Imagens das páginas

a one, especially as it came during a time of depression. While this had the advantage claimed by the author of showing the adjustment of a working family to a minimum wage scale, on the other hand it is impossible to guess what the normal expenditures of the typical family were, for these were distorted by the hard times. For the most part the budgetary statistics are in Part II of the book, entitled "The English-Speaking Households." In itself this title is a misnomer, as the tables apply to all budget families, whatever the race or color. The families are classified according to weekly expenditure group and racial group. The four expenditure classes are those spending under $12 a week, those spending $12 to $15, those spending $15 to $20, and those spending $20 and over. The racial grouping is as already described.

The study is restricted to families whose income was not more than five per cent greater than their expenditures. This forces the author into a one-sided presentation of economic standards of living. While money spent for insurance, or for instalments on house or furniture, is classed among budgetary expenditures, money laid aside as a savings fund does not appear in the study. Thus a family which spends little and saves may be the incarnation of thrift, yet it is here classified in a low budget class or is excluded altogether; while another family of the same income group, if it puts its surplus into insurance, or furniture, occupies a much higher budget level and is presumably of a higher social stratum. Miss Byington concludes that only when earnings are more than $2.50 a day, or $15 a week, can there be any working margin above actual necessities, and that a point of surplus is not reached until the income rises above $20 a week, or $1,000 a year. This may be compared with Professor Chapin's estimate of $825 a year in New York City, or Mrs. More's of $800 to $900. In adopting standards for feeding, housing, and clothing, Chapin's estimates have been closely followed.

At the close of the budget section come two excellent chapters on the Slav as a Homesteader, showing the condition of the immigrant in our mill towns-caught between the Scylla of herd life as single men on the one hand, and the Charybdis of crowded and unsanitary married life on the other. This is the summing up of the book—we cannot do better than quote verbatim: ""Life, work and happiness-these three are bound together.' The mill offers the one, subject to no effective demand by society nor commer

cial necessity that the work be done under conditions which make the other two possible."

Washington, D. C.

JULIUS H. Parmelee.

Cost of Living in American Towns. Report of an Enquiry by the Board of Trade. Cd. 5609. (London: Wyman and Sons. 1911. Pp. xcii, 533. 5s. 1d.)

The present report, dealing with the conditions of working classes in twenty-eight industrial towns of the United States east of the Mississippi River, is the fifth of a series undertaken by the English Board of Trade. It treats of the wages and hours of labor in the building, engineering, and printing trades, retail prices of food, rents and housing conditions of working-class families and their expenditures for food. The object of the investigation was to secure a collection of data comparable with those already obtained for the United Kingdom. The date of the United States inquiry, February, 1909, differs from that of the other inquiries, namely, October, 1905, and so, in making comparisons, allowance has been made for the two or three per cent increase of prices and wages in the United Kingdom during the interval. The wage data, which were collected mainly from individual employers, consist of the predominant earnings or range of earnings for a full ordinary week without overtime. Data concerning rents were obtained from real estate agents and from tenants. The retail prices most usually paid by wage-earning families for a variety of commodities were obtained from representative dealers. Detailed budgets, classified according to nationality, were collected from over seven thousand families. Of the budgets the three thousand obtained from white families of American or British parentage were selected for detailed comparison with the United Kingdom budgets. All of the data are presented in the form of index numbers according to the familiar Board of Trade method, the figures for New York being represented by one hundred in each case. The conditions in each city are described in detail.

The reports of the Board of Trade offer the best material available for international comparisons of working-class rents, wages, and retail prices, even though the field of industry covered by the investigation is limited to three trades. This is the only instance known to the reviewer in which extensive data have been collected


in a number of countries by a single bureau for the express purpose of comparing conditions in those countries. Although the objection may be made that the trades selected make a comparison too favorable to the United States, yet it does not seem that the margin of error can be more than five or ten per cent. The comparison of weekly wages of the building, engineering, and printing trades in England and Wales and in the United States shows that the wage level in the latter country is to the wage level in the former country as 230:100. As to hourly earnings in the building trades, the ratio is 273:100; in the printing trades it is 258:100; while in the engineering trades it falls to 198:100.

In regard to housing and rents legitimate comparison is difficult because the housing conditions are so varied. However, the conclusion is stated, "that for practical purposes the ratio of 270:100 may be taken as representing with approximate accuracy the level of rents paid by the working classes in the United States and in England and Wales, respectively."

The similarities in the expenditures for food of "AmericanBritish" families and those of the United Kingdom are more striking than the differences. The main difference between expenditures of families in the United States and in the United Kingdom are that the former buy more potatoes and less bread; less cheese but more fruits, vegetables and eggs. If the articles of food as specified in the average American budget are taken at the predominant American prices, and then at the predominant British prices, the ratio between the two is 125:100. If the articles specified by the average British budget are taken at the two sets of prices the ratio is 138:100. From the British point of view, then, American prices are thirty-eight per cent higher.

The real difficulty in the comparison of budgets comes from the different range of income with the consequent different percentages of income spent for food in the two countries. The percentage of income spent on food by the various classes ranges from 67.35 to 57.01 in the United Kingdom, and from 51.39 to 28.40 in the United States. The Board of Trade has, therefore, selected the following classes of families for comparison: (1) families in which the total family income is approximately the same; (2) families in which the total amount spent on food is approximately the same; (3) families spending approximately the same amount on food, allowance being made for the differences between the retail prices of the United States and England

and Wales. The conclusion from the comparison of budgets of similar classes is that "the dietary of the average American family is more varied and more liberal than that of families that as nearly as possible correspond with them in the United Kingdom." The food bill takes a more subordinate place in the American than in the British working-class budget. In regard to clothes, it appears that higher prices have to be paid in the United States than in the United Kingdom for woolen and worsted fabrics of a similar quality. However, the most noteworthy fact is the practice common in the United States of buying clothes that are expected to last for a single season and not for two or more seasons as is common in the United Kingdom. The analysis shows that "the cost of food and rent combined (allotting weights of four and one respectively, these weights being derived from the British budgets) would have been but fifty-two per cent greater in the United States than in England and Wales; but these heavier relative charges on working-class income have been accompanied by weekly wages in American towns as indicated by the three trade groups-building, engineering, and printing-which are as 230:100." Real wages are, then, about one half more in the United States than in the United Kingdom.

The data upon which the report is based seem to have been carefully collected and the manner of working up the data is excellently suited to the object of the investigation.


Dartmouth College.

The Standard of Living among the Industrial People of the United States. By FRANK HATCH STREIGHTOFF. (Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company. 1911. Pp. xix, 196. $1.00.)

Much information concerning the standard of living is accessible in labor reports, monographs, and periodical literature; and to gather this scattered material and present the essential facts in condensed form has been Mr. Streightoff's task. The survey is confined to the situation in this country and in recent years, but within this field the author has exercised praiseworthy diligence in the search for material. He has not only utilized the publications of the Census Bureau and the United States Bureau of Labor, but he has rescued scattered data from the oblivion of state labor reports and drawn upon contributions to the knowl


edge of his subject made by students of specific industries and of definite localities. The merit of the work was recognized in the award of a Hart Marx and Schaffner prize.

After discussing the apportionment of incomes among the principal objects of expenditure, the author takes up unemployment as lowering the actual standard of living. The amount and sources of income are then considered, and it is estimated that at least five million adult males receive less than $600 each a year for their labor. What the wage received actually provides is next shown, under the headings of housing, food, social and intellectual life. The minimum living wage in the smaller cities of the North is estimated at $650. Mr. Streightoff writes in no controversial spirit, but he does not conceal his belief that the current wage for unskilled labor is too low to meet the requirements of a decent standard. He finds abundant evidence of families deteriorating physically because of insufficient income, and even where the wage suffices for food, clothing and shelter, little or nothing remains to meet the wants of the intellectual and spiritual life.

Good judgment is shown in the selection of topics and in the proportioning of the work. The author is not always so successful in the critical use of his sources. The estimates of the number of the unemployed (chapter III) are treated as more exact than in every case is warranted. It is not safe to judge all the families in New York City by the four hundred studied by the Charities Committee of 1907, nor to generalize very broadly as to the four-hundred-dollar income-group on the basis of returns from eight families. As a warning against such dangers, it would have been well to insert the number of families in each incomegroup in tables such as those given on pages 105 and 122, even though to do so would detract somewhat from the advantage gained by the condensation of the original table. The figures of the Eighteenth Annual Report of the United States Bureau of Labor are used without any suggestion of the difficulties arising from the method therein employed of combining families into income-groups without regard to differences of locality within state lines.

It is a great convenience to have the results of many local investigations brought together with scholarly accuracy in a book of two hundred pages, well equipped with bibliography and index. Yet it should never be forgotten, in the attempt to get a composite

« AnteriorContinuar »