Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Standard of Living versus Scale of Living

Long time readers may have noted I never have used the term "standard of living." The reasoning behind the reason why I instead use the term "scale is living" is something all human geographers should understand.

The way "standard of living" is used is almost always in averages. People have 2.5 children, 1.4 televisions per household and other examples give a "standard" that people live under. While standard of living gives a nice benchmark for people or societies to aim for it is unrealistic. Almost rarely is anyone "average" in the sense they have the exact "standard" (who can have .5 kids?). The presence of outliers can spoil standards. If seven people make $10 a month but three people make $100 a month the standard of living is $37 a month. No one is close to the standard then.

Instead I use "scale of living." Scale of living creates a range which a majority, usually two-thirds but it can vary, can be expected to live in. For example, the average family will have between two and four kids or a dozen to sixteen paid vacation days gives a more accurate picture of quality of life enjoyed by most. It is much harder for outliers to skew data. Going back to the first example the scale would be "$10 to $100 a month." The large scale difference also class shows gaps better.

1 comment:

Chirol said...

An important distinction and one which I wish were made more often in the media and by politicians.

Then again, that would force people to think.