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UK Poorer Than All US States Except Mississippi

usa-uk-puzzle

Having spent a number of years living in Alabama, I’m well acquainted with the phrase, “Thank God for Mississippi.” While we had a lot of problems, we could always point to our western border for a state that was even more backwards. Perhaps it’s time for that slogan to cross the Pond.

The Spectator‘s Fraser Nelson did the math and explains “Why Britain is poorer than any US state, other than Mississippi.” His methodology is pretty straightforward:

You take the US figures for GDP per state (here), divide it by population (here) to come up with a GDP per capita figure. Then get the equivalent figure for Britain: I used the latest Treasury figures (here) which also chime with the OECD’s (here). A version of this has been done on Wikipedia, but with one flaw: when comparing the wealth of nations, you need to look at how far money goes. This means using a measure called Purchasing Power Parity (PPP).

He then put the calculations into a rank-ordered table:

WaPo’s Hunter Schwarz uses Nelson’s data and produces this bar graph:

I’m not an economist but the methodology appears reasonable to me with one small caveat: Nelson seems to be making the PPP adjustments based on national data despite making state-level comparisons.  While the 50 states are part of the US national economy and pricing is the same or similar in all states for all manner of products, there are significant differences in the purchasing power of a dollar in Michigan vs. Mississippi or Alabama vs. Arizona.  That’s likely not a major deal in terms of his overall point—the average Briton is indeed likely poorer than the average Alabamian—but the rankings are likely off.  Indeed, a PPP adjustment for the poorer states would likely put the UK behind even Mississippi given how close they are already.

The impetus for Nelson’s investigation was local commentary on the tragic events in Fergusson, Missouri and the attention it drew to not only the pockets of poverty but the rampant income and social inequality in the United States. But, here, too Nelson sees now room for his fellow Brits to crow. Indeed, Americans at most every level are richer than their UK counterparts;* only the bottom 5% are better off there than here:

In a related piece for The Telegraph, Nelson explains,

America, being richer, is more unequal than Britain – and has a long list of genuine outrages. A white baby born in America today is likely to live five years longer than a black one, for example. No such racial gap exists in Britain. This is one of a great many statistics that US campaigners have at their disposal to draw attention to inequality. Almost half of black Americans drop out of high school and then tend to earn less. There is much argument about why this is so: racial discrimination and dire education are often cited as causes. “High unemployment and high rates of out-of-wedlock birth leave too many of them without guidance,” according to a piece in the Wall St Journal.

It’s a passionate debate, which has no real counterpart in Britain. We have our share of problems, but they attract less interest. A boy born in Liverpool is expected to live five years less than one born in Westminster – an outrage, but one which we have grown used to. In fact, you only have to walk across Westminster Bridge and life expectancy drops by five years. As our politicians enjoy summer drinks on Parliament’s terrace, they can hear Big Ben echoing from buildings in a part of the city that badly needs their help. But they will have known this for years, and grown inured to it. Our poverty is hiding in plain sight.

Of course, the fact that even rich, modern countries like the UK have the sort of troubles we have here in the USA doesn’t make them non-problems. There are genuine outrages in both places, some of which are direct results of conscious policy choices. Still, it’s useful to have perspective.

*I initially phrased this as “income inequality is greater in the UK than the US” but that’s probably not the case and not really the point.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Pinky says:

    Question: your second graph shows the UK poorest with higher income than those of the US, and the UK richest with lower income than those of the US. It’s just barely possible for that to be true and the UK have greater income inequality than the US, but I do think the graph is showing the opposite.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. James Joyner says:

    @Pinky: It may be a poor choice of words. What the graphs show is that Americans are richer in PPP terms at every interval save the very, very bottom.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  3. Mu says:

    Actually that makes sense, the UK has a strong social safety net, so the poorest percentiles still are not starving in the streets like in the US.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3

  4. Andre Kenji says:

    PPP is more complicated than it looks, because certain goods and services are more expensive in some countries, while other goods and services are more expensive.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  5. Andre Kenji says:

    @Mu: Exactly. The problem is that the United States treat very badly the losers of the society.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 4

  6. James Joyner says:

    @Mu: While the UK has a stronger safety net, we provide food, housing, and health assistance to the poorest of our poor. The homelessness problem is not one of poverty per se but a decision made in the late 1970s that we can’t forcibly institutionalize vagrants, drunks, and the mentally ill unless they’re a danger to themselves or others—with a pretty high bar of proof. The libertarian in me thinks that’s a good policy. But it has horrific consequences.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 8

  7. James Joyner says:

    @Andre Kenji: Right. I’m not fully up on the economic debates here but it’s incredibly difficult to make these comparisons. PPP is a good proxy at the national median living standard level but maybe not so much in terms of comparison at other points in the spectrum. It could be the a country has a higher PPP number than another but that the cost of luxury goods is lower and the cost of basis subsistence is higher in the former.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  8. Mikey says:

    From the article:

    Any Brit who has walked the streets of today’s Detroit will be stunned: this supposed city looks like a bombed-out ghost town. But 45 minutes up the I94 lies the gorgeous sprawl of Ann Arbor, and some of the loveliest spots on earth.

    You don’t have to go 45 minutes. 20 (if that) minutes up I-75 and you’re in Troy or Bloomfield Hills or Rochester, which are among the wealthiest and safest cities of their size in the entire country.

    Crossing Eight Mile Road, which marks Detroit’s northern boundary, is entering a whole different world.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  9. Another issue is that he is using mean wages rather than median wages.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  10. Ben Wolf says:

    There’s an additional problem with this sort of metric in that it’s really derived from putting a numerator over aggregate output, which ultimatey leaves us with more questions than answers. In theory economics is supposed to be the study of well-being, which is far more difficult to determine; certainly the existence of universal health care is an enormous psychological relief for the average Brit.

    ONS has been making efforts to determine well-being in the UK:

    http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/guide-method/user-guidance/well-being/index.html

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  11. michael reynolds says:

    I visit the UK pretty often – I was there a few weeks ago on vacation and I’ll be back in October on book tour. And I’ll tell you this: I’d infinitely rather live in the UK than Mississippi.

    Granted, I’m moving in different circles, I’m in places like London and Edinburgh, and I’m in the hotel zone, but even allowing for that, there’s no contest between Mississippi and the UK. In fact, if the weather didn’t suck there I’d move to London tomorrow. And even with the lousy weather, there’s only one state I’d prefer to the UK, and that’s the one I’m in: California.

    Brits have smaller cars and smaller houses, but a straight up choice between a mansion in Hattiesburg and a two bedroom flat in London? Come on, that’s easy.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 5

  12. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds: I’m not sure about that. If you’re wealthy, that’s almost certainly the case because there are so many more possibilities in London that would keep you mostly outside your flat. But London is absurdly expensive. Someone living on, say, a schoolteacher’s salary would be able to live a much more luxurious life in Hattiesburg.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3

  13. C. Clavin says:

    @James Joyner:

    Someone living on, say, a schoolteacher’s salary would be able to live a much more luxurious life in Hattiesburg.

    Right…which is why so many folks move south in the US. Housing in the south is dirt cheap compared to the northeast of the pacific west.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  14. michael reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:

    It would still be Mississippi. Whereas London is London.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 16 Thumb down 4

  15. Eric Florack says:

    @Mu: sure, theyre not.
    sure.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

  16. stonetools says:

    Wow, the comment thread on the Spectator article are-interesting. Makes clear that racism and anti-Irish bigotry is alive and well in the UK.
    What this article proves is that creating wealth isn’t everything. Equity matters too.

    America, being richer, is more unequal than Britain – and has a long list of genuine outrages. A white baby born in America today is likely to live five years longer than a black one, for example. No such racial gap exists in Britain.

    A strong social safety net and and commitment of the society to equality helps, even in the presence of less wealth and the persistance of bigoted attitudes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  17. Pinky says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Granted, I’m moving in different circles, I’m in places like London and Edinburgh,

    That’s the problem of comparing aggregated data for the UK with state data for the US. London and Edinburgh are, IIRC, the most prosperous parts of the UK. London would probably outdo Connecticut in GDP per capita.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  18. rudderpedals says:

    @Stormy Dragon: This. Using the mean obscures the profound wealth difference between the median American and the top 2%. Take out the Bill Gates, the Buffets, the Kochs, and all of your other plutocrats and we’re not looking so good anymore. Playing averages here is a game of hide the pickle.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  19. lounsbury says:

    Well, I am an economist by training and frankly the comparison is… well bollocks as to methodology and comparatives, comparing apples to bananas.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 1

  20. al-Ameda says:

    Seriously, that chart begs a few questions, including:

    (1) Would you rather live in North Dakota or South Dakota than Switzerland?
    (2) Oklahoma or Missouri, rather than Sweden?
    (3) West Virginia or Kentucky instead of the UK?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 0

  21. Eric Florack says:

    @James Joyner: exactly so.
    another consequence of enforced ‘equality’.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 18

  22. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    Someone living on, say, a schoolteacher’s salary would be able to live a much more luxurious life in Hattiesburg.

    How quickly can someone in Hattiesburg stroll to Hyde Park and Hampstead Heath? How far do they have to walk to hear Big Ben? When you live in Hattiesburg, how often do you get to the Victoria and Albert, the Tate, the British Museum, the National Gallery, and the Tower of London? How many free outdoor movies are shown each week in Hattiesburg? How easy is it in Hattiesburg to eat at great local Bengali, Urdu, Thai, Sikh, Cambodian, Jamaican, Vietnamese, Nigerian, Kenyan, French, Belgian, Japanese, Cantonese, Korean, Egyptian, Lebanese, Turkish, etc. etc. restaurants? How often do Hattiesburg residents swim in Hampstead Heath’s public swimming ponds? Is it easy to take day-trips from Hattiesburg to Oxford, Cambridge and Bath? Are there lots of ancient castles within a five-hours drive of Hattiesburg for children to explore? As a Hattiesburg resident, will my children be able to attend university for free or do I have to save a significant portion of what I make for their education? If I get cancer in Hattiesburg, will the National Health treat me for free? How many languages am I likely to hear on the street in Hattiesburg? I’d like to fly to Dublin, Paris, Madrid, and Amsterdam from Hattiesburg — will it take me more than an hour’s flight time? Did many of the seminal events of world history take place in Hattiesburg, and does living there give me a link to the past that I can ponder every day? What about St. Paul’s, Fleet Street, the Inns of Court, Parliament, Buckingham Palace — easily accessible from Hattiesburg?

    It all depends on your definition of “luxury”. If you mean that to be isolated in a big house with a screening room in the basement, then sure, Hattiesburg. If you define that to mean a life of culture, style, history, and excitement with millons of vibrant and interesting neighbors, then I’m going to go with London.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 31 Thumb down 6

  23. C. Clavin says:

    @lounsbury:
    I got that sense when I first saw this a few days ago.
    I’ve been waiting for a debunking…but have yet to see one.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  24. michael reynolds says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Bravo.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  25. C. Clavin says:

    does anyone know what “enforced equality” is?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  26. michael reynolds says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Letting poor people see doctors rather than die in a ditch. Very bad, that.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 29 Thumb down 2

  27. Moosebreath says:

    @C. Clavin:

    “does anyone know what “enforced equality” is?”

    It means government takes from the rich and gives to the poor. Instead of taking from the poor and giving to the rich, as Republicans prefer.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 6

  28. Pinky says:

    @Rafer Janders: The horror of being an hour and a half drive from New Orleans. No cuisine, no music, no history, no culture of any kind.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 7

  29. MBunge says:

    @Rafer Janders: “If you define that to mean a life of culture, style, history, and excitement with millons of vibrant and interesting neighbors, then I’m going to go with London.”

    I don’t want to blow your mind but there’s culture, style, history and excitement with vibrant and interesting neighbors in Hattiesburg. Maybe not quite as much there as the average middle-to-low income Londoner can experience, but that may simply be because London is still living off the accumulated wealth/society built up over the centuries when Hattiesburg was just a blank spot on the map.

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  30. michael reynolds says:

    @Pinky:

    Pinky, I’ve lived in the panhandle of Florida, which is to say, Alabama. I would rather be crammed into a one bedroom in London than have a house on the beach down there.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 3

  31. Rafer Janders says:

    @Pinky:

    The horror of being an hour and a half drive from New Orleans.

    So it’s a great place because there’s a much much better place 120 miles away?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 0

  32. PJ says:

    @James Joyner:

    Indeed, Americans at most every level are richer than their UK counterparts;* only the bottom 5% are better off there than here.

    Well, as long as you don’t get sick, get an education, get any kids, get the kids educated, etc.

    Thing is, life happens.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  33. Rafer Janders says:

    Someone living on, say, a schoolteacher’s salary would be able to live a much more luxurious life in Hattiesburg.

    Let me explain this in economic terms: living in Hattiesburg is cheap, in large part because there’s not a great demand among people to live in Hattiesburg. Living in London is expensive, in large part because there’s great demand to live in London.

    Small towns like Hattiesburg are cheap and abundant. World-class cities such as London are exensive and rare.

    That makes London, not Hattiesburg, the luxury good. The luxurious life available in London is THE ABILITY TO LIVE IN LONDON, period.

    There’s a reason why a tiny one-bedroom apartment in London costs more than a mansion in Hattiesburg — the market values it more. The market considers the one-bedroom apartmen in London to be a luxury good, and the mansion in Hattiesburg to be the cut-rate special at the A&P. What your money buys you with the one-bedroom is proximity to everyone and everything else in London, which is considered far more rare, valuable and desirable than a three-car garage, outdoor pool, and media room in Hattiesburg.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 1

  34. Pinky says:

    @michael reynolds: What do you mean, beaches? Surely if you want to be near water, you have to move to London, for Hampstead Heath’s public swimming ponds. They have that great year-round British beach weather that you’ll never find along the Gulf of Mexico.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 5

  35. Pinky says:

    @Pinky: And yeah, I get it. Mississippi has insects the size of cars. But London has cars the size of insects. London: no air conditioning. Mississippi: desperate need for air conditioning. London: food so bad it’ll kill you. Mississippi: food so fatty it’ll kill you. We can play this game all day.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 5

  36. PJ says:

    The UK has 39 weeks of paid maternity leave (6 weeks at 90% of pay, then rest at a flat rate, £136.78 ($227) per week or 90% of pay, whichever is lower).
    The US, 0.

    In the UK 20 paid days off are mandated each year.
    In the US, 0. (The average days off is nine.)

    And so on.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 2

  37. Rafer Janders says:

    @PJ:

    Yep. I have two colleagues, both of whom have recently given birth, one in NY and one in London.

    The one in NY is back at work after three months out on maternity, and her tiny baby is now in daycare (unsubsidized).

    The one in London is taking a full year of paid maternity leave to bond with her child at home.

    Guess which feels richer….

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 2

  38. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    Someone living on, say, a schoolteacher’s salary would be able to live a much more luxurious life in Hattiesburg.

    Here’s the crux of the fundamental misunderstanding of economics in the sentence above: living in London is itself the luxury.

    If life in Hattiesburg was actually more luxurious, it would cost more — but instead it costs less. A lot less. All you’re saying is that with the same amount of money, a teacher can buy lots of a cheap and not very valuable thing (space in Hattiesburg) or a smaller amount of an expensive and very rare thing (space in London).

    To put it in food terms, life in Hattiesburg is ten hamburgers. Life in London is one Wagyu steak. The fact that you’ve chosen to buy more hamburgers does not mean that you are living a more luxurious life as compared to the person who’s chosen to buy one steak. You’re just expressing different preferences as to how you value luxury.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  39. PJ says:

    In 2009, health care spending per capita in Alabama (the first state above the UK), was $6,272, in the UK it was $3,400 in 2010.

    Clearly, Alabama is better off!

    Life expectancy (2013):
    Alabama – 75.4 years.
    The UK – 81 years.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 0

  40. Barry says:

    James: “Someone living on, say, a schoolteacher’s salary would be able to live a much more luxurious life in Hattiesburg.”

    How much do schoolteachers there get paid?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  41. stonetools says:

    I have a friend who is subletting a studio apartment in the Upper West Side in New York. He describes it as a “sh1thole.” He initially put it on the market on Craigslist for $1500 per month. Within a few days, he had rented it for $1900.
    Why didn’t the renter look for accomodations in Missisipi or Alabama, where $1900 would have rented a mansion?
    I think this chart is bogus.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  42. PJ says:

    And while I’m at it, don’t get me started on Germany, “poorer” than 39 states, or Switzerland, “poorer” than 20 states.

    Does anyone actually believe that?

    This is shoddy beyond belief.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  43. Pinky says:

    @stonetools:

    Why didn’t the renter look for accomodations in Missisipi or Alabama, where $1900 would have rented a mansion?

    The commute?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  44. PJ says:

    I’m not an economist but the methodology appears reasonable to me with one small caveat: Nelson seems to be making the PPP adjustments based on national data despite making state-level comparisons.

    Here’s a surprise, Fraser Nelson isn’t an economist either.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  45. James Joyner says:

    @Rafer Janders: @michael reynolds: A lot of people clearly prefer the big house in the suburbs versus life in the city even in cases where the comparisons are less stark than Hattiesburg (not even the best city in Mississippi) and London (one of the great world cities.)

    @Rafer Janders:

    Here’s the crux of the fundamental misunderstanding of economics in the sentence above: living in London is itself the luxury.

    Matt Yglesias has been making this argument for years. I think it’s only tangentially true. London and New York are, to most people who seek to live there, a “luxury” because of their job opportunities rather than their cultural amenities.

    To put it in food terms, life in Hattiesburg is ten hamburgers. Life in London is one Wagyu steak. The fact that you’ve chosen to buy more hamburgers does not mean that you are living a more luxurious life as compared to the person who’s chosen to buy one steak. You’re just expressing different preferences as to how you value luxury.

    But, again, that’s an argument from affluence. Given that choice, I’d ALWAYS take ten hamburgers over one Wagyu steak. The former feeds you for five days; the latter half a day. I eat filet or hanger steak (I’m not really a Wagyu enthusiast) because I can afford it AND to feed myself the rest of the week.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 6

  46. JKB says:

    Well, let’s not forget in England, if you happen to be one of those who are scraping by to live there, the local government will conspire to have your daughter gang raped once a week, every week. But don’t worry, once she hits 17, she’ll age out of the interest of the “asians” who run the ring.

    But, free healthcare, unless you are old, then they withhold treatment. Or, God forbid, you are invalid in the hospital and need water. Or you hit the Casualty at a busy time and bleed out in the ambulance in the parking lot.

    But to each their own. Those that want to live cramped to be near the things to do that only highlight their poverty, well, go for it. Others live choose space, safe schools and not being able to hear the neighbors cough.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 27

  47. Pinky says:

    @James Joyner:

    Given that choice, I’d ALWAYS take ten hamburgers over one Wagyu steak.

    Beautiful.

    The fact that some people choose to spend their money on a different set of goods is an argument that, to them, Hattiesburg is more luxurious.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  48. Grewgills says:

    @JKB:
    Yup, every woman I know that grew up in England was gang raped by Asians weekly. You have a firm grasp on reality there buddy.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 1

  49. stonetools says:

    @JKB:

    I can tell you have never been to the UK. If there was any doubt, that post cleared it right up. I doubt you understand just how delusional you appear to be about the UK.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 2

  50. anjin-san says:

    @ James Joyner

    Matt Yglesias has been making this argument for years. I think it’s only tangentially true. London and New York are, to most people who seek to live there, a “luxury” because of their job opportunities rather than their cultural amenities.

    I have to go with Yglesias. Living in the SF Bay Area is, at least for me, a luxury in of itself. The fantastic weather, the dazzling natural & man made beauty, and the overall vibe, still blow me away after living here 50+ years. If you are a music nut like me, just the opportunities to see great live music and get to know some of the best musicians in the world pretty much justify being here.

    Of course I am also constantly shocked at how hard I have to work to stay here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  51. michael reynolds says:

    @JKB:

    There’s a useful quote you might want to consider. Its provenance is in question, but the wisdom is not:

    “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 4

  52. al-Ameda says:

    @JKB:

    Well, let’s not forget in England, if you happen to be one of those who are scraping by to live there, the local government will conspire to have your daughter gang raped once a week, every week. But don’t worry, once she hits 17, she’ll age out of the interest of the “asians” who run the ring.

    Of course I’ve heard many many foreigners say that they’re reticent to visit (let alone live in) a country where parents routinely send children to learn to shoot an Uzi, where policemen regularly shoot unarmed jaywalkers, and where the quality of health care you get depends upon the quality of your health insurance.

    It does give one pause, doesn’t it?

    London is one of the greatest cities in the world. The UK, like any other place, has places that are not very desirable, not unlike much of America, right?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  53. al-Ameda says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Brits have smaller cars and smaller houses, but a straight up choice between a mansion in Hattiesburg and a two bedroom flat in London? Come on, that’s easy.

    Your comments remind me of a 30 month period (over 30 years ago) when I lived in Tokyo (I worked for a bank) I lived in a studio apartment that was about 500 sq ft with a 6 tatami living room. The neighborhood was typically Japanese – not far from a metro/train station, narrow streets, many, many little restaurants and shops that served the people of the district, and extremely safe. The apartment was very expensive (Tokyo …) however the company paid for it. Now, by American standards this was a lot less housing than most are accustomed to (except for perhaps NYC or San Francisco), however it was sufficient for a then-single me, and my district had all the amenities that one could reasonably expect. Looking back I’d rather have lived in that 500 ft apartment than any 1,000 ft apartment in much of the rest of America. It was a great life experience, there’s not much I’d trade it for.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  54. MarkedMan says:

    I’m not challenging the chart, it is what it is and I accept the math. But why do we think that GDP per Capita is a good measure of how well off people are in general? It goes back to the old saw that if Bill Gates and a homeless guy are in a room together, their average worth is $35B but the homeless guy still has no place to sleep. Just take a look at the list. Alaska is first. Have you ever been to Alaska? Wyoming is second. I’ve never been there but I’ve spent some time in the neighbor states. They are nice places but the idea that the average person there is better off than Switzerland is… ridiculous. The Alaska and Wyoming GDP is primarily based on extraction of resources, not manufacturing goods or providing high end services. The wealth simply doesn’t spread around. Taking another example, I’ve been to some decently remote parts of Sweden and spent a fair amount of time in Stockholm. There is nothing like the crippling poverty that exists for so many in wide parts of the US. Every child there has adequate healthcare. Every child can go to a school that is at least significantly better than the poorest public schools in say, Georgia or Missouri. Every mother can get help on pre and post natal care. Every child with the intellectual capacity can go to university. For generations the Swedes have been committed to giving every child a chance to succeed and that has translated to bringing people up out of poverty. This has had a real affect. So comparing average GDP in Georgia against average GDP in Sweden is simply not that meaningful.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  55. MarkedMan says:

    @Pinky: “Insects the size of cars, vs. cars the size of insects”. First time i smiled all day. Thanks.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  56. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @JKB:

    But, free healthcare, unless you are old, then they withhold treatment. Or, God forbid, you are invalid in the hospital and need water. Or you hit the Casualty at a busy time and bleed out in the ambulance in the parking lot.

    And here, we see the argument about single payer health care in a nutshell. JKB thinks its still 1970 in Brittain.

    Don’t feel too bad though, JKB, my mom thinks its still 1970 in Brittain, too. Unfortunately, she also thinks that the war we fought in Iraq was started during the Obama administration. Do you have those kinds of day with your memory, too?

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  57. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @al-Ameda: I’ve had the chance to live in Korea for the past 7 years and my story is the same as far as the living issues go. I wish I had been able to do it when I was young and am glad that I have had the chance in my 60s.

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  58. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @michael reynolds: I must disagree with you, since I’m from that area originally (although I haven’t lived there in many years). Granted, London has cultural wealth that is almost unparalleled, built up over centuries of imperial grandeur, while the Panhandle (we natives capitalize it) has only been settled about 200 years. If you’re talking about the lifestyle a well-to-do American can enjoy in London, OK. Ask the Irish, Indians, Egyptians, Chinese, Zulus, and other nationalities whose lands were looted to build London’s patrimony; their opinions might differ from your own.

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  59. aFloridian says:

    @michael reynolds: No place like home I suppose. I love visiting places with more “cultural” activities, but take me back to the Panhandle every time. I love it as much for its flaws as in spite of them. The South has its own culture though, with as many positive traits setting it off from the negative (and I don’t believe racism today is worse in the South than elsewhere, though our history is obviously quite full of hatred and violence) to continue to make it the best region. I know I could never live in California’s nanny state. Maybe Vermont, but I hear they’re prejudiced against “flatlanders” and it don’t get no more flat than the Florida Panhandle.

    No London for me. I would love to visit (planning to go next summer) but we’ve got better weather and a more laid-back lifestyle here. And the dollar goes pretty far if you’re interested in getting a free/affordable education at one of our local colleges or national universities (free with minimal effort through the Bright Futures Scholarship program). Still plenty of room for improvement, and too many tea baggers, but good people generally, just don’t have a mind for politics.

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  60. Dave Schuler says:

    I think it’s very difficult to do meaningful comparisons between countries like this. You can compare money incomes but is that the sole measure of poverty? Not only are there transfer payments of various different sorts, there are things even harder to quantify and compare.

    For example, the ordinary cheese and bread in much of Europe are better than the ordinary cheese and bread in the U. S. Commute times are typically tremendously shorter. How do you quantify the effects of things like that?

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  61. Dave Schuler says:

    Here’s another one. Every town of any size in the U. K. has better live theater than we have anywhere in the U. S. other than in the largest cities.

    There’s a dictum in economics that I think applies to this discussion: do not compare utility functions.

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  62. Dave Schuler says:

    One more thing before I take my teeth out of this particular subject. I think we’ll all agree that GDP per capita or money incomes are hard things to compare meaningfully.

    Here’s a question just as thorny: do you assess well-being based on potential lifestyle or actual lifestyle. For example, people living in Southern California could surf in the morning an climb mountains in the afternoon. However, most don’t and many could, for practical purposes, enjoy the same lifestyle they’re living in Southern California if they were living in the suburbs of Houston.

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  63. Mu says:

    @PJ: The problem is that GDP per capita goes out of whack for low population states with oil and gas production. This is how New Mexico ends up so high on the list, we’re usually right next to Mississippi.

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  64. DrDaveT says:

    @Pinky:

    London: food so bad it’ll kill you.

    Um, I take it you’ve never actually eaten in London?

    The best Italian meal I’ve ever had was in London.
    The best Indian meal I’ve ever had was in London.
    The best company cafeteria meal I’ve ever had was in London.
    The best dozen afternoon teas that I’ve ever had were in London.

    …And I’ve only spent a grand total of a couple of months in London, in my life.

    (Kudos for the cars/insects line, though — that was good.)

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  65. DrDaveT says:

    @SC_Birdflyte:

    Ask the Irish, Indians, Egyptians, Chinese, Zulus, and other nationalities whose lands were looted to build London’s patrimony; their opinions might differ from your own.

    Mississippi was also looted from the natives. The difference is, they lost their homes but all the whites got for it was… Mississippi.

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  66. Rob in CT says:

    Mean instead of Median = fail. Or at least it makes the analysis incomplete. If the question is would I prefer to live the UK or the US, well that depends. Are we approaching this from a Rawlsian state of ignorance about our class or are we approaching this as “me, as I am today?” Given my family’s household income, I’m probably better off here. If we made half as much, I might be better off in the UK (also, too: where in the UK? London is obviously a big deal, but it’s not the entire country).

    I love New England, warts and all. I am accustomed to having space. I’ve never been a city boy and I’d really struggle to adapt to smaller space. Walkability would be cool, though, no doubt. I remember that from when I studied abroad in Scotland. I could walk or bike to wherever I needed to go locally, and take a bus or train to go farther. A car really was a luxury. Weather: meh, I live in New England. English weather doesn’t scare me. I’m also of English descent, so maybe I’ve got some natural immunity ;) But space – that would sting. I have ~2500 sq.ft. of house and almost 6 acres of land now. I’m used to that. I could get unused to it, but it would be a real adjustment.

    London, NYC, SF are expensive in part b/c of zoning (Yglesias, who has many faults, bangs this drum a lot and I think he’s at least partly right). Lots of people want to live in or close to those cities, largely b/c of job opportunities but also for the reasons others have cited. Demand exceeds supply, so prices go up. My understanding is that the UK housing market (at least in and around London) is even nuttier than some of the craziest US markets during the bubble years. Yikes.

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  67. GG says:

    @Mu: No one is starving in the streets of the US. There are junkies that are blowing money on drugs, but even they are not starving. So stop the drama.

    In Ferguson, Brown stole smokes, not food. The brute strong arm stole cigarettes because he could.

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  68. James Joyner says:

    @Pinky:

    The fact that some people choose to spend their money on a different set of goods is an argument that, to them, Hattiesburg is more luxurious.

    Right. If you’re well off and interested in the finer things in life, the great world cities have so much to offer. But I know lots of well educated, smart folk who live in the DC suburbs and exurbs rather than a townhouse in Georgetown or an apartment in Dupont Circle because they prefer the tradeoffs of a longer commute and less easy access to the amenities of the city because of the gain in living space, better schools, parking, shopping, and the like.

    And, yeah, having a three-car garage, a pool, and a media room in the suburbs or a small city can well be considered more luxurious than living in a 600 square foot walkup in Manhattan. I can certainly see why someone would make the opposite choice but it doesn’t make the former wrong. To each his own.

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  69. James Joyner says:

    @Dave Schuler: You raise many interesting issues. There’s no answer to most of them simply because individual preferences, tastes, interests, and perspectives vary so much. Someone who grew up in Manhattan, especially if they grew up in relative affluence, could likely never adjust to Hattiesburg—and vice versa.

    When I lived in Troy, Alabama, our Kiwanis Club would frequently have international students from the local university come to share their experiences with us. Invariably, someone would ask how they were liking it here, fully expecting that the student would be wildly enthusiastic about the joys of living in America. Quite often, even those from very poor countries—but who lived in the capital or another major city—would respond that they found it incredibly boring because there was nothing to do. The locals who had seldom ventured outside rural Alabama were shocked.

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  70. Barry says:

    @Rob in CT: “I have ~2500 sq.ft. of house and almost 6 acres of land now. I’m used to that. I could get unused to it, but it would be a real adjustment.”

    OTOH, I’m sure that there are lots of rural areas in England and Scotland and Wales, and I’ll bet that they have better public transportation and access.

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  71. michael reynolds says:

    @SC_Birdflyte:

    All those same ethnicities are now well-represented in London, so they’re enjoying the loot same as everyone else.

    This is a bit off-topic, but would you or anyone, really have the British Museum return everything to its native land? Shall we send antiquities back to Syria and Iraq? Personally, however they came to be in Britain (colonialism, conquest, theft) they’re infinitely safer in London than in their homelands. And while these may be Syria’s or Iraq’s patrimony, they are human’s patrimony as well and should be preserved.

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  72. michael reynolds says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    A quick note, if you’re in the UK: the university museum out in Oxford is amazing. Open the drawers beneath the displays. You can lose yourself there. I remember thinking that with a rolling chair and a magnifying glass I could spend a year there without noticing time go by.

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  73. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    But, again, that’s an argument from affluence. Given that choice, I’d ALWAYS take ten hamburgers over one Wagyu steak. The former feeds you for five days; the latter half a day. I eat filet or hanger steak (I’m not really a Wagyu enthusiast) because I can afford it AND to feed myself the rest of the week.

    OK, it’s an analogy. But the feed for five days / for half a day doesn’t apply to Hattiesburg / London choice: an apartment in London is going to give you 24-7 shelter just as much as a house in Hattiesburg.

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  74. CET says:

    @Rafer Janders: (And the rest of you who can’t fathom why some knuckle dragger wouldn’t want to live in your overcrowded hellscape)

    People who live in pleasant but ‘low culture’ places can always go on vacations. If I live in, say, Montana or Wyoming (and I tire of open skies and breathtaking natural beauty), I can use some of that money I’ve saved on account of not living in a high-demand place with an exorbitant cost of living, and I can – wait for it – fly to London (or NY, or Zurich, or wherever), and do the museums, fine dining, live theater and whatever else I want.

    And best of all, in my day to day life, I can enjoy the benefits of not paying through the nose for everyday things – I can eat out more (or buy better local food), have more living space, lower crime, etc. etc.

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  75. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    A lot of people clearly prefer the big house in the suburbs versus life in the city even in cases where the comparisons are less stark than Hattiesburg (not even the best city in Mississippi) and London (one of the great world cities.)

    Of course some people prefer the house in the suburbs while others prefer life in the city. But your mistake was in characterizing one set of those choices as “luxurious” because of certain amenities (peace and quiet, a larger living area, ability to have a car, ability to have a yard, etc.) while ignoring that the other amenities (bustle and excitement, a larger set of recreational/cultural/work activities close by, no need to have a car, no need to have a yard because of abundant parks, ec.) are equally or more “luxurious” for many people.

    Utility takes many forms. The type that you personally are comfortable with is not the form that many others prefer, and it was a mistake to frame it that way.

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  76. Rafer Janders says:

    A lot of people clearly prefer the big house in the suburbs versus life in the city even in cases where the comparisons are less stark than Hattiesburg (not even the best city in Mississippi) and London (one of the great world cities.)

    A lot of people, sure….but more people seem to be making the other choice:

    Many U.S. cities are growing faster than their suburbs for the first time in decades, reflecting shifting attitudes about urban living as well as the effect of a housing bust that has put a damper on moving. According to Census data released Thursday, in 27 of the nation’s 51 largest metropolitan areas, city centers grew faster than suburbs between July 2010 and July 2011. By contrast, from 2000 to 2010 only five metro areas saw their cores grow faster than the surrounding suburbs….

    One reason for the shift back to urban areas may be improvements in quality-of-life factors, such as safety, that traditionally drove residents to the suburbs. In the past decade, cities have become considerably more livable. Crime rates have fallen in some urban centers; downtown areas that once were dotted with closed businesses now feature new cultural amenities such as museums and baseball stadiums.

    Among those favoring cities over suburbs are Sarah Talbot, a 35-year-old in Washington who works at a nonprofit. Ms. Talbot and her husband bought their Capitol Hill-area home in November 2009 and today have an eight-month-old daughter. They can walk to public transportation, grocery stores and parks, all while avoiding suburban gridlock….

    http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304830704577493032619987956?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424052702304830704577493032619987956.html

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  77. Rafer Janders says:

    @CET:

    (And the rest of you who can’t fathom why some knuckle dragger wouldn’t want to live in your overcrowded hellscape)

    Who says I can’t fathom? I’ve lived in London, NY, LA and several other cities throughout the world…but I’ve also spent yeas living in suburbs and in small (sub 10,000 population) towns and villages out in the country.

    I like ‘em both. They both have virtues. Ideally I’d live 50/50% between country and city. My point is that utility takes many forms, we all have different preferences, and therefore it’s a mistake to privilege one lifestyle (large house in surburbs, car) as “luxurious” while not recognizing that another lifestyle (apartment in city, no car) is equally luxurious to those who prefer it.

    And as to being able to take vacation, that goes both ways. Living in NY, if I tire of the hustle and excitement, I can take some of the money I’ve saved from my high-paying urban job and — wait for it — drive or fly to the country and do the open skies, breathtaking natural beauty, and whatever else I want.

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  78. Rafer Janders says:

    @michael reynolds:

    This is a bit off-topic, but would you or anyone, really have the British Museum return everything to its native land? Shall we send antiquities back to Syria and Iraq?

    And are all those antiquities really the patrimony of Syria and Iraq? Many of them are from cultures that have nothing to do with present day Syria and Iraq or their majority-Muslim and largely Arab populations. I can never understand why, say, a Roman sculpture discovered in Aleppo should be returned to Syria rather than to Italy, or why a Byzantine relic unearthed in Baghad should go back there rather than to Greece.

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  79. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    And, yeah, having a three-car garage, a pool, and a media room in the suburbs or a small city can well be considered more luxurious than living in a 600 square foot walkup in Manhattan. I can certainly see why someone would make the opposite choice but it doesn’t make the former wrong. To each his own.

    Which was exactly my point when I contradicted your earlier absolute claim that the schoolteacher can live more luxuriously in Hattiesburg than in London. That’s true only if we regard one set of choices as inherently more luxurious than the other, which you have now conceded is not true.

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  80. Andre Kenji says:

    Living in the suburbs of Washington DC or London is one thing. Living in Mississippi, another completely different.

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  81. Rafer Janders says:

    @Pinky:

    London: food so bad it’ll kill you.

    This was actually true 30-40 years ago, before the latest large wave of immigration and before London became one of the three or four global financial capitals.

    It is entirely fantasy now. London has some of the best restaurants in the world, as well as a wealth of street and ethnic food parallelled only by New York and LA.

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  82. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    London and New York are, to most people who seek to live there, a “luxury” because of their job opportunities rather than their cultural amenities.

    Flatly untrue. I don’t know how you came up with this bizarre belief.

    Case in point: I work in finance, and a few years ago a lot of the major banks started moving some of their operations out of high-rent Manhattan and to places such as Jersey City or Hoboken across the river in CT or up to Stamford in CT.

    They’ve since had to move many of them back. Why? They were losing talent to the firms that still had operations in Manhattan. Turns out that top-class investment bankers, analysts and traders don’t want to live in Stamford, no matter how much they get paid. They want to be able to walk out of work and be at Yankee Stadium or Per Se or the Madison Square Garden or the Meatpacking District within minutes. They want to live where the models live.

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  83. anjin-san says:

    your overcrowded hellscape

    I’m curious, where are these “hellscapes”?

    I live 30 miles from downtown San Francisco. There is a nice park and 11 acres of additional open space a four minute walk from my house, and our neighborhood is bordered by a country club on another side. Lots of open space, rolling hills and oak trees. I’m three minutes from the freeway, but you would never know it sitting in the back yard. At night all we hear is train whistles.

    If I avoid rush hour, I can be in sitting on Telegraph in Berkeley having coffee in 25 minutes. Downtown SF in 35 minutes. If I don’t want to deal with traffic, there is a train station 10 minutes from my house. A 90 minute drive takes me out to the Marin coast, and the second leg of that drive is as nice as you will find anywhere in the world.

    Urban/suburban living may not be your cup of tea, but the “hellscapes” that you think some OTB folks live in exist pretty much in your imagination.

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  84. EddieInCA says:

    @CET:

    Re: Montana, Wyoming – And best of all, in my day to day life, I can enjoy the benefits of not paying through the nose for everyday things – I can eat out more (or buy better local food), have more living space, lower crime, etc. etc.

    You can’t eat out more unless you’re going to the same three restaurants that don’t suck. That’s part of the point. And good luck with live theatre in Wyoming or Montana. (in Los Angeles, my wife an I go every week. You can go to a different play every week forever and not see the same play twice. There is that much theatre there). If you’re close to Laramie, WY, you might get a few decent concerts a year. But other than that….

    Concerts? You’re jumping on a plane for that too.
    Comedy Club? Another flight to Minneapolis or Seattle.
    Beach? Another flight.
    Desert? Another flight.
    Indian Food? Another flight
    Sushi? Another flight.

    Well, at least you can rack up the Frequent Flyer miles while doing what alot of us get to do by just drving 20 minutes in Los Angeles, London, Paris, or Toronto.

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  85. James Joyner says:

    @Rafer Janders: There are trade-offs and people will make them differently. My point is that many, if not most, of the luxuries in our great cities are available only to those with means. If you’re just barely able to pay rent on a crummy flat and put Hamburger Helper on the table, you’re not going to be taking in the world class performing arts and restaurants. That some money would allow you to live a very nice day-to-day lifestyle in Hattiesburg. No, the fine dining and fine arts aren’t as available but that’s irrelevant if you couldn’t partake of them, anyway.

    Once you get to an income level where the trade-offs aren’t stark, then it’s truly a matter of preferences.

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  86. Rafer Janders says:

    @anjin-san:

    Urban/suburban living may not be your cup of tea, but the “hellscapes” that you think some OTB folks live in exist pretty much in your imagination.

    Know what I did in my NYC urban hellscape last evening after work? Took a ferry from Wall Street across the East River (two minutes travel time), kayaked in NY Harbor for an hour and a half under the Brooklyn Bridge and down to Liberty Island and back, and then pulled the kayak up on land, secured it, and watched a free outdoor movie that was being shown on the lawn in one of the Brooklyn riverside parks, after all of which me and a friend went for cocktails on a bar overlooking the harbor. And then I walked home in ten minutes.

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  87. Dave Schuler says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Sadly, I’m on the opposite side of the country and sort of chained to my desk. Even seeing the inside of my eyelids is something of a luxury.

    On the other hand I am now in a position to recommend several restaurants in Bath. I love England. I love the country, the people, the theater, the cheese, and the beer. You can keep the weather, though.

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  88. Mikey says:

    TL;DR for this comment thread should be “De gustibus non est disputandum…”

    I lived in Germany for seven years. It was awesome–history, culture, food, beer, picture-postcard landscapes…you name it, they have it. And of course the beautiful women, one of whom honored me by becoming my wife.

    But toward the end, the crowdedness started grating on me. When I finally left, I was happy to get back to the land of wide-open spaces and big houses and just being able to drive somewhere and park right in front.

    But today…I wish I were living there again. For a few years, anyway. Our priorities and preferences have changed. I’d love to have my son experience his teenage years there. My wife’s family is there, and we haven’t been able to see them nearly as much as we’d like. We’ve gotten an even greater appreciation for the quality of food and drink there. When we were younger, the American pace of life was suitable, but now we prefer the European pace.

    But it all comes down to…”de gustibus non est disputandum.”

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  89. anjin-san says:

    @ James Joyner

    That some money would allow you to live a very nice day-to-day lifestyle in Hattiesburg.

    But can you make that same money in Hattiesburg? Countless Californians have been lured to Oregon by the promise of the better lifestyle that goes with a lower cost of living. After all, most of Oregon is very pleasant.

    There can be a rude awakening, as much of the Oregon economy has two kinds of jobs. Professional, and minimum wage. It’s sort of a model for tea party America.

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  90. James Joyner says:

    @anjin-san:

    much of the Oregon economy has two kinds of jobs. Professional, and minimum wage.

    But, increasingly, that’s the fact even in New York or LA or Chicago. Certainly, while there are tons of really high paying jobs in the DC area, there are vast hordes of people here who are making pretty lousy livings in a much higher cost of living area.

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  91. Pinky says:

    @EddieInCA: That guy breathing in the fresh air and riding his horse along the trails of Medicine Bow National Forest neither envies you nor looks down on you, but he’s happy that there are 8 million fewer people around him.

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  92. anjin-san says:

    But, increasingly, that’s the fact even in New York or LA or Chicago.

    Yes James, that is the present, and the future your party has worked so hard to bring about.

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  93. Grewgills says:

    Most of the ideas about trade offs have already been hit repeatedly and are a big part of why the comparisons highlighted from the article are I think off the mark. I loved the walkability, easy transit, and MUCH better bread, beer, cheese, and chocolate that were the typical grocery store fare. You can get all of those things in US stores, but you pay a premium here for what is a bargain there. Easy access for very cheap to the history and culture was also a bonus. The museums and some of the theater were very reasonably priced (cheaper than most places I’ve lived in the US). That said, I could not live there long term, at least not in the Northern half of Europe. I didn’t like the weather, but more importantly I am used to and put a high premium on the type of open and accepting culture I find here. Then again, no where else in the US that I have been has the type of open, welcoming and inclusive culture I’ve found in Hawaii. The South has a sort of open and welcoming culture, but that open welcome is far from inclusive. I am paid less than I would be in California and pay more for most things. I am paid more than I would be in Alabama, but pay far more for many things. I would never choose to live or raise my child in either place.

    All that said, the point of the original article wasn’t that suburban or rural US was a better place to live than the UK. The point was that people in the UK have their own problems and shouldn’t be so quick to judge the US for a different, but overlapping set of problems. Unfortunately that point seems to have been lost in favor of an argument over which living choices are better.

    To whoever made the comment about living in the rural US and using the money saved to visit the culture of far away places, you’re likely not going to be making near the same money there. It is MUCH easier to travel when you live in a high pay, high cost environment than when you live in a low pay, low cost environment.

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  94. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @michael reynolds: You are correct, except that you should note that those other nationalities who now call London home are often as fortunate relative to most back in their native lands as are Americans who can afford the London lifestyle. You’re also right that many of the cultural treasures are better preserved in London than they would be in their original locales, but that’s not necessarily a convincing argument to the descendants of those from whom they were “appropriated.”

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  95. Monala says:

    @James Joyner: There are advantages to living in a world-class city even if you’re poor, often including: good public transportation (esp. if you can’t afford a car), access to services, more job opportunities, even if those jobs don’t pay well, and free fun stuff (parks, festivals, concerts, libraries, etc.).

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  96. anjin-san says:

    @ Rafer Janders

    Know what I did in my NYC urban hellscape last evening after work?

    Man, that sounds great. Before I got married I made the trek to NYC every year, but my wings have been clipped somewhat :)

    But we are going to spend next week in Mendocino, and that does not suck. Breakfast at The Ravens…

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  97. Trumwill says:

    @Rafer Janders: Cities have a lower set-point, so faster growth rates don’t actually mean more objective growth. Wyoming is growing faster than California but that doesn’t mean that more people are choosing Wyoming over California.

    On the rest of it, that adjusted for PPP Britain is “poorer” than Mississippi doesn’t mean much in a comparison between the two, on its own. Some people will choose one, some will choose the other. Some won’t have a choice, for one reason or another.

    I have no desire to live in an expensive place. I would rather take the money and live in some place more affordable. Thus allowing me to spend the money somewhere else. On the other hand, the place I was least happy was in the rural west, because I couldn’t do what I wanted. But take a city like Houston vs a city a Los Angeles, it’s really no contest. Houston would allow me to buy more of the things that I want to buy, and have the things that I want to have, without the sacrifices required to live in Bum Farm Egypt. But the sacrifices I don’t mind (I don’t surf, for instance) would be deal-breakers for others. And that’s okay.

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  98. Trumwill says:

    @Trumwill: Urban centers have a lower set point, I mean, compared to suburbs.

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  99. Jay says:

    London is one of the greatest cities in the world. The UK, like any other place, has places that are not very desirable, not unlike much of America, right?

    Exactly. It’s amazing how many of the people here comparing the UK to the US are appallingly ignorant of the UK.

    The valid comparison is not London to Hattiesburg or London to Detroit. The valid comparisons would be London to New York, Leeds or Sheffield to Detroit, and somewhere like Burnley or Inverness to Hattiesburg.

    In all these cases, personally, I’d take the UK alternative if I were middle class or poor, but YMMV.

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  100. al-Ameda says:

    @Rafer Janders: I recall my first trip to London back in the 70s. I stayed for a week, and ate Indian, Italian, and Lebanese food pretty much the whole time – it was good to very good. The stereotypes are slow to die. I’ve been back there and London still amazes me, vibrant and evolving, a great great city.

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  101. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @al-Ameda: I haven’t been to London in over a decade, but it IS an amazing city. It, like Rome, bears the permanent imprint of an imperial city. As Dr. Johnson put it, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.”

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  102. bill says:

    @Mu: wth do you live? the fattest nation in the world and people are starving in the streets? maybe you visited india or some other garbage country like that- America has an “over-nutrition” problem if anything.

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  103. Sherparick says:

    @Mikey: I have come to look with some skepticism about these comparisons, having lived in Europe for 20 years before living here in the states again the last 8. I also have lots of European relatives (French and German), as for the most part concerning food, shelter, and transportation middle and working class Western Europeans live at least as comfortable and secure (if not more secure lives) than their American equivalents. The biggest tangible difference is we tend to have bigger houses on bigger plots, which makes sense given Europe’s greater density of population per square mile. And Europeans have much more leisure time than Americans. Because of the high taxes, there is a lot of under the table “black” work and trades done by working class people, so official statistics are a little less reliable then the US statistics for actual GDP (although I expect that both under report the actual GDP if illegal trade and work was reported). I would say the public infrastructure of Mississippi and Alabama is closer to Eastern Europe (Hungary comes to mind). The military bases are the only thing I found in good shape in Alabama.

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  104. Sherparick says:

    @Jay: I was going to make the comparison to Sheffield and Glasgow, but both cities, despite the crash of the last 7 years, are in much better shape than they were in the 1980s and 90s, unlike Detroit (or Youngstown).

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