[personal profile] matgb
In actual terms, someone earning about £25K today is close to the average, and probably struggling to get by. But a hundred years ago, that would've been a very comfortable living. Two hundred years ago, that would've put you in the very wealthiest sector of society, with servants to do your bidding and every need catered for.

Triple that today, you're looking at a good earning for a member of the professions: a doctor, a lawyer, an MP. A hundred years ago, it'd give youa millionaires lifestyle. Two hundred years ago, a billionaires lifestyle. So I thought I'd do a poll...

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Poll #5213 The days of yore
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 23


You have a fixed income of £75,000 per year, when would you rather live

View Answers

2010s
19 (86.4%)

1960s
3 (13.6%)

1910s
0 (0.0%)

1860s
0 (0.0%)

1810s
0 (0.0%)

You have a fixed income of £75,000 per year, when would you happily live

View Answers

1960s
22 (100.0%)

1910s
12 (54.5%)

1860s
9 (40.9%)

1810s
8 (36.4%)

You are male and have a fixed income of £27,612 per year, when would you rather live

View Answers

2010s
10 (47.6%)

1960s
7 (33.3%)

1910s
1 (4.8%)

1860s
2 (9.5%)

1810s
1 (4.8%)

You are male and have a fixed income of £27,612 per year, when would you happily live

View Answers

1960s
20 (95.2%)

1910s
13 (61.9%)

1860s
10 (47.6%)

1810s
8 (38.1%)

You are female and have a fixed income of £22,152 per year, when would you rather live

View Answers

2010s
14 (73.7%)

1960s
5 (26.3%)

1910s
0 (0.0%)

1860s
0 (0.0%)

1810s
0 (0.0%)

You are female and have a fixed income of £22,152 per year, when would you happily live

View Answers

1960s
15 (93.8%)

1910s
4 (25.0%)

1860s
4 (25.0%)

1810s
3 (18.8%)


This was inspired by Putting pay in perspective by Tim Harford in the FT, linked by Chris Dillow in a thought provoking, but slightly sexist post on a similar topic.

But I'm with the majority of the respondents in the story Tim cites. I'd much rather live today, on median income, than live at any time in the past, even if that income would make me very very wealthy by the standards of the time. That's not just for health reasons, or rights reasons, or access reasons, it's for a whole number of things.

We have more freedoms today than many of our ancestors would've dreamed of. If I wanted to, I could right now pick up a small gadget and talk to any of my friends, pretty much anywhere in the world. In fact, that little portable gadget is so powerful that it makes the SF technology of 1960s Star Trek look like unambitious bricks. My phone is more powerful than their communicators and tricorders combined. If portable lasers are ever invented, I suspect the US market will be flooded with combined gadgets that do all three.

Anyone in the UK can access a university education, giving them the chance of becoming any of the professions. Sure, some of them are still stuck in a prejudiced past, law moreso than others, but a university education, free at the point of delivery, available to all who pass the entrance exams?

Most major diseases have been wiped out or contained, I can sit here on a nice sofa in a warm house typing this to be read by people all over the world, while watching James May meet Apollo astronauts in a repeat on one of the many cable channels we get in the basic, dirt cheap, package.

Sure, would it be nice to go back and lord it over people? Possible. Would I want to live there, permanently? I suspect I'd probably die of some godawful disease within a few weeks. How about you?

Oh yeah, numbers. I worked out median male and female full time incomes from stats on this page for 2009 at National Statistics Online - Earnings, I wanted to do a separate male and female question as it's observed that for many people, wanting to live as a woman before modern medicine and rights would be, well, an interesting preference, but not one I'd even consider making.
foxfirefey: Fox stealing an egg. (Default)

Date: 2010-11-29 12:28 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] foxfirefey
I'd rather be poor with birth control and social autonomy than rich without.
innerbrat: (go baby go)

Date: 2010-11-29 03:19 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] innerbrat
Male, white and in the UK, I presume?
frith: (llama hmph)

Date: 2010-11-29 01:06 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] frith
This is really a no-brainer since we live better than kings now and there was no commercial penicillin production prior to the 1940's.
frith: (llama LOL)

Funky fantasies

Date: 2010-11-29 11:15 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] frith
LOL! That or go back to living off the land in Fatu Hiva, no doubt! Perhaps the students are tired of bathing and electricity.
innerbrat: (go baby go)

Date: 2010-11-29 03:18 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] innerbrat
I ticked all the boxes in my determination to be content wherever I end up.

So there. :P
azurelunatic: The Space Needle by night. Slightly dubious photography. (Default)

Date: 2010-11-29 04:01 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] azurelunatic
I'm pretty sure I'd have been dead several times over before modern medicine.
birguslatro: Birgus Latro III icon (Default)

Date: 2010-11-29 04:53 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] birguslatro
I included 1910 as I'm interested in those times, as they seemed a time of great change, both technological and social. You would've felt things were improving then. (And would've been happily unaware of what was in store for Europe in a few years.)

Also, my parents were born either side of 1910, and my mother gave the impression her childhood was quite wonderful. That was a middleclass childhood though. Not so wonderful for many others, I'm sure.

And freedom's a relative thing. Consider the number of immigrants moving to the US in the 1900s. No countries today welcome millions of immigrants a year. And there's many more tabs being kept on individuals today than then, both by governments and businesses. Here in NZ, for instance, we're now expected to provide a birth certificate just to get a job...
frightened: (angry feminist)

Date: 2010-11-29 08:01 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] frightened
Yeah, I ended up ticking all the most recent options for that very reason. I'm female, queer and chronically ill. The more modern, the better, thanks.
andrewducker: (Default)

Date: 2010-11-29 08:14 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] andrewducker
I'd rather live now (or in ten years), but I'm sure I could have lived happily in the past, if I was born there. After all, my ancestors did. Moving to the past now would be trickier, because my expectations are already set...

Date: 2010-11-29 10:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wieselkind.livejournal.com
much as I am fascinated by history I wouldn't like to live there permanently, weekends and bank holidays are satisfactory.

I did tick some boxes that I would like to live in the past, I suppose I'd be willing to take the chance and be a tiny cog of history or at least a witness in times of great change.

If you'd included the 18th century I may have ticked some of those boxes too, I'd have loved to have been ion the Lunar Society or in Mrs Delaney's circle.

but yeah, I do like my BC, right to vote and not being thought mentally ill for being intelligent or enjoying sex.
ext_51145: (Default)

Date: 2010-11-29 01:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] andrewhickey.info
I'd have died in appaling agony by the age of 12 in any time period you've listed before the 1960s. I suspect that *could I have ever attained my present levels of cash income* I'd have been very happy indeed in the 60s, but the job I do (which puts me at almost exactly the £27,612 level you cite, though what you might call my 'working income' is much lower due to massive debts) didn't exist then.

Incidentally, your figures for relative affluence are *WAY* off. Average male income (I don't know if it's median or mean) in the UK in 1959 was £190. So even in 1960 an income of 20,000+ would be pretty much equal to an income in the low millions (US median income at the time was $5620, which is closer to the differences you're talking about). According to http://privatewww.essex.ac.uk/~alan/family/N-Money.html a surgeon in 1911 would be earning £272 and a barrister £1300, so rather than 'a very comfortable living' it'd put you among the richest of the rich.

(In the 1820s, someone on four to five thousand would be able to employ "Eleven Female and thirteen Male Servants; viz — A Housekeeper, Cook, Lady's-Maid, Nurse, two House-Maids, Laundry-Maid, Still-Room Maid, Nursery-Maid, Kitchen-Maid, and Scullion, with Butler, Valet, House-Steward, Coachman, two Grooms, one Assistant Ditto, two Footman, three Gardeners, and a Labourer. ")

(I only thought to check this because in the Hancock episode The Blood Donor there's a line "I don't give thousands because I don't earn thousands", so I thought twenty- to thirty-thousand was *MUCH* higher than just quite happy.

So given that, I *MIGHT* choose 1960 if I were guaranteed that income, because I'd be so grotesquely wealthy I could offset the losses of technology (any sufficiently advanced personal library is indistinguishable from the internet), and most of the useful bits of modern medicine had been invented already - if we can assume that the operation which I had to have aged 11 was available in the early 1940s, and that the resulting infection I had would have been given one of the earliest doses of penicillin at the time. Otherwise, I'm OK living now.

Date: 2010-11-29 06:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tiredstars.livejournal.com
It reminds me of the historian who said if he was rich he'd rather live in England and if he was poor he'd rather live in Japan. But I can't remember what time period he was talking about, rendering it a rather pointless anecdote.

Why is there no option to choose to live in the future!

Something that really interests me is the question of what material expectations people would have had in the past. Who would expect to be able to buy a house, to support a wife (sic), to be financially secure? How does this compare to the present day for similar income deciles or jobs? Perhaps an impossible question to usefully answer, given the changes in the workforce, industries, organisation, etc..

Incidentally, did you see the article in the guardian the other week about how much people earn? Something I noted about it was that how unrepresentative it was. Of a couple of dozen people, only two had earnings between £10 and £20K. The median income was £34,000, almost 50% higher than the actual UK median.
83_tauri: Alien beasties, falling toward a gas giant's moon (Default)

Date: 2010-11-30 01:54 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] 83_tauri
I answered everything either for the present, or as close to the present as possible. Mainly this was because most of the things I actually enjoy doing either didn't exist or were of restricted availability in previous eras.

Then of course there's the whole 'health' issue and all that that implies. Admittedly it's a trivial one, but the idea of having to live with hayfever prior to antihistamines is unappealing!
matgb: Artwork of 19th century upper class anarchist, text: MatGB (Default)

British Liberal, house husband, school play leader and stepdad. Campaigner, atheistic feminist, amateur baker. Male.

Known to post items of interest on occasions. More likely to link to interesting stuff. Sometimes talks about stuff he's done. Occasionally posts recipes for good food. Planning to get married, at some point. Enjoying life in Yorkshire.

Likes comments. Especially likes links. Loves to know where people came from and what they were looking for. Mostly posts everything publicly. Sometimes doesn't. Hi.

Mat Bowles

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