Standard of living

Standard of living

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Standard of living is generally measured by standards such as real (i.e. inflation adjusted) income per person and poverty rate. Other measures such as access and quality of health care, income growth inequality
Economic inequality
Economic inequality comprises all disparities in the distribution of economic assets and income. The term typically refers to inequality among individuals and groups within a society, but can also refer to inequality among countries. The issue of economic inequality is related to the ideas of...

 and educational standards are also used. Examples are access to certain goods (such as number of refrigerators per 1000 people), or measures of health such as life expectancy. It is the ease by which people living in a time or place are able to satisfy their needs and/or wants.

Standard of living refers to the level of wealth, comfort, material goods and necessities available to a certain socioeconomic class in a certain geographic area.
The standard of living includes factors such as income, quality and availability of employment, class disparity, poverty rate, quality and affordability of housing, hours of work required to purchase necessities, gross domestic product, inflation rate, number of vacation days per year, affordable (or free) access to quality healthcare, quality and availability of education, life expectancy, incidence of disease, cost of goods and services, infrastructure, national economic growth, economic and political stability, political and religious freedom, environmental quality, climate and safety. The standard of living is closely related to quality of life.

The idea of a 'standard' may be contrasted with the quality of life
Quality of life
The term quality of life is used to evaluate the general well-being of individuals and societies. The term is used in a wide range of contexts, including the fields of international development, healthcare, and politics. Quality of life should not be confused with the concept of standard of...

, which takes into account not only the material standard of living, but also other more intangible aspects that make up human life, such as leisure, safety, cultural resources, social life, physical health, environmental quality issues etc. More complex means of measuring well-being must be employed to make such judgements, and these are very often political, thus controversial. Even between two nations or societies that have similar material standards of living, quality of life factors may in fact make one of these places more attractive to a given individual or group.

However, there can be problems even with just using numerical averages to compare material standards of living, as opposed to, for instance, a Pareto index
Pareto index
In economics the Pareto index, named after the Italian economist and sociologist Vilfredo Pareto, is a measure of the breadth of income or wealth distribution. It is one of the parameters specifying a Pareto distribution and embodies the Pareto principle...

 (a measure of the breadth of income or wealth distribution). Standards of living are perhaps inherently subjective. As an example, countries with a very small, very rich upper class and a very large, very poor lower class may have a high mean
Mean
In statistics, mean has two related meanings:* the arithmetic mean .* the expected value of a random variable, which is also called the population mean....

 level of income, even though the majority of people have a low "standard of living". This mirrors the problem of poverty
Poverty
Poverty is the lack of a certain amount of material possessions or money. Absolute poverty or destitution is inability to afford basic human needs, which commonly includes clean and fresh water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. About 1.7 billion people are estimated to live...

 measurement, which also tends towards the relative. This illustrates how distribution of income can disguise the actual standard of living.

Likewise Country A, a perfectly socialist country with a planned economy
Planned economy
A planned economy is an economic system in which decisions regarding production and investment are embodied in a plan formulated by a central authority, usually by a government agency...

 with very low average per capita income would receive a higher score for having lower income inequality than Country B with a higher income inequality, even if the bottom of Country B's population distribution had a higher per capita income than Country A. Real examples of this include former East Germany compared to former West Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

 or North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

 compared to South Korea
South Korea
The Republic of Korea , , is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north, and the East China Sea and Republic of China to the south...

. In each case, the socialist country has a low income discrepancy (and therefore would score high in that regard), but lower per capita incomes than a large majority of their neighboring counterpart. This can be avoided by using the measure of income at various percentiles of the population rather than a highly relative and controversial overall income inequality measure.

See also

  • Human Development Index
    Human Development Index
    The Human Development Index is a composite statistic used to rank countries by level of "human development" and separate "very high human development", "high human development", "medium human development", and "low human development" countries...

  • Right to an adequate standard of living
    Right to an adequate standard of living
    The right to an adequate standard of living is recognized as a human right and is understood to establish a minimum entitlement to food, clothing and housing at a subsistence level. The right to food and the right to housing have been further defined in human rights instruments...

  • Gini coefficient
    Gini coefficient
    The Gini coefficient is a measure of statistical dispersion developed by the Italian statistician and sociologist Corrado Gini and published in his 1912 paper "Variability and Mutability" ....


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