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Working-Class Life

The “American Standard” in Comparative Perspective, 1899-1913

Peter R. Shergold


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This book challenges the commonly held theory that American workers had a far superior standard of living than their European counterparts in the early twentieth century. Peter R. Shergold bases his study on the cities of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Birmingham, England, and compares statistical data on wage rates, labor hours, family income, retail prices, diet and budgets. He also presents information from medical investigators, travelers, charity workers, business organizations, diaries, speeches and a wide variety of other sources to breathe human life into his statistical data. Shergold reveals that skilled Americans did earn higher wages than the British, yet unskilled workers did not, while Americans worked longer hours, with a greater chance of injury, and had fewer social services.

University of Pittsburgh Press, 9780822985563, 324pp.

Publication Date: January 15, 1982

About the Author

Peter R. Shergold is Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in Australia, and former Senior Lecturer in economic history at the University of New South Wales.