24 August 2012

The changing "middle class" of the United States

The graph above comes from a Pew Research Center study released this week.
For the purpose of this analysis, the middle tier is defined as those living in households with an annual income that is 67% to 200% of the national median; the upper tier is made up of those in households above the 200% threshold, and the lower tier is made up of those below the 67% threshold.

These shifts result from two trends: larger income gains for upper-income households than for others and a decline in the share of adults who live in middle-income households.
There is an interesting section of the study looking at which people self-identify as being "middle class."
In addition to looking at a “statistical middle” derived from government data, this report looks at those who self-identify as middle class, based on a Pew Research Center national survey of 2,508 adults. In the survey, 49% of adults describe themselves as middle class; 53% said the same in a similar survey in early 2008...

Similar shares of whites (51%), blacks (48%) and Hispanics (47%) say they are middle class, even though government data show that whites have a higher median income and much more wealth than blacks or Hispanics.

Adults ages 65 and older (63%) are more inclined than all other age groups to call themselves middle class... Meantime, younger adults (those ages 18 to 29) are more likely to say they are in the lower or lower-middle class; fully 39% say this now.
Much more at the link, via The Dish.


  1. 'Similar shares of whites (51%), blacks (48%) and Hispanics (47%) say they are middle class, even though government data show that whites have a higher median income and much more wealth than blacks or Hispanics.'

    This reminded me of the question of whether class is entirely related to income and wealth, or whether it is connected to other social and cultural factors such as taste.

    There was an interesting programme on the UK's Channel 4 recently, hosted by the artist Grayson Perry, and called All in the Best Possible Taste. In three episodes he looked at working, middle and upper class tastes and affiliations in Britain and what the three stratas of class are now taken to mean, including which classes people would associate themselves with. Perry simultaneously created four major tapestries on taste which can now be viewed for free in a gallery in London. They both provided much food for thought and discussion:



    1. Video not accessible in my area, but perhaps others will enjoy. Tx, Tess.

  2. Lower income stays flat so every family who left middle income went to upper income. Is that bad? Why spin "the declining middle class when the 'decline' is caused by advancement? What am I missing?

  3. I don't give a d*mn about 'classes': can my children walk down the street in daylight and not be afraid? Can I trust the police, my doctor, my friends and parents? Will being seriously ill impoverish me, or 'force' my employer to fire me? Can I raise my voice and make my political opinion known and count? Do I have good food? Will I freeze in the winter, get heat stroke in the summer? Can I afford to have a tooth filled-- hell, can I buy my own toothbrush? These are the problems facing the Poor, and not just in the U.S.. Human freedom, health, and self-fulfillment are Rights. As someone struggling not to be poor... I can tell you right now, I have 0 health insurance, which apparently is illegal, no dental, and I live in a place that I can only afford with a room-mate, and it's very bad-- we can only heat one room, because that's the room with no holes to the outdoors, where it's around 9 F. outside... yeah I know others have it worse... but I'm one more person who ran out of money on payday. I spend 20 dollars on 'entertainment'-- internet. I need that to get a job, get the news, check bills and pay them... God help me if my computer breaks, or the car we share... or the window, 'cuz our landlord sure isn't going to fix it. At least we have an oven/stove, and our pipes work. *counts blessings*

    Note: even in places like Brazil, the rich can't walk around by their onesies and feel safe...
    Second Note: I am making my own in-roads to urban gardening, so I can eat fresh vegetables-- and even herbs and some spices!; I'll still have to buy fruit... or the cheaper, not-as-healthy alternative of vitamins. There's other stuff too, but sometimes I butt up against the dilemma of 'can't buy the bulk cheaper item, even though I'll go through it all easy, simply because it costs 20 and all I have is 15, so more expensive, smaller quantity item it is.' Trying to save up for planters, and/or find wood in dumpsters to make mine.
    /longrant is long


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