Decent living standards, prosperity, and excessive consumption in the Lorenz curve

Stefan Pauliuk, Decent living standards, prosperity, and excessive consumption in the Lorenz curve, Ecological Economics, Volume 220, 2024, 108161, ISSN 0921-8009, 

Sustainable production and consumption allows every individual to meet their basic needs and societies to flourish, all with limited overall throughput constrained by ecological ceilings. The question is how exactly basic needs satisfaction, flourishing societies, and limited throughput can come together. Based on the insight that decent living standards constrain the slope of the Lorenz curve for the lowest decile, a simple model can be derived that determines total consumption from only three factors: per capita decent living standards, the Gini coefficient of inequality, and population. With a constraint on maximum living standards, overall consumption splits into three components: basic needs satisfaction, prosperous consumption, and excessive consumption. The model calculates sustainable consumption corridors based on decent living standards and the acceptable maximum under ecological ceilings, while still allowing for reasonable levels of inequality and ample prosperous consumption. The model can be applied to economic and physical stock and flow indicators, and examples for all four combinations are provided. The work concludes with calling upon the research community to assess the inequality of physical stock and flow indicators related to human wellbeing, identify suitable physical wellbeing measures, and extend the debate on desirable levels of inequality to physical socio-metabolic indicators.  

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