The Baltic Region

2021 Vol. 13 №1

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The transition process and institutions: on the issue of the standard of living in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe — members of the European Union



The aim of this article is to adjust the technique of comparing the standard of living in 11 countries of Central and Eastern Europe that became members of the European Union (EU) during 2004-2013 (EU-11) and 15 countries of Western, Northern and Southern Europe – member states of the EU by 1995 (EU-15). We reveal that outright home ownership in the EU-11 countries exceeds on average 75%, while almost two-thirds of households in the EU-15 countries have a mortgage or pay rent spending on housing on average up to one quarter of their income. Despite 30 years of transition to a market economy, the EU-11 countries largely inherited such home ownership structure from the centrally planned economy institutions, i.e. individually-owned and cooperative housing, as well as subsidized state-owned housing stock that became the private property of tenants at the start of market reforms. We propose a technique of taking into account households’ income and housing costs (mortgage and rent) in one indicator given the current home ownership structure in an economy. After the purchasing power parity (PPP) adjustment, our calculations reveal that the standard of living disparities between the EU-11 and EU-15 states are less significant than when compared at nominal prices or PPP alone. Moreover, the disparity in average living standards between these two groups of countries turns out to be narrower than cross-regional differences within seven EU member states at the Eurostat’s NUTS 2 level.