French Woman Asks Why Americans Are Struggling So Much Financially Even Though They Make Much Higher Salaries Than Other Countries

Earning more money does not equal financial freedom.

couple trying to pay bills and budget Kmpzzz / Shutterstock

It's one of the most curious dichotomies of the U.S. Despite having much higher average pay than most other countries, the vast majority of Americans are constantly struggling financially, and the problem seems to only be getting worse.

To those abroad, this often seems confusing. But as a Redditor learned when she dug in, it all comes down to economic programs and regulations that American politicians consistently demonize but which make all the difference in Europeans' lives despite the low wages.


A French woman asked why Americans struggle despite higher pay than other countries.

If you've ever visited Europe — or many other parts of the world, for that matter — it can feel like everyone but Americans are living in some kind of utopia.

Nobody's going bankrupt because they got cancer in Germany. People don't just get shoved onto the street when they lose their jobs in Japan. And as for crippling student debt and the credit scores it ruins? Both are barely even a thing overseas.

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But life in other countries typically comes with a major trade-off — rates of pay that many of us Americans would find shocking, even in supposedly fancy places like Europe. 

So why doesn't more money make Americans' lives easier?

The woman researched the median income in America and was shocked by how much higher it was than in European countries. 

"I just did some research," the woman wrote in her post, "and apparently the median income per person in America is more or less around 40-42,000 dollars." She's basically right. That's about in line with most recent data from the Federal Reserve, which puts the median personal income at $40,480.

"Now, I understand that it may not sound like much for Americans," she went on to say, "but for us Europeans, that's one [heck] of a big median income!" She contrasted it with the median income in France, which is about $2100 a month, or about $25,000 a year — a far cry from $40,480.

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And, of course, that's just the median. Many of us are making far more than that. "I see a lot of people earning 70-80-100k a year also in America," she wrote, "which is really not common in France."

This left her even more baffled. "I have to ask: how come Americans seem to be struggling so much despite this? Is life so expensive, are interest rates that high? What gives?"

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Most European countries have social safety nets and regulations the U.S. doesn't have, and they make life much easier and cheaper.

The answer to her question, of course, is pretty simple: The social safety nets and regulations that European countries have, which are routinely demonized in the United States by politicians of both parties as tyrannical "socialism" or "communism," make life easier and cheaper. It's... really that simple.

As one Redditor put it, "In the U.S., we do not have guaranteed healthcare, sick days, medical prescription subsidies, maternity leave, or other worker protections that are expected in France. There are very little, and often no, rental controls or other fiscal controls on necessities."

"In short, what you can buy in France with 2,000 euros is different from what I can buy in the States with $3,000, and there is no social safety net," the Redditor concluded.


They're right. Europeans often pay far higher taxes than we Americans, and they do have much lower wages. But all those taxes go to funding everything from healthcare and transit to housing and pensions — not to mention social safety nets that ensure something like a job loss or disability will not be catastrophic.

European countries also regulate things like the cost of food, housing prices, and real estate markets. So while, in the wake of the runaway inflation we saw in recent years, America has become a free-for-all of price gouging and so-called "greedflation," European countries simply don't allow this.

This is not to say Europe is a problem-free utopia. Post-pandemic inflation has hit every corner of the world, and many European countries are having crises in these areas just like we are. But they don't cut as deep because of basic, common sense regulations on pretty much everything. 


Rules that make much of our food illegal because of toxic ingredients are just one commonly cited example.

Many Americans, especially conservatives, will call all this taxation, regulation, and safety nets "socialism" or even "communism," but that is almost uniformly false. Nearly all European countries have capitalist economies, just ones with basic guardrails to keep corporations from exploiting citizens.

This results in arguably more freedom in Europe than in the U.S. A lack of regulation that results in the majority of a citizenry being one illness away from sleeping on the street, or unable to afford food and housing despite full-time employment, is not freedom. It's exploitation. Or even tyranny, depending on your view.


Or as two other Redditors explained it: "[My] friends in [the French city of] Rennes: big apartment, pay about 1000 USD a month for it, with access to [transit]... welfare support…grocery stores within walking distance. They're not bringing in big money, but they go on big trips every few years. They are, in other words, doing fine."

To which another Redditor replied: "Meanwhile in the U.S. everyone is just trying to not end up homeless."

It's pretty remarkable the difference it makes when basic human needs are treated as such, and when tax dollars are used for things that actually impact the day-to-day lives of the citizens actually paying those taxes. Imagine that.

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.