What does a high standard of living involve? A number of factors seem to be common to most economic ideals. These include “physical possessions, nutrition, health care, and life expectancy.” The more prosperous an economy, thebetter off the citizens of that economy are in terms of material possessions and health. Therefore, prosperity is possible when wages are high and countries are highly productive.
The standard of living in the United States is “one of the highest in the world by almost any measure.” On measures such as the UN Human Development Index, the United States is always in the top ten. However, the UnitedStates is consistently ranked lower than Scandinavia, Canada, Australia, and Japan.1 The United States measures better in certain categories than others. Americans are some of the wealthiest people in the world, with a very “high GDP per capita. Americans are top in the world for most material possessions.” According to the World Bank2 The United States also consistently has one the lowestunemployment rates in the world, usually only beaten by Japan. While the United States' mean wealth is the highest of any major country, its median income is considerably lower relative to many other countries, reflecting a relatively unequal income distribution. Much of the extra money in the United States is the result of a much wealthier top section of the population. The United States also has morepeople below the poverty line than 26 other countries; however, the measures used to establish a poverty line are “controversial and may not always be comparable among countries.”The wealthiest ten percent of Americans are 15 times richer than the bottom ten percent. In Japan, for instance, the ration is only 4.2:1. Some regard this imbalance as a product of the United States' long policy ofhaving a more free market economy, while other countries are more ready to sacrifice net wealth in favor of equality. Compared with some other countries, such as France and Germany, the US has much average higher hours worked per person, and it may be argued that much of the reason for higher incomes in the US is that people work more. If leisure time were taken into account in measuring the standardof living, the advantage of the US would be reduced. However, it is not easy to make fair comparisons of what this extra leisure time is worth. For example, if this extra "leisure" actually reflects widespread employment, it may not really contribute to the standard of living at all.
Business Magazine publication3 declares that while the United States is known for spending less on social welfareprograms in some areas it does excel. The American education system is one of the best in the world. While grade schools are behind some other nations, the American college and university system is both one of the most respected and one of the most accessible in the world. In terms of population with education beyond high school, the United States is second only to Canada, and well ahead of most ofEurope.
The American health care system is also one of the best in the world, but is one of the worst amongst developed countries; however, the United States spends vastly more per person on health care each year. While the United States does suffer from severe problems of racial inequality, it “is one of the world's top nations in terms of equality of the sexes. Women have a high participationrate in the labor force and higher salaries compared to men than in most other countries.” The United States also has only minimal religious discrimination.
It is also important to note the diversity of the United States, both between and within the several states; there are many differences between urban, rural, and suburban standards of living as well as those enjoyed by various subcultures....