Monday, April 29, 2013

Is Germany a poor country?

Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal in this story, Europe's Poorest? Look North by Brian Blackstone and Nina Koeppen 04/10/2013, reports on an ECB survey that seems to show that people in Germany are some of the poorest in the eurozone.

it is misplaced to conclude from the ECB study that Germany is poor compared to some southern European countries and that therefore it is not reasonable to ask German taxpayers to financially support ‘richer’ southern countries (see e.g. Wall Street Journal 2013). The facts are that Germany is significantly richer than southern Eurozone countries like Spain, Greece and Portugal.

Paul De Grauwe and Yuemei Ji in Are Germans really poorer than Spaniards, Italians and Greeks? VoxEU 04/16/2013 explains the wider story

There does seem to be a problem of the distribution of wealth in Germany:
  • First, wealth in Germany is highly concentrated in the upper part of the household-income distribution.
  • Second, a large part of German wealth is not held by households and therefore must be held by the corporate sector or the government.
Thus while it is may not be reasonable to ask the 'poor' median German household to transfer resources to southern European countries, it may be more reasonable to make such demands on the richer part of the German households and the corporate sector. Put differently, the opposition in Germany to making transfers to the south finds its origin not in the low wealth of the country. The facts are that Germany is one of the wealthiest countries of the Eurozone. The problem is that this wealth is very unequally distributed in Germany, creating a perception among less wealthy Germans that these transfers are unfair.
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