Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Some Perspectives on Austrian Society

Austrian society is very egalitarian, except in a lift line where it is survival of the fittest!
My time in Austria is nearing an end.  After just over five months here, there are a few things that are noticeably different from the United States.  In particular, poverty and homelessness are less apparent. At the same time, extreme wealth, at least in the form of trophy homes and the like, is also less evident.  Crime of all types, but especially violent crime, seems to be much lower. 

Although there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics, I thought it might be interesting to look at some statistics from the two countries to see if my impressions are reasonable.  You should be aware that I am wading deeply here into areas well outside my expertise, and that economic and social statistics are very dependent on the assumptions used to create them, but here goes anyway. 

Poverty and Wealth
According to the World Bank, the percentage of the population living below the national poverty line is 3% in Austria and 12.3% in the United States.    Crédit Suisse data indicates that median wealth per adult in Austria is $70,074, compared to $61,667 in the United States, whereas mean weather per adult in Austria is $231,368 compared to $403,974 in the United States.   Such numbers are consistent with my observation of less poverty and less extreme wealth.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, homelessness as a percentage of the total population is nearly the same in Austria (.17%) as in the United States (.18%).  There are differences in who are included as homeless in the statistics from the country, and in fact the Austrian statistics do not include people "living in the rough."  Here, perhaps my perspective is strongly skewed by my residence in a relatively small city, Innsbruck, where a 0.17% homeless rate would equate to less than 400 homeless individuals who may not be highly concentrated in the areas I travel through. 

It must be incredibly difficult to put together an index for crime.  There's everything from petty theft to homicide.  There's the issue of crimes sometimes going unreported.  Most crime rate indices that I could find suggest that crime rates are lower in Austria than the United States.  Regarding more serious crime, the UN Office on Drugs and Crimes reports a rate of 0.66 intentional murders per 100,000 people in Austria compared to 5.35 in the United States. 

Austria is a remarkably safe country with noticeably less poverty and income disparity than the United States.  Of course, Austria is not a panacea either and there are challenges like elsewhere.  The government here "crumbled" after the so-caled Ibiza-gate scandal that is such a mess that I'll simply provide a link to a BBC summary.   While imperfect, it is a country and a society to admire in many ways. 

1 comment:

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    Austria is a remarkably safe country with noticeably less poverty and income disparity than the United States