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sometimes less in the American families, the variation shown being in the case of fresh milk, from 18 per cent less to 26 per cent more, and in that of sugar, from 11 per cent less to 7 per cent more.
In the classes of commodities in which the comparison has to be made on the basis of expenditure and not of quantity, uniform excess in the United States is shown in the case of vegetables and fruit. In this group of items, which includes canned vegetables, so largely consumed in the United States, the amount expended exceeds by 138 to 383 per cent that spent by the average family in the United Kingdom with which comparisons are made. The amounts spent on tea, coffee, etc., in the two countries are relatively uniform, being never more than 8 per cent less or 39 per cent more in one country than in the other.
The figures of the foregoing table illustrate, according to the report, the general effect that "The dietary of the average American family is more varied and more liberal than that of families that as nearly as possible correspond to them in the United Kingdom." "The amount spent per capita on food in the average American family begins at a figure a little higher than that at which the British maximum stops; and the mean of the average food bill per capita of the second, third, and fourth British income classes is 93.3 cents per capita, and that of the second, third, and fourth American income classes $1.62."
The complete basis for strict international comparisons goes no further than income and cost of food. As regards rent, the report has shown that roughly this item costs something more than twice as much in the United States as in England and Wales, but as to the remaining charges on family income, such as clothing, fuel and light, beverages other than coffee, etc., tobacco, insurance, recreation and holidays, etc., the necessary data for international comparison are wanting.
But while the necessary statistical data for an exact comparison of the classes of supplementary expenditure are wanting, the report notes that there is sufficient evidence to show the general relationship to income that such expenditure would bear in the United States as compared with England. Thus, for some months in the year over a great part of the field of inquiry fuel is a heavier charge than in England and Wales, owing partly to the lighter structure of the houses, but mainly to the greater severity of the climate. No figure as to this excess in comparative cost can, however, be mentioned. On the other hand, it is noted that the methods of heating generally adopted, although less hygienic than the open fireplace, are more efficient, that the American dwelling is kept at a higher temperature than in England, and that all rooms are more uniformly heated.
The item of clothing raises wider and more difficult questions of comparison, but the report states that particulars that have been
obtained go to show that while higher prices have as a rule been paid in the United States than in the United Kingdom for woolen and worsted fabrics of similar quality, a very large supply of domestic articles of wearing apparel of most descriptions is available there of standard sizes that are on sale at prices either not much higher or not higher than in England, although often less durable. Regarding other items the report makes the following statement:
In connection with the consumption of beverages other than coffee, tea, and alcoholic drinks, the great quantity of iced drinks of various descriptions consumed may be mentioned, and ice itself, mainly for the preservation of foods, is a weekly item of expenditure in the summer months in practically every household, while an ice box is a common possession and an ice-cream freezer by no means rare in working-class homes. While, therefore, ice ranks as a small distinctive charge on income, it affords one of the numerous illustrations of an expenditure that, regarded as necessary, secures at the same time its own return in comfort and satisfaction. Much tobacco is consumed, and the number of cigar ends thrown away which no one takes the trouble to pick up is one of the trifles that is noticeable.
Traveling to and from work for short distances is more expensive in America than in England, 5 cents being the usual minimum on tramways, and reduced tickets for workmen being very rarely issued. Thus, if the cars have to be used at all, the double journey nearly always costs 60 cents per week. On the other hand, it rarely costs more, the uniform fare adopted for long and short distances generally taking the wage earner as far as he is likely to travel. Holidays, recreation, and sundries, together with savings, come more avowedly and more completely within the region of the voluntary use of any margin of income that may be available than do the previous items, and the amounts are, therefore, even more elastic and indeterminable.
SUMMARY OF CONCLUSIONS.
The conclusions of the report are summed up as follows:
Summarizing now the results of the international comparison, it appears that the ratio of the weekly wages for certain occupations in the United States and England and Wales, respectively, at the dates of the two inquiries, is 243 to 100 in the building trades, 213 to 100 in the engineering trades, 246 to 100 in the printing trades, and 232 to 100 in all these trades together. Allowing for a slight advance in wages in England and Wales between the dates of the two inquiries, the combined ratio would be 230 to 100.
The weekly hours of labor were found to be 11 per cent shorter in the building trades in the United States than in England and Wales, 7 per cent shorter in the printing trades, but 6 per cent longer in the engineering trades, the ratio shown by all the occupations in these three trade groups together being 96 to 100.
As regards rents, the American workman pays on the whole a little more than twice as much as the English workman for the same amount of house accommodation, the actual ratio being 207 to 100; the minimum of the predominant range of rents for the United States towns as a whole exceeding by from 50 to 77 per cent the maximum
of the range for towns in England and Wales for dwellings containing the same number of rooms.
The retail prices of food, obtained by weighting the ascertained predominant prices according to the consumption shown by the British budgets, show, when allowance is made for the increase which took place in this country between October, 1905, and February, 1909, a ratio of 138 to 100 for the United States and England and Wales, respectively.
One peculiarity shown by the budgets is the comparatively small consumption of baker's bread in the average American working-class family, the consumption being 81 pounds weekly per family as against 22 pounds in the United Kingdom, the place of bread being taken in the United States to some extent by rolls, cakes, biscuits, etc., on which the expenditure is about three times as great as that shown in the average British budget. On the other hand, the consumption of meat is much larger in the United States, and the consumption of vegetables is also larger. The budgets indicate, in general, that the dietary of American working-class families is more liberal and more varied than that of corresponding families in the United Kingdom.
Comparison of wages, hours of labor, rents, and prices in the areas of investigation in the two countries has been made on the assumption that an English workman with an average family maintained under American conditions the standard of consumption as regards food to which he had been accustomed. Under such conditions the workman's wages would be higher in the United States by about 130 per cent, with slightly shorter hours, while on the other hand his expenditure on food and rent would be higher by about 52 per cent.
It is evident then, that even when allowance has been made for the increased expenditure on food and rent a much greater margin is available in the United States than in England and Wales. In the words of the British report
The margin [over expenditure for rent and food] is clearly large, making possible a command of the necessaries and conveniences and minor luxuries of life that is both nominally and really greater than that enjoyed by the corresponding class in this country, although the effective margin is itself, in practice, curtailed by a scale of expenditure to some extent necessarily and to some extent voluntarily adopted in accordance with a different and a higher standard of material comfort.
REPORTS OF BRITISH BOARD OF TRADE ON COST OF LIVING IN ENGLAND AND WALES, GERMANY, FRANCE, BELGIUM, AND THE UNITED STATES.
The report recently issued by the British Board of Trade on Cost of Living in American Towns, which is summarized somewhat in detail in an earlier part of this Bulletin, is the fifth of a series of uniform studies by the Board of Trade into the subject of the conditions of living of the wage-earning population in the more important industrial towns of various countries, and particularly into the wages and hours of labor, rents and housing conditions, retail prices of food, and the expenditure for food of the families of wage earners. The first of these reports related to Great Britain and covered 77 towns in England and Wales, 11 in Scotland, and 6 in Ireland, or 94 in all. The data presented were for October, 1905. The second relating to Germany covered 33 industrial towns in that country, the data presented being for March and April, 1908. The third report relating to France covered 30 industrial towns in that country and presented conditions for August to October, 1907. The fourth report relating to Belgium covered 15 industrial towns in that country, the data being for June, 1908. The main object of these foreign inquiries has been stated to be in all cases identical, namely, to obtain a collection of data comparable with those presented in the first report relating to cost of living in the United Kingdom.
The methods adopted in the several investigations, including the collection of the statistical material in regard to wages and hours of labor, rents, prices, and family expenditure for food, were the same so far as possible. The important difference in the date to which the statistical data relate was deemed necessary owing to the lapse of time between the beginning of the investigation in Great Britain in 1905 and its completion in the United States in 1909. Supplementary inquiries were made in connection with each of the foreign studies for the purpose of making the adjustments necessary in order to ascertain approximately the differences in the results which were due to the different dates of the investigation in the various countries. With
1 See Bulletin of the Bureau of Labor No. 77, July, 1908, pp. 336-354; Bulletin No. 78, September, 1908, pp. 523-548; Bulletin No. 83, July, 1909, pp. 68-87; and Bulletin No. 87, March, 1910, pp. 608-625.
this information the reports of the Board of Trade present international comparisons of conditions in each foreign country and in England and Wales at corresponding dates.
In planning the scope and method of these investigations, it is carefully pointed out in the various reports, the main purpose was to secure the basis of international comparisons between England and Wales and the various foreign countries, and, secondly, to make comparisons between the various sections of the several countries. This purpose, as the report makes clear, made necessary certain limitations in its scope and method. This applied especially in the selection of industries and occupations for which comparable data in regard to wages and hours of labor could be secured.
Thus far the British Board of Trade has not brought together into a single report the comparisons between England and Wales and the four foreign countries studied by their investigators, but inasmuch as the same figures for England and Wales have been used as the basis of comparison in each of the volumes relating to the foreign studies, it seems proper to bring the results which have been published in the five reports into a single comparison. This has been done briefly in the tables presented in the following pages. The fact should not be overlooked, however, that for a full understanding of these comparisons reference should be made to the original reports. Inasmuch as international comparisons of rates of wages, retail prices of food, rents, and details of family cost of living are extremely complex, a definite conclusion should not be drawn without a careful study of the details involved. The figures which are included in the following comparative tables are in all cases, except as may be noted, from the reports of the British Board of Trade.
The scope of the investigations which form the basis of the five reports of the Board of Trade is indicated in the following table. The table contains no reference to the wage data collected. For some of the cities much wage information was included in the report, covering a wide range of occupations. The international comparisons, however, were limited to cover in the building trades bricklayers, stonemasons, carpenters, joiners, plasterers, plumbers, painters, and hod carriers and bricklayers' laborers; in the engineering trades (foundries and machine shops) there were included fitters, turners, smiths, pattern makers, and laborers; the printing trades were represented by hand compositors on job work.