Standard of living

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Standard of living is the level of income, comforts and services available, generally applied to a society or location, rather than to an individual.[1] Standard of living is relevant because it is considered to contribute to an individual's quality of life.[2] Standard of living is generally concerned with objective metrics outside an individual's personal control, such as economic, societal, political and environmental matters – such things that an individual might consider when evaluating where to live in the world, or when assessing the success of economic policy.

It is affected by factors such as the quality and availability of employment, class disparity, poverty rate, quality and housing affordability, hours of work required to purchase necessities, gross domestic product, inflation rate, amount of leisure time, access to and quality of healthcare, quality and availability of education, literacy rates, life expectancy, occurrence of diseases, cost of goods and services, infrastructure, access to, quality and affordability of public transportation, national economic growth, economic and political stability, freedom, environmental quality, climate and safety. For the purposes of economics, politics and policy, it is usually compared across time or between groups defined by social, economic or geographical parameters.

Decent standard of living[edit]

The standard of living varies between individuals depending on different aspects of life. The standard of living consists of the individuals having the basics such as food, shelter, social interaction which all contribute to their wellbeing and what is considered to be a decent living standard. The decent living standard is also referred to as DLS. The decent living standard revolves around the idea and principle that a majority of the population are in demand for the basics that will allow them to have shelter, food and water, however it is not always able to be maintained for a long period of time.[3]

The factors that go into what is considered part of the DLS is made up of individuals having social, economic, and cultural rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is made up of different articles that states the rights individuals have to basic necessities such as food housing, clothing, water, and sanitation. Article 11 (2) states that humans have the right to receive even in the midst of a disaster. While Article 25 implies that housing is a basic human right that needs to be provided for individuals. The different aspects of standard of living have different parts to it like affordability, accessibility and quality.[4]


Standard of living is generally measured by standards such as inflation-adjusted income per person and poverty rate. Other measures such as access and quality of health care, income growth inequality, and educational standards are also used. Examples are access to certain goods (such as the number of refrigerators per 1000 people), or measurement of health such as life expectancy. It is the ease by which people living in a time or place are able to satisfy their needs and/or wants.[5]

The idea of a 'standard' may be contrasted with the quality of life, which takes into account not only the material standard of living but also other more intangible aspects that make up human life, such as leisure, safety, cultural resources, social life, physical health, environmental quality issues.[6] More complex means of measuring well-being must be employed to make such judgments, and these are very often political and controversial. Even between two nations or societies that have similar material standards of living, quality of life factors may make one of these places more attractive to a given person or group.

A method of measurement to indicate the  standard of living is by using a tool known as body mass index also known as a BMI. [7]The usage of a tool like the BMI  will provide different categories which arrange individuals into groups based on their weight that is correlated to height. The categories are underweight, healthy weight, overweight and obesity. [8]An individual's BMI has a positive correlation to individuals socio-economic factors.[7] These socio-economics factors include incomes, education, employment, community safety and social support.[9] The different BMI of individuals across a group provides a different levels of social class between individuals.[7]

Factors that influence standards of living[edit]

  • Economy: When looking at the standards of living in a country, GDP is the most common method of measurement, but it is not the most accurate one and many factors are taken into consideration when analyzing it. This is because a country may have a high GDP, which is good because the level of wealth goes up, but it does not mean that the quality of life also goes up. In some countries GDP is high, but the conditions that people live in are not appropriate, and that this may be due to the levels of pollution within a country, the absence of leisure time/longer hours worked per person per day, rising levels of crime, obesity, alcoholism, drug abuse, or unequal income distribution. These are some factors that may influence the GDP of a country but are not considered since this is a monetary method measurement. China has the second-highest GDP in the world[10] and is the perfect example of how this method does consider all the factors and is inaccurate. The levels of pollution in China are high and are causing over a million deaths a year.[11]
  • Education: Education is the basis of economic development and societal advancement. As a matter of fact, the right to education is one of the factors that may be used to measure the quality of life. In addition to that, investment in education improves human capital, increases productivity which therefore improves standard of living. “Productivity has grown more in states with greater growth in the educational attainment of their workforce.” [12]Therefore we can conclude that the higher one’s education attainment the more one is able to work and earn to live a life of quality while providing for his or her family members. The power of education attainment in raising one’s income has been growing for decades. “U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that earnings consistently increase with the level of education. On average, workers over 25 years old with bachelor's degrees earn an astonishing 70% more than their counterparts with high school diplomas.”[13] Ultimately, not only does education enriches people’s understanding of themselves and the world, it also raises people's productivity and creativity, by playing a very crucial role in securing economic and social progress and improving income distribution. Education is therefore in every sense one of the fundamental factors of development which helps improve people’s standard of living.
  • Corruption: The standard of living can easily start to plummet when corruption is high. Corruption can highly influence the economy by the misuse of money or authority to negatively and/or illegally achieve certain goals. with a high level of corruption will not flourish or be prosperous. In turn, directly affect the standard of living and all around negatively impact society. Health care and education tend to suffer from corruption as well, deteriorating the standard of living even further. The average income of countries with a high level of corruption is around 1/3 of the average income of countries that have less corruption. Countries with less corruption tend to have a lower infant mortality rate and a higher literary rate, around 25%. Countries with corrupt economies have a lower GDP because small businesses tend to be avoiding taxation and operating outside of the official economy. Foreign investors tend to stay away from countries with high corruption because of the posing liability in their investment. There is a direct correlation between corruption in a country and the competitiveness in their business markets. Corruption plays a factor in the price of countries' education systems. This is because bribery and connections play important roles in the recruitment of teachers. This also plays into the effect corruption has on healthcare. Limited medical supplies reduces the procurement of supplies and in turn, reduces the overall health of the economy. Corruption plays a huge role in the standard of living and can negatively impact everyday life in severe and detrimental ways. [14]
  • Poverty: When mentioning the standard of living, poverty is one of the most overlooked factors that influences the standard of living. With the coronavirus pandemic changing the U.S. landscape, millions of families are faced with difficult decisions such as missing a paycheck or risking their families safety. A lack of income in lower-income communities, research has shown the relationship between a lack of income and chronic health such as heart disease, exposure to COVID-19, and diabetes in lower income communities.[15] Due to the lack of resources, this increased the chances of people living in poverty contracting the virus. Poverty is often a byproduct of economic inequality which is connected to the racial divide in income and wealth. When looking at the distribution of wealth in the United States, nearly 21% of Black people and 18% of [16]Hispanic people reside under the poverty line which is high compared to their white counterparts at 8%. In the United States, the median white family has approximately 41 times more wealth compared to the median [17]black family and 22 times more wealth compared to the median Hispanic family which means in a unforeseen circumstance like the coronavirus, the median white family has a safety net to fall back on because have wealth. Meanwhile, the median of both Black and Hispanic families doesn’t allow them to have something to fall back on. Throughout our economic history, both Blacks and Hispanics have been disproportionately affected by recessions and uneventful circumstances such as the coronavirus pandemic because they don’t have the wealth and the income to withstand events which makes the standard of living become increasingly challenging.

[18] The living or minimum wage plays a part in individuals ability to get basic necessities.[19] In New Zealand it was found that raising the minimum wage to  $20 dollars for two adults who work 60 hours a day and 52 weeks in a year will be able to support themselves and not fall into the poverty category.  However, the minimum wage being $20 will only support a household with two adults with two children and not a single parent household. The reason for increasing the minimum wage is to decrease the gap between the high income and low income groups.[20]

  • Health care: There is a strong correlation between standard of living and the quality of healthcare. The quality of healthcare and standard of living are both low in poor developing countries while both are much better in developed countries. According to a report by the World Health, developing countries experience higher levels of inaccurate diagnosis, medication errors, inappropriate treatment, inadequate or unsafe clinical facilities or practices, or providers who lack adequate training and expertise because of their low quality of life. The same report found that in low and middle-income African countries, health care workers were able to make accurate diagnosis only up to three quarters of the time. [21]These factors further lower metrics such as life expectancy, mortality rate, quality of health which causes developing countries to have a poor standard of living. Furthermore, low quality health care is even more harmful for the poorer and most vulnerable individuals living in these developing countries as they tend to live in remote corners which typically do not have good healthcare facilities. These realities are less common in high income countries because they regularly invest large amounts of money in medical research and innovation which have continuously improved health quality over time, which in turn strengthens the overall standard of living.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "STANDARD OF LIVING | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary". Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  2. ^ "Standard of Living Definition". 29 August 2019. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
  3. ^ Rao, Narasimha D.; Min, Jihoon (July 2018). "Decent Living Standards: Material Prerequisites for Human Wellbeing". Social Indicators Research. 138 (1): 225–244. doi:10.1007/s11205-017-1650-0. ISSN 0303-8300. PMC 6013539. PMID 29950752.
  4. ^ "The Right to an Adequate Standard of Living". Icelandic Human Rights Centre. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  5. ^ Clark, Nardinelli. "Industrial Revolution and the Standard of Living". Econlib.
  6. ^ Staff, Investopedia. "Standard of Living Definition". Investopedia.
  7. ^ a b c Nubé, M; Asenso-Okyere, Wk; van den Boom, Gjm (February 1998). "Body mass index as indicator of standard of living in developing countries". European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 52 (2): 136–144. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1600528. ISSN 0954-3007.
  8. ^ CDC (17 September 2020). "All About Adult BMI". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  9. ^ "Social and Economic Factors". County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  10. ^ Silver, Caleb. "The Top 25 Economies in the World". Investopedia.
  11. ^ "China's air pollution harms its citizens and the world". U.S. Embassy in Georgia. 24 November 2020.
  12. ^
  13. ^,degree%20increases%20earnings%20even%20further
  14. ^ Mirzayev E (10 April 2020). "How Corruption Affects Emerging Economies". Investopedia.
  15. ^ Bor, Jacob; Cohen, Gregory H.; Galea, Sandro (8 April 2017). "Population health in an era of rising income inequality: USA, 1980–2015". The Lancet. 389 (10077): 1475–1490. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(17)30571-8. ISSN 0140-6736. PMID 28402829.
  16. ^ "U.S. poverty rate, by ethnicity 2019". Statista. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  17. ^ "Racial Economic Inequality". Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  18. ^ "US: Address Impact of Covid-19 on Poor". Human Rights Watch. 19 March 2020. Retrieved 13 April 2021.
  19. ^ Iacurci, Greg (21 February 2021). "Many Americans, especially families, can't live on a $15 minimum wage". CNBC. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  20. ^ John, Susan St; So, Yun (1 August 2017). "Does the Living Wage ensure an adequate standard of living for families?". Policy Quarterly. 13 (3). doi:10.26686/pq.v13i3.4668. ISSN 2324-1101.
  21. ^ "Low quality healthcare is increasing the burden of illness and health costs globally". Africa Renewal. 5 July 2018. Retrieved 21 April 2021.

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