Standard of living

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Air travel is now part of the high standard of living in industrialized countries. Nevertheless, there are people who voluntarily refrain from flying for various reasons. So standard of living is not the same as well-being or quality of life.

Standard of living expresses the real level of ownership and consumption of goods and services and can be measured objectively as a quantitative parameter. Accordingly, the material wealth and physical well-being for a person, a social group , a social class , a certain area or a state is made comparable.

According to Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights , everyone has the right to “a standard of living which guarantees the health and well-being of his and her family”. This expressly includes food ( drinking water and food ), clothing, housing, medical care and necessary social services.

Eurocentric concept

The systems scientist Ervin László and the natural scientist Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker warn against transferring the ideology of the present - which strives for a steadily increasing standard of living - from the industrialized countries to the rest of the world. The earth's resources would not be sufficient to both supply mankind and maintain the stability of ecosystems. The international study Living Planet Report , which is published annually by the Global Footprint Network , confirms these fears: We would need five planets like the earth if all people lived like the Americans do today (2014). In Germany, the ecological footprint is more than twice as large as the average available biocapacity worldwide. Since a healthy environment is a fundamental requirement for a high standard of living, Laszlo sees the solution in the development of new values beyond the ideology of growth : living standards would have in terms of "quality of life" completely new and sustainable define necessary to comply with the requirement of human rights "and" to permanently maintain the regenerative capacity of the biosphere .

Mainly because of its purely material view, representatives of non-Western cultures sometimes classify the concept as Eurocentric .


In the economy, the (general) standard of living is measured with indicators. Depending on the method, economic and social indicators are taken into account. Often used as a yardstick:

More rarely one finds:

Anthropometric data, calorie consumption, work and leisure time are further indicators of the standard of living in addition to household input and expenditure.

General standard of living

For the indigenous people of Ecuador, the river is still the “washing machine”. However, more factors are decisive for people's satisfaction than just the standard of living.

The general standard of living in western countries is very different from that in developing countries . A high level of dynamism and the associated large differences between rich and poor (i.e. high and low individual standards) can be found in the so-called emerging countries . The general standard of living depends, among other things, on technical developments. For example, in Western Europe in the 1950s a washing machine - which is taken for granted today - was not part of the general standard. As a further example, life without a car in rural regions of developed countries is already associated with severe restrictions; the previously only individual standard is slowly developing into the general standard, whereby poor population groups can be excluded from it. The integrity of the environment also has an impact on the standard of living (e.g. urban sprawl , air and soil pollution by industry).

Example: free time

An industrial worker in the 19th century typically had to work 12 hours a day, plus around 2 hours of domestic work. In contrast, hunter-gatherer peoples - even in African or Australian desert regions - spend an average of only 2.5 hours on obtaining food and 3.5 hours on all other activities. With simple field cultivation the value is almost 7 hours; with intensive irrigation farming in Southeast Asia, however, almost 9.5 hours a day. If the standard of living is measured by the amount of time spent on daily activities such as maintenance, household chores, children, etc., the average American citizen is now at the lower end of the scale at 11 hours a day!

Individual standard of living

For the individual, the standard of living is often a question of the “availability” of goods

The individual standard of living describes the level of living conditions of a person in comparison to others (mostly in the same society ). At the individual level, material goods such as B. a modern car, nice clothes, regular air travel or a comfortable place to live as an expression of an “appropriate” standard of living (also: the lifestyle ) in the industrialized countries.

However, the "comfortable place of residence" already indicates things other than material. The rented apartment in a socially disadvantaged location, equipped with modern amenities, has a significantly different quality of life than a completely modernized half-timbered house in an old town. Foregoing a car or air travel, which in the eyes of many certainly represents a loss of standard of living, is perceived by some environmentally conscious people as a gain in quality of life .

Quality and standard of life are also influenced by opportunities to participate in cultural goods - the subsistence level, for example, is not sufficient for travel, adequate living space , time sovereignty , visiting restaurants ; On this basis, theaters and cultural events, museums, radio and television ( license fee ), public libraries can only be used with high discounts. The extent to which a “lack” of opportunities for participation is determined depends on the situation. a. on the level of education. Also forming part of such a number of other values (health, violence, etc.) for individual standard of living. In some industrialized countries it can currently be observed that prosperity is increasing, but at the same time social inequality (number of people affected by poverty) is growing. Families with underage children and especially single parents are overrepresented in the group with a low standard of living. (See also: Maslow's hierarchy of needs )

Maslow hierarchy of needs.svg

In relation to the individual, social security based on previous income is also referred to as safeguarding the standard of living. For example, securing the standard of living in old age is called old-age insurance . Securing the standard of living is on the one hand the task of the individual, on the other hand the subject of politics ( social policy , family policy , etc.). State framework conditions for this are summarized under the term welfare state .

In the Federal Republic of Germany, social security is oriented towards securing the previous standard of living. For a long time, social security in the event of unemployment (receipt of former unemployment benefits ) and divorce ( maintenance ) was based on maintaining the previous standard of living by means of security based on previous income. This principle was moved away with the introduction of unemployment benefit II : the entitlement of the long-term unemployed has since then been dependent on a means test and is now based on the (socio-cultural) subsistence level; it no longer represents a safeguard of the previous standard of living. This principle was also moved away by the maintenance reform ( law on the reform of maintenance law ): maintenance is no longer based on the marital standard of living, but is geared towards post-marital personal responsibility .

historical development

An important indicator of the standard of living is how people eat

According to the American ethnologist Marshall Sahlins , the development of mankind began with the "original affluent society", which was characterized by extensive needs satisfaction and ample time off for "all" people. It was only with the development of the various forms of rule and the division of labor and specialization that social inequality emerged, with an often drastic deterioration in the standard of living of individual, lower-ranking social classes.

The standard of living of these people before the Neolithic Revolution can be deduced from comparisons with today's local ethnic groups who still live on traditional subsistence economies. An important indicator is the mean daily energy intake from food. This differs considerably between societies and is around 6,280 kJ (= 1,500 kcal ) for the Yanomami to around 15,900 kJ (= 3,800 kcal) for the Aché .

In pre-industrial England, an estimated 9,630 kJ (= 2,300 kcal) were consumed daily. The Yanomami have a greater variety than the English had: While the English mainly ate bread and a little cheese and bacon, the Yanomami diet included numerous animal and plant species, including wild boar, various birds, insects and fish , Fruits and vegetables. Another indicator of standard of living is height , with increasing size being associated with a higher standard of living. It does not indicate any increase in the standard of living before the industrial revolution. Hunters and gatherers were no smaller than Europeans in the 18th century, and sometimes larger than Asians.

From the point of view of the people in developing countries and from the point of view of geopolitical considerations, is it correct to transfer the standard of living in the western world one to one to these countries?

The industrial revolution had a major impact on the world of work . However, the development of the standard of living at this time is viewed inconsistently. Just as British economic development was decades ahead of that on the European continent, so were changes in the social structure and the conditions of proletarian existence. This is why the development of the standard of living of the British working class in the course of the industrial revolution - as with Engels - was the focus of contemporary observers. A study by Peter H. Lindert and Jeffrey G. Williamson from 1983 estimated the development of real wages between 1755 and 1851 in several occupations and came to the conclusion that wages rose only slightly from 1781 to 1819, in the period from 1819 to 1851 themselves however, doubled. This view has been partially questioned by other economists. Charles Feinstein used a different price index than Lindert and Wiliamson and said that the increase in wages must have been significantly less. Studies on body size determine a decrease in this for the beginning of the industrial revolution in Europe in the late 18th century, which John Komlos attributes to the great inequality at that time.

Most economic historians agree that the distribution of income became more unequal between 1790 and 1840. "As far as the shares in the national product are concerned, it is clear that the increase in capital and pension income was far above and that of wage income far below the increase in the average per capita income." If one takes into account the consequences of unemployment, environmental pollution and population density, a temporary deterioration in living standards seems plausible. It is sometimes argued that a series of wars ( American Revolution , Napoleonic Wars , British-American War ) dampened the positive effects. Osterhammel sums up: “Overall, the life of the working population in England did not improve between 1780 and 1850. After that , wages clearly outperformed prices, and life expectancy gradually began to rise. "

In the 20th century, especially after the Second World War, there was a rapid increase in the standard of living in industrialized countries. Associated with it grew z. B. the height of Scandinavians, Germans and French on average by about 18 centimeters. Life expectancy and the level of education rose, among other things, and child mortality fell rapidly. The inequality of living standards in the US continued to decrease after World War II, but has increased again since the mid-1970s. Long-term developments in income differentials also followed a U-curve in most western European countries and western offshoots: Inequality in income decreased towards the end of the 19th century until around 1970 and has since increased again in the OECD member states.

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Standard of living  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Horst W. Opaschowski: Rethinking wealth: How the next generation will live. Gütersloher publishing house, 2009.
  2. Universal Declaration of Human Rights # Article 25 on Wikisource .
  3. a b Ervin Laszlo: System theory as a world view. Diederichs, Munich 1998. pp. 95-96.
  4. Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker + Lovins, AB + Lovins, LH: Factor Four. Knaur, Munich 1997. p. 25.
  5. The Footprint - An Introduction . ( Memento of September 29, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Website of the Global Footprint Network , accessed on December 12, 2014.
  6. WWF Living Planet Report 2014 WWF in cooperation with Global Footprint Network, Water Footprint Network, ZSL Living Conservation , p. 21.
  7. Frederik Hetmann: The earth is our mother. Herder, Freiburg 1998. p. 61.
  8. Voices of the Earth. Raben, BMAG (Ed.) Big Mountain Action Group eV: Munich 1993.
  9. a b Edward Goldsmith : The Way. An ecological manifesto. 1st edition, Bettendorf, Munich 1996, pp. 201ff.
  10. Olivier Blanchard, Gerhard Illing: Macroeconomics . Pearson Education 2009, ISBN 3-8273-7363-8 , pp. 313ff.
  11. ^ Karl-Heinz Kohl : Ethnology - the science of the culturally foreign. An introduction. Munich: CH Beck, 1993; 3rd edition 2012. pp. 86-88.
  12. Martin Schenk: Climate and Distribution Policy . ( Memento of March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) from: Kurswechsel, Issue 2/2010, pp. 65–71, website of the Austrian Federal Environment Agency, accessed on June 5, 2014.
  13. ↑ The standard of living is not the same as the quality of life. ( Memento from June 7, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) News from November 11, 2013, website of the Landshut University of Applied Sciences, date, accessed on June 5, 2014.
  14. Wolfgang Lauterbach: Poverty in Germany - possible consequences for families and children . University of Oldenburg, Oldenburg University Speeches , ISBN 3-8142-1143-X , pp. 16, 17.
  15. Since the introduction of the Hartz Laws in 2005, anyone who has been unemployed for a year or is not entitled to unemployment benefit I has been considered “long-term unemployed”.
  16. Income security in the welfare state. In: Basic Income as Social Reform. From politics and contemporary history (APuZ 51-52 / 2007). Federal Agency for Civic Education, 2007, accessed on November 11, 2009 .
  17. Survey: Consequences of the new maintenance law still unknown. In: press release. Bertelsmann Stiftung , May 27, 2009, accessed April 8, 2019 .
  18. a b c The Biological Standard of Living , John Komlos , Spectrum of Science , October 1998.
  19. Gregory Clark : A Farewell to Alms. Princeton University Press, 2007. Chapter 3.
  20. ^ Peter H. Lindert, Jeffrey G. Williamson: English Workers' Living Standards during the Industrial Revolution. A new look. In: The Economic History Review. New Series, Vol. 36, No. 1, 1983, pp. 1-25, DOI: 10.2307 / 2598895 .
  21. Akoš Paulinyi: Industrial Revolution. From the origin of modern technology. Reinbek 1989, p. 214.
  22. Jürgen Osterhammel: The transformation of the world. A story of the 19th century. Munich 2009, p. 259.
  23. OECD: How was Life? Global Well-being since October 20, 2014. Summary p. 2
  24. OECD Income Distribution Database: Gini, poverty, income, Methods and Concepts , June 19, 2014.