Basic Facts about Wealth and Poverty

Wojtek Sokolowski sokol at
Tue Jun 9 11:10:26 PDT 1998

At 12:25 PM 6/9/98 -0400, Doug Henwood wrote:
>The OECD figs I was quoting are by standardized definitions, so the only
>possible explanation (other than actual levels of unemployment) for the
>difference would be coverage of the survey. Do German enumerators capture
>the Turkish population? French, the Algerians? Brits, the Jamaicans and

I do not know, although I would not be surprised if they did (esp. the Germans). But even if they did not, there is a qualitative difference between migrant labor that, narrowly speaking, is not a part of the nation's labor force as soon as their employment ends (i.. they are 100% employed by definition, for as soon as their employment ends, they are supposed to leave the country), and the inner city poor who are US citizens.

>Looked at another way, U.S. employment levels tell the same story the
>unemployment rate does: In 1996, 75% of the U.S. adult population was
>working, compared with 59.1% in the EU, 68.5% in Canada, and 74.6% in
>Japan. In general, I'd say the major labor market problem in the U.S. is
>too much work for too little pay, not unmeasured unemployment.

That, I presume, can be explained by different rates of women's participation in labour market, which is considerably higher in the US than in Europe.

But I do not want to quibble over details. Instead, I'd like to put things in a different perspective: -- do we have a real (as opposed to neoliberal propaganda) reason to belive that US employment rates are higher than in Europe? In other words, what is it about the US that Europe does not have (other than the invisible hand of providence) and that causes higher employment rates. Why are the US firms hire more people than their European counterparts?

Until we identify such a _real_ cause, would it not be more prudent to assume that the observed differences are a statistical artifact?



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