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Real Standards of Living and Public Support for Children: A Cross-National Comparison


  • Timothy Smeeding



Most cross-country comparisons of living standards focus on real Purchasing Power Parities (PPP) adjusted Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per person. These measures provide no variance in living standards within the nation, nor do they account for the amount of real incomes that families actually have to spend for themselves and their children. The Luxembourg Income Study (LIS) household microdata for 13 nations and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) PPPs and noncash benefit data are used to examine differences in the standard of living among children at various points in the income distribution. We include the value of noncash benefits for health care and education as well as money, and determine the value of public sector benefits compared to taxes paid for social transfers by this group. The results indicate a wide range of differences in levels of economic resources and support for children within, as well as between, nations. The levels of benefits, net of taxes paid, vary considerably across the income distribution in all countries, with noncash benefits for health and education playing a crucial role in determining which families are net beneficiaries or net taxpayers. The implications of these findings for equality of opportunity and for public policy, particularly in the United Kingdom and the Unites States, are drawn in conclusion.

Suggested Citation

  • Timothy Smeeding, 2002. "Real Standards of Living and Public Support for Children: A Cross-National Comparison," LIS Working papers 345, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
  • Handle: RePEc:lis:liswps:345

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. William Duncombe & John Yinger, 1997. "Why is it so hard to help central city schools?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(1), pages 85-113.
    2. David Card & A. Abigail Payne, 1997. "School Finance Reform, the Distribution of School Spending, and the Distribution of SAT Scores," Working Papers 766, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    3. David T. Ellwood, 2000. "Anti-Poverty Policy for Families in the Next Century: From Welfare to Work--and Worries," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(1), pages 187-198, Winter.
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