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Life in the United States: Well- being, poverty and inequalities

How is life in the United States? The OECD processed specific data to show the characteristics of the way of life in the United States in 2020. The latest data, according to OECD showed that 18% of the population live in relative income poverty, while 29% of poor households spend more than 40% of their income on housing costs. Also, 9% say they have no friends or family to turn to in times of need. At the same time, 37% of the citizens would be at risk of falling into poverty if they had to forgo three months of their income.

There are specific sectors that men are doing better while in some others women lead the way. For example, men when asked how safe they feel or how much money they earn, their answers are far ahead comparing to those of women. But when it comes to cases like homicide victims, deaths from suicide, alcohol or drugs and long term unemployment rate, then women present a higher percentage.

Of course, middle-aged people gain better salaries and although they face higher unemployment rates they have a greater voter turnout. Younger people in the United States claimed that they have better social support but need to work long hours (in paid work).

The average weekly time spent in social interactions has fallen by 20 minutes in the United States. The average share of people lacking social support and voter turnout in OECD countries has remained stable since the 2010-13.

Among OECD countries on average, the wealthiest 10% of households own 52% of total household net wealth. This represents nearly 80% in the United States.

People with tertiary education although they have better earnings and greater voter turnout according to the OECD average, seem not to feel safe in their country and the life expectancy for men is low. On the other hand, people with upper secondary education claimed working longer hours (in paid work) comparing to the OECD average.

Also, the United States is included in the countries with the lowest number of gains in well- being since 2010.

The average household income in the United States (household net adjusted disposable income per capita) has seen a consistent improvement compared to the OECD average. According to the latest data, the US household net adjusted disposable income is 47.519 dollars. But the average household net wealth in the USA compared to the OECD average has seen a consistent deterioration. At the same time the household income for the top 20%, divided by the household income for the bottom 20% is higher in the USA comparing the OECD average.

People in the United States who are in the top 20% of the income distribution receive between 8 and 10 times more than what is received by the bottom 20%.

Since 2010, median wealth has fallen by 4% (about USD 6.000) across OECD countries, on average. It has increased by 13% in the United States mainly reflecting higher financial wealth.

Since 2010, housing affordability, relative income poverty, voter turnout, and social support have each worsened in roughly as many OECD countries as they have improved. Despite some gains in current well-being since 2010, there is still room for much more improvement. Life remains financially precarious in many homes.

Almost 40% of OECD households are financially insecure, meaning they would be at risk of falling into poverty if they had to forgo three months of their income. While 12% of the population across the OECD live in relative income poverty, the share of those reporting difficulties making ends meet in European OECD countries is almost twice as high, at 21%. Median household wealth decreased by 4%, on average, since around 2010, in those countries where data exist. One in five low-income households spends more than 40% of their disposable income on housing costs – leaving little for life’s other essentials.

Inequalities have widened on the largest number of headline measures in the United States. A consistently larger share of households now live in overcrowded conditions, and more people feel they have no one to ask for help in times of need. The United States is the only country of OECD experiencing higher premature mortality, mirroring trends in life expectancy at birth.

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Maria Gourtsilidou
Maria Gourtsilidou is Senior Editor of Research and Data Analytics at the CEOWORLD magazine. She is responsible for driving thought leadership, using data analytics to showcase the company’s products and services, and fostering knowledge sharing between CEOWORLD magazine and client organizations. She studied Public Administration (Economics Of The Public Sector) in Greece and holds a Bachelor’s in Public Administration from the Panteion University of Political & Social Studies. Follow Maria Gourtsilidou on Twitter. Write at