Colonial America Standard of Living

Kennon-Green & Co. Fiduciary Financial Advisor, Wealth Management, Global Value Investing

When the United States was founded, life was not paradise as everyone seems to think in some sort of collective delusion.  In fact, for all of its faults, America is far superior today to what it was in the past, even with our current fiscal problems.  Consider that when the nation was founded:

  • Women could not work outside of the home
  • Blacks were enslaved and only counted as 3/5ths a person
  • To vote required owning property, keeping political power in the hands of the rich
  • Catholics could not hold public office
  • Being gay was punishable by execution
  • GDP per capita was less than 3% of today’s rate, meaning we are at least 30x richer on average.  This doesn’t even factor in advancements like air conditioning, automobiles, computers, the Internet, indoor plumbing, etc.
  • Children had no workplace protections and were often forced to work in mines and other unsafe conditions for sub-poverty wages
  • There were no consumer protections for drinking water quality, food quality, and product safety.
  • Life expectancy was around 35 years old
  • Most of the nation consisted of small farmers.  The average woman gave birth to 6 to 8 children and was responsible for weaving, gardening, and running the house.
  • There was virtually no free time compared to today for leisure activities
  • 90 out of 100 people did not attend secondary school

It sounds like a veritable nightmare.  America was great for its promise.  But it has taken us more than 200 years to get there and we still have work to do.  It is time to stop thinking that we came from some great political Eden.  Life was hard.  We’re in a paradise today compared to what our ancestors endured.

Colonial America Standard of Living