Our material well-being
• The standard of living is simply a measure of the economic or material welfare of the inhabitants of a country, a region or a local area.
• The baseline measure is real national output per head of population.
• Real income per capita is an inaccurate and insufficient indicator of living standards
Per Capita National Incomes
National income data can be used to make cross-country comparisons. This requires:
1. Converting GDP data into a common currency (normally the dollar or the Euro)
2. Making an adjustment to reflect differences in the average cost of goods and services in each country to produce data expressed at a ‘purchasing power parity’ standard
Data on per capita income based on a country’s total personal income are rarely available. Thus, the Gross domestic product (GDP) is more commonly used. However, the total personal income is generally lower than the gross domestic income.
A list of the top ten countries, and the lowest-ranking country, by GDP per capita (in terms of purchasing power parity – PPP – and nominal values) for the year 2010
Problems of accuracy:
Officially data on a nation’s GDP tends to understate the true growth of real national income per capita over time e.g. due to the expansion of the shadow economy and the value of unpaid work done by millions of volunteers and people caring for their family members. There may also be errors in calculating the cost of living
The scale of the informal “shadow economy” varies widely across countries at different stages of development. According to the IMF, in developing countries it may be as high as 40% of GDP; in transition countries of central and Eastern Europe it may be up to 30% of GDP and in the leading industrialised countries of the OECD, the shadow economy may be in the region of 15% of GDP