Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
So this is a pretty interesting topic, I guess!

It seems to me that what is needed is some statistics about the situation for the lowest income 10% of the population for various countries. But before searching under Internet rocks for this, we must agree whether it is fair to use examples from countries that have only recently joined the EU. One might argue that only countries like France and Belgium may be used because there are special circumstances for Germanty (reunification), Britain (Anglo-Saxon), Spain (recovery from Franco), Italy (not sure what the special circumstance would be), or Greece...

And a very enthusiastic American might claim that there are special circumstances for some areas in this country, too. NYC has a lot of partially-integrated immigrants. The South has a distorted economy due to racism. Florida has too many retirees and European tourists. Only Minnesota truly represents the American system! <-- JOKE, for the humor-impaired.

So, what countries are on the list?

by asdf on Wed Oct 12th, 2005 at 09:34:58 AM EST
Here's from Nationmaster (on the ET blogroll)

 Country Description
 Definition: National estimates of the percentage of the population lying below the poverty line are based on surveys of sub-groups, with the results weighted by the number of people in each group. Definitions of poverty vary considerably among nations. For example, rich nations generally employ more generous standards of poverty than poor nations.


  1. Mexico 40% (2003 est.)  
  2. Turkey 20% (2002)  
  3. Poland 18.4% (2000 est.)  
  4. United Kingdom 17% (2002 est.)  
  5. United States 12% (2004 est.)  
  6. Ireland 10% (1997 est.)  
  7. Hungary 8.6% (1993 est.)  
  8. France 6.5% (2000)  
  9. Belgium 4% (1989 est.)  
  10. Korea, South 4% (2001 est.)  
  11. Austria 3.9% (1999)  
 Weighted Average 16.44  

Although...still not exactly clear what the cut-off is, as this mentions "different standards"...

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Wed Oct 12th, 2005 at 10:53:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But should we also look at the actual incomes earned by the, say, lower 10% in each of these countries, and maybe other deciles as well?  Probably some cost of living factor would need to be considered.  Because one question is where are the poor better off, where are they worse off?

I agree the question of income distribution is also valuable, but it would seem that we have to look at both.

by wchurchill on Wed Oct 12th, 2005 at 01:40:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
PPP should matter, but there is also the value of social services, and one could look into basic statistics that correlate with poverty, like illiteracy or infant mortality.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Oct 12th, 2005 at 02:37:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree.  It would be important for government support payments, like unemployment payments and welfare payments to be included financially.  And then various social statistics like those you suggest should be included.  one would expect, or hope, that those programs help would reflect improved social statistics--though it could be tricky to evaluate perhaps, due to significant population differences.  For example, and I may be way off base on this, but I wouldn't be surprised if societies without a lot of diversity, maybe Norway and Sweden, would be high on those statistics, partially due to homogeneity of view (perhaps less interculture clashes) and due to excellent social programs.  But it would be great to see that data.
by wchurchill on Wed Oct 12th, 2005 at 08:08:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the exclusion of former comunist countries, and that includes East Germany, is sensible - but not the others. We entered at a much lower level than Spain or Greece (relative to the others), and didn't fully develop the 'European model' (well yeah, we would have to do at the time the rest of Europe started to dismantle it, and everyone told our elites that's the way to go). We too should be members for a decade at least, with common rules and EU structural fonds doing their work, before a common treatment on poverty makes sense.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Oct 12th, 2005 at 02:35:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why do you want treat Germany as if it would still present two different economic and social systems? Just because there is still a process of transferring wealth from the old Laender to the new Laender going on (hopefully, that is) and the two groups have not yet been balanced out (instead of one glass full and one glass empty, we are on the way to get two glasses half full or half empty). But the social and economic system is one and the same now, so you would have to deal with Germany as one nation, who is just going through tough times.

I think one should compare groups of countries, which have similarities within the group, but differences among the groups.

Group   I: US and Britain
Group  II: Germany and France
Group III: Greek, Italy, Spain and Portugal
Group  IV: Poland and Turkey

For group IV I don't know if it makes sense to put them together, as I there economic systems had a different historical development and I have no idea at all about them. But may be just from the point of view how many Polish and Turkish people look for upward mobility and higher incomes in other European countries, they have some sort of similarities.

by mimi on Wed Oct 12th, 2005 at 06:58:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure about grouping the U.S. and Britain. With her national health, strong unemployment system, and heavily subsidized university education system, Britain is more like continental Europe in the areas under discussion here.
by asdf on Wed Oct 12th, 2005 at 10:32:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you for pointing that out. I don't know anything about the British educational and health care system, just that it has private universities and that both countries share same historical roots in their legal system. I didn't feel I could make a judgement, if Britain is closer to Continental European countries or to the US and I am glad you gave your input.

How about Poland and Turkey?

by mimi on Thu Oct 13th, 2005 at 11:57:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The way to group is to decide on a set of criteria you are going to use for comparison, get data for every country and then do some sort of clustering analysis to figure out which countries are similar on the basis of the data itself. Then you can 1) discuss meaningfully the differences between groups; 2) investigate how countries within the same group, though they have similar indicators, actually behave differently and what additional (possibly qualitative) features explain the differences.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Oct 13th, 2005 at 08:21:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is a pretty huge chunck of research to do. This kind of research is not my field of expertise, so I am hesitant to even try. I am always in awe and admire many writers here that pull out very good data and graphs at times. The one upthread for example is very telling as it shows how different the impact of the security net kicking in on the poor really is. The differences between France and the US are "saying it all".
by mimi on Thu Oct 13th, 2005 at 11:53:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, we have a lot of comparative data in this discussion already.

Anyway, people were complaining about opinions not supported by data, so now we have the data. It's time to stop reading our opinions into the data and actually do some analysis. That does take time, but the bulk of the research is the data compilation, and that has been done already (for example, at nationmaster.com assuming that we don't want to question the quality of the data. Now that would be a huge research project.

If I find some time I'll take the tables from this page and do the clustering analysis.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Oct 14th, 2005 at 06:18:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am discouraged to comment here, because I already failed in my very first baby steps to find out how much Euro a German student in Kindergarten, Elementary School, High School and in University cost for the government. I found data, but I still didn't find anything that would explain to me how much the German Federal Government pays out of this chunk and how much the "Land", "Kommune" and or "City". I wanted to compare these data to the same of the US, because I believed they might be different.

I believed in my mind that the differences between the US and the German system for example are due to the different way the public school system is financed in both countries. I searched for data that would clarify who pays what with what kind of taxes etc. I couldn't find it so far. Of course I had not more than 45 minutes to do it. The only thing I found already that apparently in certain circles the US style financing method via vouchers (apparently introduced by Milton Friedman) was heavily discussed and mostly criticized in Germany.

If I can't contribute factual data, I just can't comment. I am sorry to admit that. I just admire the work that must behind a lot of posts here that show real data.

by mimi on Sun Oct 16th, 2005 at 08:17:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]