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.

Median Wages have been on the decline in the United States since 1974. In 2004, the median income for a man in his 30s was $35,010. Adjusted for inflation, that's 12 percent less than what men the same age were making in 1974.

Country Austria Belgium Denmark France Ireland Norway Spain Portugal UK US Israel Canada
Homeownership rate 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).

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:

See also


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