the amount of money and level of comfort that a particular person or group has Culturestandards of livingThe British generally have the high standard of living of an industrialized western country. Most British people tend not to judge quality of life by money alone though, and would point out benefits such as a stable political situation, freedom of speech and choice, and relatively little official interference in their lives.Disposable income (= the amount of money people have to spend after paying taxes) is commonly used to measure the standard of living. This has risen steadily since the 1960s and has more than doubled since 1978. People with low wages or who are unemployed, and people who have retired, have less income and a lower standard of living. Although disposable income has been rising in the country as a whole, the gap between rich and poor grew wider towards the end of the last century after the tax burden on the richest people was reduced in the 1980s. The distribution of wealth as opposed to income is even more uneven. The richest 10% of people own about 44% of the total wealth. Standards of living also vary from region to region. The richest region is the South-East. In 2011, 22.7% of the UK population were considered to be at risk of poverty, equivalent to 14.0 million people. In the 1920s people in the US began to believe in the American dream, the idea that anyone who worked hard could have material goods (= possessions) as a reward. Having such goods proves that a person is hard-working, so many people try to have everything their neighbours have, a practice called ‘keeping up with the Joneses’. As a result, America is often said to be a consumer society. The material standard of living is very high and the cost of living relatively low. Many Americans have large discretionary incomes (= money which they do not need for food and clothing and can spend as they choose) and can therefore buy many consumer goods but, as in Britain, there is a large and increasing gap between rich and poor as many people in low-paid jobs have not benefited from the general increases in income. In 2010 15% of the population were living below the poverty line, the highest figure since 1993.