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Missed opportunities? Human welfare in Western Europe and the United States, 1913–1950

Daniel Gallardo-Albarrán ()

Explorations in Economic History, 2019, vol. 72, issue C, 57-73

Abstract: GDP suggests that the period 1913–1950 is one of missed opportunities for improving living standards in Europe. However, life in Europe during these years improved significantly, as citizens experienced dramatic declines in mortality, working time and inequality. To measure the contribution of these aspects to broader welfare, I apply a new theoretically-grounded indicator that, contrary to previous measures used in the literature, allows for a direct comparison with GDP across countries and time. I find that income underestimates welfare growth significantly (up to 2.2 percent annually) and that cross-country differences are larger and more persistent than other welfare measures imply. This article calls for a reappraisal of the evolution of living standards during the period 1913–1950 and, more generally, presents an application of a new indicator to measure multi-dimensional welfare in historical contexts.

Keywords: Living Standards; Welfare; Wellbeing; Twentieth-century; Life expectancy; Leisure (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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