One great way to start a bar fight during an American Economic Association conference is to claim that the U.S. economy is preferable to Europe’s. Someone will undoubtedly start quarreling about how G.D.P. per capita doesn’t measure a person’s happiness. Someone else may point out that if you look at income inequality and entitlements, the average European is doing much better.
But G.D.P. per capita (an insufficient indicator, but one most economists use) in the U.S. is nearly 50 percent higher than it is in Europe. Even Europe’s best-performing large country, Germany, is about 20 percent poorer than the U.S. on a per-person basis (and both countries have roughly 15 percent of their populations living below the poverty line). While Norway and Sweden are richer than the U.S., on average, they are more comparable to wealthy American microeconomies like Washington, D.C., or parts of Connecticut — both of which are actually considerably wealthier. A reporter in Greece once complained after I compared her country to Mississippi, America’s poorest state. She’s right: the comparison isn’t fair. The average Mississippian is richer than the average Greek.
Friday, January 06, 2012
Europe going broke
NPR reporter Adam Davidson makes a point that can't be repeated enough: