Wednesday, July 30, 2014

USA vs. Germany: quality of life

It's hard to write a post about the quality of life in Germany vs. the US.  For one thing, I didn't spend too many of my independent adult years in the US.  I moved when I was 25 but I had decided to work a string of low paying office jobs right after graduating high school.   I didn't get serious about getting a university degree until I was in my 20s.   Most of what I know about the economy I learned while stuck in the low bracket of pay reserved for young women with a high school diploma.  I didn't make enough money to live alone and spent many years alternately dependent on student housing or living with my parents.  I know it's not possible to live a good life on 20,000 a year which is why I decided to go back to school.  Few things are more depressing than working 40 hours a week and not being able to pay rent, buy groceries and pay your car loan in the same month.  This period taught me to respect people at the bottom of the money making totem pole.  The amount of disrespect and abuse I saw was unbelievable.  And I won't even get into the sexual harassment and discrimination because it's too depressing to dredge up after all these years. 

This post is going to be so biased it's not funny, so read on keeping in mind the point of view I'm writing it from.  If I were still a person with a high school diploma and limited earning then Germany would be a much better place for me.  The US is a terrible place for people close to the poverty line.  It's also not a great place to live if you get laid off or disabled or have serious health problems that keep you from working.  The USA has a very limited social safety net and not everyone is granted equal access to social services.  Most of those services are most beneficial to middle class people facing a temporary lay off.  Germany does a better job of taking care of it's citizens though both countries have social problems.  I understand the fear Americans have of creating a welfare state but I see Germany developing more American-like social problems as it moves more towards profit based policies.  These changes were glaringly evident when we were looking at the housing market in Berlin.  You can read more that here and here.  

To compare quality of life I took the most current statistics I could find on basic things like: cost of living, health and health care, happiness, the environment, equality, infrastructure, freedom, safety and my own personal biases.  Some specific things like child care and maternity leave I'm not going to cover.  Obviously deciding which country you like better is a completely personal choice that entails all kinds of things not covered by statistical data.  I put this data together more for fun than as a real analysis of each country. 

The first thing I'm going to look at is the unemployment rate.  These rates don't tell us much about particular regions in the country.  I would imagine that it would be somewhat worse in Berlin and somewhat better in Chicago.  Germany beats out the US, but not by too much.   Probably because the US is still recovering from a recession.  Germany 1, USA 0

Unemployment rate-
Germany 6.6%
USA 7.2%

source source
Gender equality
Do I have to say that gender equality is a problem dear to my heart?  Probably not.  I am a feminist with a daughter after all.  Germany kicks the US in the teeth on this one.  American gender equality is just too depressing.  Germany 1, USA 0

Smallest gender gap
Germany 14
USA 23

Infant mortality rates
Infant mortality rate (Infant mortality rate is the number of infants dying before reaching one year of age).  Once again the US gets kicked in the teeth.  I have a feeling that the quality of care in the US probably depends a lot on having good health insurance so there might be difference here if it was controlled for income.  I can only speculate because I don't have that data.  Germany 1, USA 0

Germany 3 per 1000 births
USA 6 per 1000 births


Maternal mortality rate
The same as above, Germany 1, USA 0

Germany- 7 per 100,000
USA- 21 per 100,000

Health care 
Comparing health care is difficult because in the US the quality of health care depends a lot on if a person is insured and what kind of insurance they have, how much it covers and so forth.  When I was doing research on this the thing that I read over and over was 'The U.S. ranks behind most countries on many measures of health outcomes, quality, and efficiency. In part, that’s because the U.S. does not have the kind of universal health system common in most wealthy nations'.  Burn. The US health care system is in transition right now so it's impossible to know if health care is going to improve.  The most striking thing to note is that Americans pay almost twice as much for health services than Germans.  That's just crazy.  For most of my time in Germany I've had private health insurance which is both expensive and fantastic.  So far I have absolutely nothing out of pocket for my health care.  source  source Germany 1, USA 0
Cost of living and income

Consumer Prices in Germany are 10.61% higher than in United States
Consumer Prices Including Rent in Germany are 1.74% higher than in United States
Rent Prices in Germany are 17.83% lower than in United States
Restaurant Prices in Germany are 13.19% higher than in United States
Groceries Prices in Germany are 9.17% lower than in United States
Local Purchasing Power in Germany is 17.25% lower than in United States  
It's overall hard to say if the cost of living in Germany is higher or lower.  That's because the things that you absolutely have to have to survive like food, shelter and beer cost less but everything else is more expensive.  Another thing worth noting is that Americans get paid more than Germans.  Americans average monthly disposable salary after tax is $3,298.14 compared to $2,776.56 for Germans.  Americans are making 15.8% more and they pay less taxes.  Things like basic utilities cost 60% and going to the movies 20% more in Germany than in the US.  This is probably why even when Germans have clothing dryers than prefer to hang clothes on a line to dry. Germany 0, USA 2  source

The US ranks 37 and Germany 47 

So many issues probably play into this.  Good customer service?  Friendlier people?  More buying power?  An overall more positive attitude?  Even thought Germans say they feel more a part of their community, get more exercise, live in a better environment and have better work life balance they aren't as happy.  USA 1, Germany 0


General quality of life

Quality of Life Index
Purchasing Power Index
Safety Index
Health Care Index
Consumer Price Index
Property Price to Income Ratio
Traffic Commute Time Index
Pollution Index

United States 187.79 125.63 49.84 68.15 76.97 2.41 36.20 35.97
Germany 186.61 105.80 70.87 76.66 86.82 6.13 31.44 30.33

I find it funny 'traffic commute' made the list.  I think there needs to be a category for 'not enough cabinets' and 'angry neighbors'.  Anyway, the USA barely made it above Germany here.  source   USA 1, Germany 0 


  1. Thank you so much Sara for the detailed analysis. Based on your analysis and current political scenario created by Donald Trump, I feel that USA would have suited me if I be someone other than a Muslim. I am PhD in Mechanical Engineer and my wife is Medical Doctor. As, we both are well educated and as there are more salaries, so US would have suited us better than Germany. However, we both are Muslims and we are not feeling respected. we are thinking to relocating to Germany. Unemployment rate in Germany is low, which means that we have better chances to get a job in Germany than America. I also don't like thinking a lot about my old age. I agree that Nations should come together to fulfill this responsibility collectively as most of us in the old age will be disabled and miserable.

  2. they forget about it and act and react like the commoners, defending them self spike others to cover their mistakes.

  3. as always this is all bullshit first american population is way more diverse than european ones let's send all those hispanic and blacks living in the ghettos to europe and we will see how good they are, quality of healtcare srlsy ? the survival rates for almost every cancer in the us is way better than germany.

  4. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work!.
    Visit For:Urogynaecology Treatments in Bangalore | Gynaecology Hospitals in Bangalore| IVF Treatment Centre in Bangalore | Laparoscopic Treatment in Bangalore

  5. I am living in America for last 12 years,America has no life quality if you even have compare it to Turkey which is my birth country. There is democracy , health system for rich people not for poors.America is too much wild capitalist which has no opportunity for poors.if you poor you becomes poor , federal system does not help to improve quality of life for poor individuals