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American and European standards of living

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting piece comparing the standard of living here in America with that of Western Europe. It should come as no surprise that the U.S. does quite well in terms of GDP per capita (Germany edges out Arkansas, but falls well behind the U.S. average), but what of income equality?

Well, the percentage of Americans living below the poverty line has dropped to 12% from 22% since 1959. In 1999, 25% of American households were considered "low income," meaning they had an annual income of less than $25,000. If Sweden--the very model of a modern welfare state--were judged by the same standard, about 40% of its households would be considered low-income.

In other words poverty is relative, and in the U.S. a large 45.9% of the "poor" own their homes, 72.8% have a car and almost 77% have air conditioning, which remains a luxury in most of Western Europe. The average living space for poor American households is 1,200 square feet. In Europe, the average space for all households, not just the poor, is 1,000 square feet.

Read the whole thing.