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Living conditions among the poor in four rich countries

Abstract

The share of income going to the poorest 10% of Americans is much smaller than the share of income going to the poorest 10% of Canadians, Swedes, or Germans (before unification). However, comparisons across countries of the distribution of housing conditions, consumer durables, health, and visits to the doctor and dentist suggest that compared to the average person in their country, low-income Americans are no worse off than low-income residents of other countries. But these conclusions partly depend on how income is adjusted for family size. Americans whose incomes are low for a long time may suffer more material deprivation than Canadians whose incomes are low for a long time. Conclusions about economic well-being based on current income may not rank nations the same as comparisons based on deprivation in living conditions.

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Additional information

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, The Russell Sage Foundation, the National Science Foundation and a Small Grant from the Institute for Research on Poverty provided funding for various stages of this project. I am indebted to Christopher Jencks and two anonymous reviewers for comments on an earlier draft of this paper. I am also indebted to Larry Radbill who provided computer programing for the United States and Swedish data and valuable technical suggestions. Monica Ardelt provided computer programing and technical assistance for the German data. Johan Fritzel provided technical assistance for the Swedish data and David Rhodes, Karen Rolf, and Tim Veenstra provided computer programing for the Unites States data.

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Mayer, S.E. Living conditions among the poor in four rich countries. J Popul Econ 6, 261–286 (1993). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00163070

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00163070

Keywords

  • Family Size
  • Living Condition
  • Housing Condition
  • Average Person
  • Rich Country