IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

Measuring the distribution of material well-being: U.S. trends

  • Pope, Clayne
Registered author(s):

    Economists with a few exceptions have automatically assumed that the important measure of well-being is income. In contrast, economic historians have broadened the measure of well-being with particular interest in mortality, morbidity, nutrition, education and leisure. When one takes this broader view of the standard of living, there appears to be a strong trend toward more equality in the distribution of well-being since the industrial revolution. Gini coefficients calculated for the distributions of lifespan and educational attainment have declined dramatically since the mid-nineteenth century for the United States. Mortality and educational differentials have also declined. Inequality of leisure time and consumption, though not as consistently measured, also show trends toward equality over the twentieth century. These trends toward equality in well-being as measured by indicators other than income and wealth seem to be generated by provision of public goods, natural boundaries to lifespan, educational attainment and leisure, and by the growth in mean per capita income. The divergent trends in the distributions of income and the other measures of well-being caution against reliance on the distribution of income to interpret trends in inequality.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6VBW-4TY9MW8-1/2/657beceb371637b05f574074cc38f919
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Monetary Economics.

    Volume (Year): 56 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 1 (January)
    Pages: 66-78

    as
    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:eee:moneco:v:56:y:2009:i:1:p:66-78
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505566

    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

    as in new window
    1. Daron Acemoglu, 2002. "Technical Change, Inequality, and the Labor Market," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(1), pages 7-72, March.
    2. Stanley L. Engerman, 1997. "The Standard of Living Debate in International Perspective: Measures and Indicators," NBER Chapters, in: Health and Welfare during Industrialization, pages 17-46 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Fishlow, Albert, 1966. "Levels of Nineteenth-Century American Investment in Education," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 26(04), pages 418-436, December.
    4. Dirk Krueger & Fabrizio Perri, 2006. "Does Income Inequality Lead to Consumption Inequality? Evidence and Theory -super-1," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(1), pages 163-193.
    5. Robert W. Fogel, 1986. "Nutrition and the Decline in Mortality Since 1700: Some Additional Preliminary Findings," NBER Working Papers 1802, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. T. Paul Schultz, 1969. "Secular Trends and Cyclical Behavior of Income Distribution in the United States: 1944–1965," NBER Chapters, in: Six Papers on the Size Distribution of Wealth and Income, pages 75-106 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Goldin, Claudia, 1998. "America's Graduation from High School: The Evolution and Spread of Secondary Schooling in the Twentieth Century," Scholarly Articles 2664307, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    8. Mark Aguiar & Erik Hurst, 2008. "The Increase in Leisure Inequality," NBER Working Papers 13837, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Robert A. Margo, 1990. "Race and Schooling in the South, 1880-1950: An Economic History," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number marg90-1, May.
    10. D. L. Costa, 2000. "Long-Term declines in Disability Among Older Men: Medical Care, Public Health, and Occupational Change," CPE working papers 0005, University of Chicago - Centre for Population Economics.
    11. Romer, Paul M, 1996. "Why, Indeed, in America? Theory, History, and the Origins of Modern Economic Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(2), pages 202-06, May.
    12. Richard H. Steckel, 1995. "Stature and the Standard of Living," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(4), pages 1903-1940, December.
    13. Robert W. Fogel, 1984. "Nutrition and the Decline in Mortality Since 1700: Some Preliminary Findings," NBER Working Papers 1402, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Edward N. Wolff, 1998. "Recent Trends in the Size Distribution of Household Wealth," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(3), pages 131-150, Summer.
    15. Robert E. Gallman, 1969. "Trends in the Size Distribution of Wealth in the Nineteenth Century: Some Speculations," NBER Chapters, in: Six Papers on the Size Distribution of Wealth and Income, pages 1-30 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Goldin, Claudia & Margo, Robert A, 1992. "The Great Compression: The Wage Structure in the United States at Mid-century," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(1), pages 1-34, February.
    17. Galenson, David W, 1995. "Educational Opportunity on the Urban Frontier: Nativity, Wealth, and School Attendance in Early Chicago," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 43(3), pages 551-63, April.
    18. Arora, Suchit, 2001. "Health, Human Productivity, And Long-Term Economic Growth," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 61(03), pages 699-749, September.
    19. Costa, Dora L, 1998. "The Unequal Work Day: A Long-Term View," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 330-34, May.
    20. Simon Kuznets, 1950. "Shares of Upper Income Groups in Income and Savings," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number kuzn50-1, May.
    21. Samuel H. Preston & Michael R. Haines, 1991. "Fatal Years: Child Mortality in Late Nineteenth-Century America," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number pres91-1, May.
    22. Viscusi, W Kip, 1993. "The Value of Risks to Life and Health," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 31(4), pages 1912-46, December.
    23. Meeker, Edward, 1974. "The Social Rate of Return on Investment in Public Health, 1880–1910," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 34(02), pages 392-421, June.
    24. Hanushek, Eric A, 1986. "The Economics of Schooling: Production and Efficiency in Public Schools," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 24(3), pages 1141-77, September.
    25. Katz, Lawrence F. & Autor, David H., 1999. "Changes in the wage structure and earnings inequality," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 26, pages 1463-1555 Elsevier.
    26. Richard A. Easterlin, 2000. "The Worldwide Standard of Living since 1800," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(1), pages 7-26, Winter.
    27. Dora L. Costa, 1998. "The Evolution of Retirement: An American Economic History, 1880-1990," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number cost98-1, May.
    28. Claudia Goldin, 1999. "A Brief History of Education in the United States," NBER Historical Working Papers 0119, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    29. Eide, Eric & Showalter, Mark H., 1998. "The effect of school quality on student performance: A quantile regression approach," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 58(3), pages 345-350, March.
    30. John Wilmoth & Shiro Horiuchi, 1999. "Rectangularization revisited: Variability of age at death within human populations," Demography, Springer, vol. 36(4), pages 475-495, November.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:moneco:v:56:y:2009:i:1:p:66-78. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Zhang, Lei)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.