A number of different factors contribute to a high standard of living, but some of the most important include the total profitability of the nation or region as a whole, the employment opportunities and income available to residents, and the ease of access to affordable goods and services. Medical care and education are often particularly important in this latter category. In most instances, standard of living is calculated for an entire region, often determined by national borders. It’s often the case that there is a certain degree of disparity from community to community, though, and countries that generally experience a higher standards of living usually also have poverty. The inverse is often also true; countries with generally low standards of living can and often do have some more isolated families or groups that are significantly better off. As such, studying standards of living necessarily demands at least some degree of flexibility and realism. No matter the specifics of a location, though, general standards and qualities of life do tend to revolve around the same general set of external factors. Focusing on these can be a good way for governments and other interested groups to help improve the standards in certain places.
Defining the Standard Generally
It can be difficult to conceptualize what, exactly, a “high standard of living” consists of, but a common way to think about it is as a quality of life that allows for basic health, societal and economical advancement, and opportunity. In most cases a high living standard is determined by factoring a region's gross domestic product (GDP), life expectancy, and income into the amount of wealth, luxury goods, necessities, and comforts available to a certain socioeconomic group. Those who enjoy higher standards generally benefit from some form of economic stability, have good health, and enjoy some discretionary income. They do not lack for food, quality medical care, or suitable shelter.
Gross Domestic Product
GDP is the value of all products or services generated by the region or country where the socioeconomic group resides. It is computed by adding the amount of money consumers and government entities spend for the products or services — including capital expenditures made by businesses to purchase factories, tools, and machines — and the difference between the monetary value of exports and imports. A high GDP indicates a healthy economy and high general standard of living. Consumer and government spending gives businesses incentive to produce desired goods or services and invest in ways to provide such goods or services more efficiently. A high net export total usually indicates that the area is self-sufficient and is able to sell excess products abroad.
One of the most important elements of economic stability is the earning power of the people, which in most cases is largely determined by employment opportunities. In order for people to make money and support themselves, they need to be able to find work that pays well, or at least enough. Regions with very high unemployment statistics tend also to have lower standards of living.
High-paying jobs are typically reserved for people who are college-educated or have special training or abilities that are in high demand. Higher wages usually allow individuals to afford food, housing in areas with little crime or environmental dangers, healthcare, and advanced schooling for their offspring. Their cost of living is typically lower because they are able to afford more goods and services with their extra income.
Jobs that require little skill or formal education, on the other hand, are more often low paying. People with lower incomes reside in areas affordable to them due to what often amount to undesirable characteristics. They also may be malnourished or in poor health because they are unable to buy quality food or see medical professionals on a consistent basis.
Goods and Services Available
A community with a high standard of living typically enjoys a better quality of life than one at or below the poverty line. These areas have thriving economies that provide employment opportunities and quality goods or services that satisfy the desires and needs of the individuals residing in the area. They also have a consistent source of food and access to medical care that keep the population healthy and productive.
Special Importance of Education
Importantly, places with high living standards also tend to have an educated population. People who are literate, trained in basic skills, and savvy in more in-depth methods of reasoning often warrant higher wages for their work. This, in turn, can allow money to be spent on quality housing, healthcare, education, and nutrition. Many scholars believe that supporting initiatives for better education in developing or struggling places can have profound effects on the overall standard and quality of life.
Looking at a community’s average life expectancy can also be telling. Life expectancy is the estimated lifespan of a socioeconomic group in a region or country, and lifespans that exceed national or world averages often indicate high living standards Malnutrition and disease are the primary causes of death in impoverished areas, and longer lifespans typically indicate that food is widely available; citizens have access to vaccines, checkups, and treatments that prevent or combat diseases, and they live in environments that expose them to few pollutants or toxins.