Americans are generally richer than Europeans
But being rich isn't the only thing that matters
Around the 4th of July, there’s always a big Twitter fight between Americans and Europeans online over which place has higher living standards. In terms of good old per capita GDP, it’s not much of a contest:
Switzerland has higher per capita income than the U.S., but the U.S. comes out ahead of the Northern European countries — Sweden, Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands — and well ahead of other European countries like France. (The EU itself is even lower because it includes East Europe.) In fact, in per capita GDP terms, the state of Arkansas — the second-poorest U.S. state — is actually about as rich as the United Kingdom, and Georgia — the median U.S. state — is richer than Denmark.
But as many people on Twitter will be quick to tell you, per capita GDP isn’t the be-all and end-all measure of living standards. After all, isn’t Europe far more economically equal? Doesn’t the government provide a lot of things for free that Americans have to pay for out of pocket? Isn’t the health care better? Don’t Europeans get much more vacation? And on top of all that, many people who travel to Europe, or who have lived in both places, insist that life in Europe just feels nicer.
Well, it turns out that both the America boosters and the Europe partisans have good points. By almost any economic statistic we can find, Americans tend to enjoy higher material standards of living than their European counterparts. But when it comes to quality-of-life measures that aren’t included in GDP, Europe tends to come out ahead.
Some issues to think about when comparing living standards
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