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 8: Living Standard Potential and the Transmission of Advantage in Chile

Seymour Spilerman and Florencia Torche

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


Seymour Spilerman and Florencia Torche* INTRODUCTION Attempts to understand the determinants of living standards and family well-being have frequently been cast, in recent years, in an asset development framework. This is the case with studies pertaining to the capabilities and functionings of poor households (for example, Sen 1987, 1993; Oliver and Shapiro 1995; Shapiro 2001), although an asset perspective – as distinct from a focus on income flows – has also received attention in assessments of the economic circumstance of working- and middle-class families (Inhaber and Carroll 1992; Wolff 1995; Ackerman and Alstott 1999). An emphasis on asset development and asset holdings, moreover, is a common theme in the literatures on family welfare in both developed and lessdeveloped countries, although the particular asset that is stressed is often different in the two literatures. In the United States the asset development literature has emphasized the accumulation of material resources: savings accounts, retirement funds, homes, and the like (Sherraden 1991; Edin 2001). As part of an antipoverty strategy, the goal of asset development formulations is to redirect welfare policy from a system of means-tested income supplements to a set of programs intended to reduce dependency and empower the poor to take responsibility for their lives. Current welfare policy is viewed as discouraging household savings and entrepreneurial activity, as well as future planning and investment calculations, since it makes the accumulation of even modest assets a reason for losing eligibility. Thus, the very behaviors and dispositions that are valued in middle-class culture and are...

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