An interesting question in the comments:
Tim, do you know of anywhere I can find information about the evolution of absolute living standards for the working class in the UK?
Whatever I search for I always end up with information about relative ‘poverty’.
I don’t know of a one stop shop, no.
I can think of a way of constructing it though. Have a look at what the inflation basket is. CPI or RPI, won’t make much difference.
The thought here is that the basket of what we measure to calculate inflation changes. And it’s always being adjusted so as to at least try and reflect what the “average” household is actually buying. So, black and white TVs are no longer in the index, maybe even CRTs aren’t, while flat screens and internet access are.
I’ve not looked to see whether there’s an historical record of what the CPI basket is but if you contact ONS they would certainly be able to point you in the right direction. They might even have (the Americans do, a bit) different baskets for different income quintiles or deciles.
Sorry that’s a rather technical answer and there may well be a better one.
There almost certainly is a better answer. But does anyone know what it is?
Actually, Chris Dillow will know…..