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How Well Off Are Americans?

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Posted on 18 January 2019 by Elliott Morss, Morss Global Finance IntroductionMany Americans believe the US is the best country in the world. This would surprise many from other countries who enter the US via its crumbling airports, ride on its 19th century trains, or drive on its clogged and potholed highways. So exactly how well off is the US? To give a partial answer to this question, the recently released Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development (OECD) Better Life Index data for 2017 is useful.Please share this article - Go to very top of page, right hand side, for social media buttons.The OECD DimensionsAs indicated in the following figure, the OECD uses 10 quality of life dimensions to rate countries with further breakdowns under each.Source: OECDIn order to make

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posted on 18 January 2019

by Elliott Morss, Morss Global Finance

Introduction

Many Americans believe the US is the best country in the world. This would surprise many from other countries who enter the US via its crumbling airports, ride on its 19th century trains, or drive on its clogged and potholed highways. So exactly how well off is the US? To give a partial answer to this question, the recently released Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development (OECD) Better Life Index data for 2017 is useful.

How Well Off Are Americans?


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The OECD Dimensions

As indicated in the following figure, the OECD uses 10 quality of life dimensions to rate countries with further breakdowns under each.

How Well Off Are Americans?

Source: OECD

In order to make meaningful comparisons, The OECD scores were converted into 1 - 5 rankings, with 5 being best. The totals are presented in Table 1. In is notable that overall, the US ends up in the middle of the countries. It does well on housing, income, jobs, pollution and health and badly on civic engagement, safety and life satisfaction.

Some of these indices warrant further discussion and that is done below.

Table 1. - OECD Rankings

How Well Off Are Americans?

Source: OECD

Income and Wealth

When it comes to the relationship between income and wealth, the US is in a class by itself, with its wealth at 300% of its income. This is possibly a counter to the fact that its government support network is not as strong as those of other countries so its citizens know they have to save more. Looking at the countries at the bottom of this list makes it clear just how well off US citizens are.

Table 2. - Income and Wealth

How Well Off Are Americans?

Source: OECD

Pollution

The OECD pollution index consists of two measures: air and water quality. It turns out they are negatively correlated: countries with high air pollution have good water quality. The countries with the worst air are Korea, Poland, South Africa, Israel, Slovak Republic, Czech Republic and Turkey. The countries with the worst water quality are Brazil, Israel, Turkey, Mexico and Russia. The US has a good air quality rating but only an average water quality rating.

It is notable that air pollution is much worse in developing countries. For example, the city of Kanpur in India has a PM 2.5 concentration of 173 micrograms per cubic meter in comparison to Korea with only a 28 micrograms per cubic meter reading.

Education and Safety

US education gets only a middling score with safety getting a bad score. The safety score is at least in part attributable to the fact that there are more guns in the US than people.

Conclusions

The top countries in the OECD study are primarily from northern Europe. They are often characterized as being "socialist." Maybe they know something the rest of the world needs to know.

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How Well Off Are Americans?

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