Middle Class


The middle class. Politicians talk about saving it. Tax codes are purportedly written to benefit it. And, if you are like most in the US, you claim to be in it. 

A recent study from Northwestern Mutual indicated that 70 percent of Americans consider themselves to be in the middle class. In actuality, though, only about half of the residents are actually in that group.

Why do these differences occur? There are at least four reasons.

First, there is not a common definition. Some researchers rely on income earned, others on wealth, and still others on perception of the individual. 

Second, and related to the first point, many people lack the understanding of what constitutes the middle class. Thus, they mistakenly over- or under-estimate their position. 

The final two possibilities are related. People who are not quite to the middle class level may aspire to be there, and thus, report as much. In other cases, people might actually be wealthier but still report being in the middle class for modesty reasons. 

This discussion begs the question: what, then, constitutes the middle class. For our purposes here, let’s assume that income reflects one’s class distinction. According to the Pew Research Center, the median income for people in the lower class is about $26,000; for the middle class, it’s $78,000; and for the upper class, it is $188,000.

In the US, 52 percent of Americans fall in the middle class income tier. In Bryan and College Station, that figure drops to 43 percent. 

But, these figures just tell part of the story. One’s race, education, age, and marital status are all linked with income earned and thus, social class position. 

Of courses, these characteristics are also likely to influence how people think about their social class standing.