March 24 Sources: What is the Middle Class?

Although there is no agreed definition of the middle class, most Americans consider themselves part of it. If you used simply income, the middle is $46,326 and if you take the 60% of Americans in the middle and it would stretch from $19,178 to $91,705. But being middle class is more than money as this report discusses.

A New York Times poll found the 67% of all Americans consider themselves middle class. 35% said they were working class and only 7% considered themselves lower class. This last number is surprising, since about 12.5% of Americans earn below the poverty level. Evidently they consider their unfortunate status temporary and they probably are right. If you compare these self reported identification to income that would mean that the American middle class income levels range from just over $38,000 to around $250,000.

That makes sense. It takes into account changing income levels over a person's working life, although not many people reach the top. But as I said, income is not really the key to understanding the middle class. People in the middle class feel that they have a strong stake in society. They do not feel perfectly secure financially, but they also do not fear they will rapidly fall into poverty. They have reasonably stable relationships in their work and personal life.

Middle class values are the basis of western and world prosperity. They include such things such as respecting education, striving to be better, respecting the law & being reasonably honest and coming to work regularly. Cynics disparage middle class values and point to the obvious failure of most people to live up to them all the time, but this misses the point. Few people ever achieve excellence, but striving for it is still valuable.

Other Sources are below

U.S. Society and Politics

Challenges and Opportunities in Higher Education - Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and others on what's wrong with higher education today--and how to fix it.
Iraq and Vietnam: A Crucial Difference in Opinion - The Military's Prestige Remains High despite Discontent with War
Make English Our Official Language - English is not our only language, but it should remain our primary language and become our official tongue.
Marriage and Caste in America: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age - The lack of clarity and cultural consensus about the decline of American marriage is dangerous.
Policy Insight: Volume 1, Issue 1, February 2007 - How modern U.S. presidents consider a portfolio of strategies, including comprehensive reorganization, to achieve greater responsiveness from the growing number of federal departments and agencies.
Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes: 1987-2007- Political Landscape More Favorable To Democrats
The Senate Budget: A $2,641 Per Household Tax Increase and No Entitlement Reforms - The Senate budget relies on massive tax increases while ignoring the coming tsunami in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid spending.
What is the Middle Class?- There is no consensus definition of "middle class," neither is there an official government definition. What constitutes the middle class is relative, subjective, and not easily defined.
Why is America Such a Hard Sell - America's greatest contribution to the world is not material but spiritual.

Foreign

How to Win in Iraq – and How to Lose
Can Europe Age Gracefully? - Part I - Rejecting Turkey could signal more doubt about the EU's ability to spur reform rather than Turkey's readiness to adapt
Can Europe Age Gracefully? - Part II - Europe has proven the worth of democracy and integration, but is in no mood to celebrate
CSIS Commission on Smart Power - CSIS’s high-level project that aims to create a strategic vision for how the United States can integrate soft and hard power into "smart power" to address current and future challenges.
Except for Spain, Majorities or Pluralities in five European Countries Believe Life has become Worse since Joining the EU
Four Years Later -Assessing U.S. Policy in Iraq
How the EU Can Act Now To Assert Global Leadership
Terms of Engagement: The Euro-Atlantic Partnership At Sixty
Improve the Visa Waiver Program with Exit Checks for New Participants - A simple way to move forward is to institute a mandatory exit registry program.
International Publics Strongly Favor Labor and Environmental Standards in Trade Agreements - Majorities in Many Developing Countries and the United States Support Protections
Islam and Europe - Bernard Lewis on the continuing clashes between Muslims and the West.
Managing Global Insecurity - Javier Solana discussed the importance of multilateral institutions to international security.
Nigeria's Presidential Election: The Christian-Muslim Divide*
Q&A: Current Data on the Iraq War Watch
The Future of Freedom in Cuba - Post-Castro, how will Cuba transition from dictatorship to democracy? How will its society evolve? What will Cuba’s economic outlook be?
The Myth of Russian Resurgence - Debunks the conventional wisdom concerning Russia's role as a major global power.
The New Voices of America - U.S.-funded broadcasters are competing in a wide-open global environment with an array of new formats. But some experts wonder about the message generated by these American outlet.
The Poisonous Legacy of the Iraq War - Part II - Those who blame only the West for Middle East violence should also look closer to home
Tortured Credibility - Who could have imagined in September 2001 that one of the deadliest terrorists in history would admit to the World Trade Center attacks--and that we would shrug our shoulders?
When Form Follows Function - The People's Republic of China late last week gave private property equal legal status to state property in order to bolster China's market reforms.

Energy, Economy & Environment

Capital Complaints - If the financial power of the United States is eroding, as several recent reports contend, what is really to blame?
Changing Mood on Carbon Caps - Buoyed by the private sector, lawmakers appear more ready than ever to consider emissions controls linked to climate change.
Environmental Policy Outlook - The impact the Kyoto Protocol or Kyoto-style legislation would have on the U.S. economy and environment.
Frequently Asked Questions About Global Warming - Is the release of carbon dioxide a significant factor relative to natural temperature variability, what are likely consequences of warming, and what should be done about it?
Gore on the Rocks - Former vice president Al Gore's global warming claims may be too extreme.
Housing Market Blues - The Federal Reserve should stand ready to soften the fallout from the coming housing bust.
How businesses are using Web 2.0: A McKinsey Global Survey - By and large, executives are satisfied with their previous investments in Internet technology, and most are investing in trends that promote automation and networking online.
Illegal Logging: Background and Issues -Illegal logging is a pervasive problem throughout the world, affecting countries that produce, export, and import wood and wood products.
Medicare Advantage -Scholars assess the Medicare Advantage plans, how they differ from traditional Medicare, how well they meet beneficiaries' needs, and affect competition.
On the Trail of a Cure- Problems with procurement, corruption, and intellectual property threaten new and innovative malaria treatments.
Recession in 2007? - Will there be a recession in 2007?
The Energy Warp - Oil Dependence’s Negative Effect on Policy
Trading Up Through Multilateralism - A Good Doha Round Can Lift All Boats

Posted by Jack at March 24, 2007 6:53 PM
Comments
Comment #213548

Jack, interesting post,
Ive allways viewed middle class as married working couples both with marketable working skills.They have two to three kids and are able to buy a house in their area based on combined income. Do you agree that middle income dollar amount is different in different areas of the country?

Posted by: dolan at March 24, 2007 9:08 PM
Comment #213551

Jack:

It is interesting to me that the number of people who think they are middle class is not far from the same percentage as own homes.

Craig

Posted by: Craig Holmes at March 24, 2007 9:16 PM
Comment #213554

If you consider someone who always has to worry about as lower class and anyone who never has to worry about money as upper class. Then everyone else is middle class

Posted by: David at March 24, 2007 9:32 PM
Comment #213556

Dolan

Of course it is. The median family income where I live is $94,610. With that you can live a middle class lifestyle, but you are not rich. A teacher married to a cop makes more than that around here. Back where I am from, that kind of income would make you one of the richest guys in town.

Craig

I think home ownership is an important part of stability. It is hard to have a long term succes w/o owning your home.

Posted by: Jack at March 24, 2007 9:38 PM
Comment #213559

Jack:

I am not sure about a dollar figure though. I would venture to day that most people raising a family and earning between 100k and 200k would still think of themselves as middle class.

I also think classification is sort of like my favorite diet. My favorite diet is just to stand next to someone fatter than I am.

“I’m middle class. Alluent people live over their in that neighborhood!!” (Even though they might live the top 5% of income).

Perception!!
Craig

Posted by: Craig Holmes at March 24, 2007 10:07 PM
Comment #213567

Jack, Its sorta like the 2 blind men describing the elephant. It depends on where your standing and what your touching.
I would say it depends on the restaurant you favor when you go out to eat. If your food tab (for 2) is around $12 your poor, if its around $25 your WC, if its around 50 your MC if its around $100 your UMC. If its around $200 your UC.

Posted by: j2t2 at March 24, 2007 10:40 PM
Comment #213573

This is precisely why everything can not be based on a FEDERAL system.
Passing the new minimum wage was nothing but a political stunt - in some places it is less than what ‘minimum’ wage REALLY is and in other places it will put people out of business.
We are ‘middle class’ but it varies from year to year based on the markets and how much my husband can make in his business - tho we are always in the same tax bracket.
Tho we are better off if we incorporate - we don’t - the tax system is more complicated and we don’t want to deal with it. We would actually pay a lower tax rate!
If the dummycrats cut the earned tax credit in half for children - we are even more screwed - everybody is…. I say DOUBLE it — we are already depending on illegal immigrants to support us because we don’t have enough children now!!
I wish our politicians would smarten up!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Dawn at March 24, 2007 11:14 PM
Comment #213618

Jack, some points of clarification. The link you cite reports on INCOME. Not family income per household.

To establish a middle class definition, one would need to work with the median income per household, not per wage earner. 62% of all mothers with children under 6 years old, are employed. The vast majority of those with husbands have two wage earners in the family.

I think you can see how using wage earner income vs. household income can really skew such a discussion.

As you alluded, the Middle Class definition is not useful in many discussions if based on income only. The Middle Class is as much about quality of life, homeownership, contentment with employment, prepared to handle emergencies without serious adverse effects, and other factors, and should be included in a working definition of middle class.

Two parents both working and putting a child through college on a household income of $40,000 per year defines a pretty impoverished household.

Just as married a couple with $50,000 per year combined income, caring for, and paying for the medical expenses of an aging parent without insurance can also be a very impoverished household.

Posted by: David R. Remer at March 25, 2007 10:04 AM
Comment #213657

Asking people in a survey if they are “middle class” is a little like asking if they are “people of faith”. The answer invariably is going to be for many “Oh, what the hell, I’ve got faith and I’m middle class too.”
People who are living paycheck-to-paycheck (41%) , feeding interest payments to credit cards (average balance U.S. 2005 over $7,000, interest payment for average family in 2005 $1,164, using the predatory services of “quick cash” services (over 22,000 pay day loan outlets) all want to think of themselves as at least middle class, wouldn’t you think?
I am reminded of an actress who worked during the Depression. She was asked why there were so many movies being produced depicting wealth, power and glamour when the reality of the world was that many were living in extreme poverty and most of the rest were on the edge. She replied, something to the effect, that it made the people feel better to see depictions of rich people living well, that she was sort of fulfilling a need by acting in these films.
So it is with this post. Somehow, I feel richer from having read it but the reality has not changed. We live in a country with too many people who are just hanging on and one can slice and dice the stats anyway they want but you can’t get away from the sheer numbers of people who are one paycheck away from that proverbial Greyhound bus to nowhere.

Posted by: charles Ross at March 25, 2007 2:43 PM
Comment #213713

Sooo, what’s your point?

Posted by: Torus Linvalds at March 25, 2007 7:33 PM
Comment #213750

Good Post. Man and woman married couples with children teaching American values. Not same sex couples who in your face like it or face prosecution. Same sex couples are doing for America what it did for Sodom and Gomorrah.

Of course it is hard to talk facts to Dims and progressives as they react mainly to feelings.

Posted by: im at March 26, 2007 7:54 AM
Comment #213826

[sarcasm on]

im-

Your post is so right on! Well thought out, convincing, and informed. It really adds to the dialog. Thanks!

[sarcasm off]

Posted by: jrb at March 26, 2007 7:25 PM
Comment #213891

If this countries people are so poor, and our government so corrupt why do so many people want to immigrate here?

Posted by: dolan at March 27, 2007 12:47 AM
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