It found that if Europe were part of the U.S., only tiny Luxembourg could rival the richest of the 50 American states in gross domestic product per capita. Most European countries would rank below the U.S. average....
Higher GDP per capita allows the average American to spend about $9,700 more on consumption every year than the average European. So Yanks have by far more cars, TVs, computers and other modern goods. "Most Americans have a standard of living which the majority of Europeans will never come anywhere near," the Swedish study says.
But what about 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.Here's a thought. The next time somebody tells you the US should be more like European social democracies, ask them how many square feet their household occupies. Update: This post triggered some blogosphere discussion of whether pecuniary measures are the appropriate metric for assessing social policy and welfare. (None of the disputants, by the way, disclosed the square footage of their homes.) Admittedly, this is a controversial issue, but there's a very accessible and balanced treatment of the debate between utility and wealth maximization at pages 386-390 of Heico Kerkmeester's essay on the methodology of law and economics. As you'll see, there is a well-established school of thought that argues that: "The most obvious alternative for the use of utility is money, as is preferred by both Coase and Posner, and this use has clearly some advantages."