Standard of living in the United States

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.

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


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.[55] Since 1971, the middle income was above 50% of the population in the U.S. In 2015, the middle class income was 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



  1. ^ a b "US Census Bureau news release in regards to median income". Archived from the original on June 27, 2006. Retrieved June 29, 2006.
  2. ^ a b "US Census Bureau, personal income distribution, age 25+, 2006". Archived from the original on March 19, 2007. Retrieved December 28, 2006.
  3. ^ a b "US Census Bureau, income distribution of individuals, employed full-time, year round, age 25–64, 2006". Archived from the original on September 29, 2006. Retrieved December 27, 2006.
  4. ^ "- Human Development Reports". Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  5. ^ "Birth right". Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  6. ^ a b "EU homeownership rates, 2002" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on June 16, 2007. Retrieved February 15, 2007.
  7. ^ "OWNED DWELLINGS, Israel" (PDF). Retrieved April 17, 2007.
  8. ^ "Home Ownership Rate Soars in Canada". Retrieved April 17, 2007.
  9. ^ "Median radios per capita". Archived from the original on December 22, 2006. Retrieved February 15, 2007.
  10. ^ "Median TVs per capita". Archived from the original on December 23, 2006. Retrieved February 15, 2007.
  11. ^ "Median PCs per capita". Retrieved February 15, 2007.
  12. ^ "A History of the Standard of Living in the United States". Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  13. ^ "Sarasota Herald-Tribune - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  14. ^ Hinshaw, John (April 4, 2002). "Steel and Steelworkers: Race and Class Struggle in Twentieth-Century Pittsburgh". SUNY Press. Retrieved October 4, 2017 – via Google Books.
  15. ^ "na". ProQuest. Retrieved October 4, 2017 – via Google Books.
  16. ^ American Workers, American Unions. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  17. ^ Money income and poverty status in the United State. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  18. ^ Economic Forces in the United States in Facts and Figures. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  19. ^ a b "The Declining Middle". Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  20. ^ O'Connor, Alice (October 4, 2017). "Poverty in The United States: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics, and Policy". ABC-CLIO. Retrieved October 4, 2017 – via Google Books.
  21. ^ Daily Life in the United States, 1960-1990. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  22. ^ [1] Archived December 17, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ US Economic History Since 1945. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  24. ^ Everyday Fashions of the Sixties. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  25. ^ The American Midwest. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  26. ^ "Lackawanna & Johnstown: Shutdowns, Steel Towns and the Union" (PDF). Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  27. ^ "Material Life : The 1960s" (PDF). Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  28. ^ [2] Archived February 11, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ Politics of Numbers, The. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  30. ^ "The 40-Year Slump". The American Prospect. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  31. ^ Marsh, Dave (March 1, 2004). "Bruce Springsteen: Two Hearts, the Story". Routledge. Retrieved October 4, 2017 – via Google Books.
  32. ^ Botti, Timothy J. (October 4, 2017). "Envy of the World: A History of the U.S. Economy & Big Business". Algora Publishing. Retrieved October 4, 2017 – via Google Books.
  33. ^ Poverty in the United States: an encyclopedia of history, politics, and policy, Volume 1 by Gwendolyn Mink and Alice O'Connor, P.41
  34. ^ The New Geography of Jobs. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  35. ^ The Unfinished Journey: America Since World War II by William H. Chafe
  36. ^ The Obama Presidency. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  37. ^ Mysteries of Sex: Tracing Women and Men through American History. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  38. ^ a b c Leonhardt, David; Quealy, Kevin (April 22, 2014). "The American Middle Class Is No Longer the World's Richest". Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  39. ^ Dollars and Dreams: The Changing American Income Distribution by Frank Levy
  40. ^ Conquest of Poverty, The. Ludwig von Mises Institute. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  41. ^ Britannica Book of the Year 1971, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., William Benton (Publisher)
  42. ^ Rattner, Steven; Times, Special to the New York (April 20, 1982). "U.S. LIVING STANDARD FOUND HIGHEST". Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  43. ^ Leonhardt, David; Quealy, Kevin (April 22, 2014). "This simple table summarizes our story on American living standards". Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  44. ^ Time-Life Books, Library of Nations: United States, Sixth European English language printing, 1989
  45. ^ [3] Archived December 17, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  46. ^ "US Census Bureau, income quintile and top 5% household income distribution and demographic characteristics, 2006". Archived from the original on January 4, 2007. Retrieved December 28, 2006.
  47. ^ a b "CIA factbook, US gini index". Retrieved January 4, 2007.
  48. ^ "CIA factbook, EU gini index". Retrieved January 4, 2007.
  49. ^ "CIA factbook, Germany gini index". Retrieved January 4, 2007.
  50. ^ Luhby, Tami. "Middle class Americans: Not so wealthy by global standards". Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  51. ^ Posey, Kirby. "Household Income: 2015" (PDF). Census Bureau. Census Bureau. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  52. ^ "Rich-Poor Gap Widening". Retrieved July 27, 2006.
  53. ^ "Rich-poor gap gaining attention". Retrieved July 27, 2006.
  54. ^ "The Crisis of the Middle Class and American Power". Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  55. ^ Snyder, Michael. "Goodbye Middle Class". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  56. ^ Geewax, Marilyn. "The Tipping Point". NPR. Oregon Public Broadcating. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  57. ^ "Canada Home Ownership". Financial Post. August 18, 2012. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
2003 Midwest monkeypox outbreak

The 2003 Midwest monkeypox outbreak marked the first time monkeypox infection has appeared in the United States, and the first time in the Western Hemisphere. Beginning in May, 2003 a total of 71 cases of human monkeypox were found in five Midwestern states including Wisconsin (39 cases), Indiana (16), Illinois (12), Kansas (1), Missouri (2), and Ohio (1). The cause of the outbreak was traced to Gambian pouched rats imported into the United States by an exotic animal importer in Texas. The rats were shipped from Texas to an Illinois distributor, who housed them with prairie dogs. No deaths were reported. No human-to-human transmission was found. All cases involved direct contact with infected prairie dogs. Electron microscopy and testing by polymerase chain reaction and immunohistochemistry were used to confirm the causative agent was human monkeypox.

Deficit reduction in the United States

Deficit reduction in the United States refers to taxation, spending, and economic policy debates and proposals designed to reduce the Federal budget deficit. Government agencies including the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB),and the U.S. Treasury Department have reported that the federal government is facing a series of important long-run financing challenges, mainly driven by an aging population, rising healthcare costs per person, and rising interest payments on the national debt.

CBO reported in July 2014 that the continuation of present tax and spending policies for the long-run (into the 2030s) results in a budget trajectory that causes debt to grow faster than GDP, which is "unsustainable." Further, CBO reported that high levels of debt relative to GDP may pose significant risks to economic growth and the ability of lawmakers to respond to crises. These risks can be addressed by higher taxes, reduced spending, or combination of both.CBO estimated in April 2018 that the national debt would increase between $11.6 trillion and $13.6 trillion over the 2018-2027 period. These estimates are significantly higher than the January 2017 estimate of $9.4 trillion or the June 2017 estimate of $10.1 trillion, which represented the initial budget scenarios inherited by President Trump. The difference is driven by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. These amounts are on top of the $21 trillion national debt as of April 2018. Debt held by the public, a subset of the overall debt, is expected to rise from 77% GDP in 2017 to over 100% GDP by 2028. The 2017 debt to GDP level ranked 43rd highest out of 207 countries.

Emergency Price Control Act of 1942

The Emergency Price Control Act of 1942 is a United States statute imposing an economic intervention as restrictive measures to control inflationary spiraling and pricing elasticity of goods and services while providing economic efficiency to support the United States national defense and security. The Act of Congress established the Office of Price Administration (OPA) as a federal independent agency being officially created by Franklin D. Roosevelt on April 11, 1941.The H.R. 5990 legislation was passed by the 77th U.S. Congressional session and enacted into law by Franklin D. Roosevelt on January 30, 1942.

History of the United States (1964–1980)

The history of the United States from 1964 through 1980 includes the climax and victory of the Civil Rights Movement; the escalation and ending of the Vietnam War; Second wave feminism; the drama of a generational revolt with its sexual freedoms and use of drugs; and the continuation of the Cold War, with its Space Race to put a man on the Moon. The economy was prosperous and expanding until the recession of 1969-70, then faltered under new foreign competition and the 1973 oil crisis. American society was polarized by the ultimately futile war and by antiwar and antidraft protests, as well as by the shocking Watergate affair, which revealed corruption and gross misconduct at the highest level of government. By 1980 and the seizure of the American Embassy in Iran, including a failed rescue attempt by U.S. armed forces, there was a growing sense of national malaise.

The period closed with the victory of conservative Republican Ronald Reagan, opening the "Age of Reagan" with a dramatic change in national direction. The Democratic Party split over the Vietnam War and other foreign policy issues, with a new strong dovish element based on younger voters. Many otherwise liberal Democratic "hawks" joined the Neoconservative movement and started supporting the Republicans—especially Reagan—based on foreign policy. Meanwhile, Republicans were generally united on a hawkish and intense American nationalism, strong opposition to Communism, and strong support for Israel.Memories of the 1960s and the early 1970s shaped the political landscape for the next half-century. As Governor of Arkansas Bill Clinton explained in 1990, "If you look back on the Sixties and think there was more good than bad, you're probably a Democrat. If you think there was more harm than good, you're probably a Republican."

Index of United States-related articles

The following is an alphabetical list of articles related to the United States of America.

Minimum wage in the United States

The minimum wage in the United States is set by US labor law and a range of state and local laws. Employers generally have to pay workers the highest minimum wage prescribed by federal, state, and local law. Since July 24, 2009, the federal government has mandated a nationwide minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. As of January 2018, there were 29 states with a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum. From 2017 to 2018, eight states increased their minimum wage levels through automatic adjustments, while increases in eleven other states occurred through referendum or legislative action.Using 2018 inflation-adjusted dollars, the federal minimum wage peaked at $11.79 per hour in 1968. If the minimum wage in 1968 had kept up with labor's productivity growth, it would have reached $19.33 in 2017. There is a racial difference in support for a higher minimum wage with most Black and Latino individuals supporting a $15.00 federal minimum wage, and 54% of Whites opposing it. In 2018, about 2% of White, Asian, and Latino workers earned the federal minimum wage or less. Amongst Black workers, the percentage was about 3%.

Primo Carnera

Primo Carnera (Italian pronunciation: [ˈpriːmo karˈnɛːra]; 26 October 1906 – 29 June 1967), nicknamed the Ambling Alp, was an Italian professional boxer who reigned as the World Heavyweight Champion from 29 June 1933 to 14 June 1934. He was also a professional wrestler.

SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse

Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse (Ger. orth. Kaiser Wilhelm der Große) was a German transatlantic ocean liner named after Wilhelm I, German Emperor, the first monarch of the (second) German Empire.

The liner was constructed in Stettin (now Szczecin, Poland) for the North German Lloyd (NDL), and entered service in 1897. It was the first liner to have four funnels and is considered to be the first "superliner." The first of four sister ships built between 1903 and 1907 by NDL (the others being SS Kronprinz Wilhelm, SS Kaiser Wilhelm II and SS Kronprinzessin Cecilie, she marked the beginning of a change in the way maritime supremacy was demonstrated in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century.

The ship began a new era in ocean travel and the novelty of having four funnels was quickly associated with size, strength, speed and above all luxury. Quickly established on the Atlantic, she gained the Blue Riband for Germany, a notable prize for the fastest trip from Europe to America which had been previously dominated by the British.

In 1900, she was involved in a fire in the port of New York which resulted in several deaths. She was also the victim of a naval ram in the French port of Cherbourg in 1906. With the advent of her sister ships, she was modified to an all-third-class ship to take advantage of the lucrative immigrant market travelling to the United States.

Converted into an auxiliary cruiser at the outbreak of World War I, she was given orders to capture and destroy enemy ships. She destroyed several before being defeated in the Battle of Río de Oro by the British cruiser HMS Highflyer and scuttled by her crew, just three weeks after the outbreak of war. Her wreck was discovered in 1952 and dismantled.

United States articles
Standard of living in North America
Sovereign states
Dependencies and
other territories

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