What Has Happened to the Quality of Life in the Advanced Industrialized Nations?

What Has Happened to the Quality of Life in the Advanced Industrialized Nations?

Edited by Edward N. Wolff

The contributors to this volume investigate to what extent welfare has increased in the United States over the postwar period and provide a rigorous examination of both conventional measures of the standard of living, as well as more inclusive indices. The chapters cover such topics as: race, home ownership and family structure; the status of children; the consumer price index; a historical perspective on the standard of living; worker rights and labor strength in advanced economies. In addition, they explore two economic systems delivering the goods – the free enterprise system of the United States and the European social welfare state. They then present international comparisons and highlight the relative advantages and disadvantages of these two systems.

Chapter 5: Has Economic Well-being Improved in Canada and the United States?

Lars Osberg and Andrew Sharpe

Subjects: economics and finance, welfare economics, politics and public policy, public policy, social policy and sociology, sociology and sociological theory


Lars Osberg and Andrew Sharpe* INTRODUCTION By standard measures of economic well-being, the year 2000 was the best yet in North America. Inflation and unemployment were both down, while gross domestic product (GDP) per capita was up. Although Canadians were a bit unhappy because growth was much stronger in the United States than in Canada in the early 1990s, the 30 years from 1970 to 2000 saw substantial growth in GDP in both countries. Admittedly, both the US and Canadian economies experienced sharp recessions in the early 1980s, but over the entire period between 1970 and 1990, they both grew by about the same amount (per capita real GDP was up 56.6 per cent in Canada and 53.8 per cent in the United States). In the early 1990s, both countries went into recession, but a growth-oriented monetary policy in the United States produced rapid recovery and enabled GDP per capita to grow by a further 24.8 per cent from 1990 to 2000. Because the Bank of Canada was willing to sacrifice growth for inflation aversion, it took until 1995 for Canadian GDP per capita to recover to its level of 1989 – by which time US GDP was 7.6 per cent above its 1989 level. Since then Canadian growth in per capita GDP has been comparable to US growth, but much of the early 1990s gap remained. Still, in both countries GDP per capita was, in the year 2000, at historic highs. So what? Does growth in GDP...

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