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Some data on improvements in quality of life

The following tables are excerpted from Chapter 2 of From Poverty to Prosperity: Intangible Assets, Hidden Liabilities, and the Lasting Triumph over Scarcity, by Arnold Kling and Nick Schulz, New York: Encounter Books, 2009.

Exhibit A: World average GDP per capita from 5000 B.C. to 20001

Year GDP per capita in $, world average
5000 B.C. 130
1000 B.C. 160
A.D. 1 135
1000 165
1500 175
1800 250
1900 850
1950 2030
1975 4640
2000 8175

Exhibit B: Selected goods and the time it would have taken to earn enough to buy them, based on the average American wage, 1895 and 19972

Commodity Time to Earn (hours) 1895 Time to Earn (hours) 1997
Horatio Alger books (six volumes) 21 0.6
One-speed bicycle 260 7.2
Cushioned office chair 24 2
100-piece dinner set 44 3.6
Hairbrush 16 2
Cane rocking chair 8 1.6
Solid gold locket 28 6
Encyclopedia Britannica 140 4
Steinway piano 2400 1107.6
Sterling silver teaspoon 26 34
Oranges (dozen) 2 0.1
Ground beef (one pound) 0.8 0.2
Milk (one gallon) 2 0.25

Exhibit C: Life expectancy at birth in four countries, 1750-1990 (both sexes combined)3

Country Life Expectancy, 1750 Life Expectancy, 1900 Life Expectancy, 1950 Life Expectancy, 1990
England or UK 37 48 69 76
France 26 46 67 77
U.S. 51 48 68 76
India 27 39 59

Exhibit D: Prevalence of serious health problems among older veterans4

Type of Disorder Prevalent Among Veterans Age 65 or Older Prevalence Rate in 1910 Prevalence Rate in Mid-1980s Prior to Alleviating Interventions Prevalence Rate in Mid-1980s After Alleviating Interventions
Musculoskeletal 67.7 47.9 42.5
Digestive 84 49 18
Genitourinary 27.3 36.3 8.9
Central nervous system, endocrine, metabolic, or blood 24.2 29.9 12.6
Circulatory 90.1 42.9 40
Respiratory 42.2 29.8 26.5

Exhibit E: Growth in living standards measured by annualized percentage increases in per capita consumption and value of health status5

Years Average Annual Percentage Increase in Consumption Average Annual Percentage Increase in Value of Health Status
1900–1925 2 2.3
1925–1950 1.8 3.3
1950–1975 2.4 1.9
1975–1995 2 1.7

Exhibit F: Daily caloric supply in Great Britain, 1700-19136

Year Daily Average Calories Consumed per Capita in Great Britain
1700 2095
1800 2237
1850 2362
1909–1913 2857
1954–1955 3231
1965 3304
1989 3149

Exhibit G: Improvement in IQ in six countries, 20th century7

Country Time Period Increase in Average IQ (15 points = one standard deviation)
Belgium 1958–1967 7 points
Netherlands 1952–1982 21 points
Israel 1970–1985 9 points
Norway 1954–1980 12.5 points
Britain 1942–1992 27 points
New Zealand 1936–1968 7.7 points

Exhibit H: Hours per day spent by average male head of household on various activities, 1880 and 19958

Activity on Which a Typical Male Head of Household Spends Time During an Average Day Hours Spent per Day in 1880 Hours Spent per Day in 1995
Work 8.5 4.7
Illness 0.7 0.5
Sleep, meals, chores, and travel to and from work 13 13
Residual for leisure activities 1.8 5.8

Exhibit I: Relative consumption by category, 1875 and 19959

Consumption Category Percentage of Consumption in 1875 Percentage of Consumption in 1995
Food 49 5
Clothing 12 2
Housing and durable goods 13 6
Health care 1 9
Education 1 5
Other 6 7
Leisure 18 68

Sources

Source name used in footnotes Link Date link was last accessed (for external files) Archived link (for external files)
J. Bradford DeLong, Macroeconomics. McGraw-Hill Irwin, 2002. Chapter 5, “The Reality of Economic Growth: History and Prospect” (as cited in Kling, 2010, Pgs 26, 27). Source [May 1, 2013] Exhibit A
Exhibit B
Robert William Fogel, The Escape from Hunger and Premature Death, 1700–2100. Cambridge University Press, 2004, Pgs 2, 9, 68. Source [May 1, 2013] Exhibit C
Exhibit F
Exhibit H
Robert William Fogel, The Escape from Hunger and Premature Death, 1700–2100. Cambridge University Press, 2004 (as cited in Kling, 2010, Pgs 29, 32). Source [May 1, 2013] Exhibit D
Exhibit I
William Nordhaus, “The Health of Nations: The Contribution of Improved Health to Living Standards,” National Bureau of Economic Research, 2002, Pg 48. Source [May 1, 2013] Exhibit E
Deary, Ian J., Intelligence: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2001 (as cited in Kling, 2010, Pg 32). Source [May 1, 2013] Exhibit G
  • 1.

    J. Bradford DeLong, Macroeconomics. McGraw-Hill Irwin, 2002. Chapter 5, “The Reality of Economic Growth: History and Prospect” (as cited in Kling, 2010).

  • 2.

    DeLong, 2002 (as cited in Kling, 2010, Pg 27).

  • 3.

    Robert William Fogel, The Escape from Hunger and Premature Death, 1700–2100. Cambridge University Press, 2004, Pg 2.

  • 4.

    Robert William Fogel, The Escape from Hunger and Premature Death, 1700–2100. Cambridge University Press, 2004 (as cited in Kling, 2010, Pg 29).

  • 5.

    William Nordhaus, “The Health of Nations: The Contribution of Improved Health to Living Standards,” National Bureau of Economic Research, 2002, Pg 48.

      Note: The value of health status was determined using a "life-years" approach. "Under the life-years approach, [...] the economic value of improved health is equal to the increase in life expectancy times the value of an additional life-year. In both cases, the estimates are weighted by the share of the population that is experiencing the lower mortality or greater life expectancy." Nordhaus, 2002, Pg 30.

    • 6.

      Fogel, 2004, Pg 9.

    • 7.

      Deary, Ian J., Intelligence: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2001 (as cited in Kling, 2010, Pg 32).

    • 8.

      Fogel, 2004, Pg 68.

    • 9.

      Fogel, 2004 (as cited in Kling, 2010, Pg 32).