The Middle Class: is everyone in?
Published: Monday, October 1, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 1, 2012 19:10
This week we’re sure to hear a lot about the middle class: debates, commercials, talking heads.
But what exactly is the middle class? And, perhaps more importantly, who’s really a part of it?
So close your eyes. Count to three. And jump - voila! You’re in the middle.
It’s just that simple for many Americans to categorize themselves in a social hierarchy commonly referred to as the middle class.
Christian Science Monitor reporter, Dante Chinni, put it like this:
“Everyone wants to believe they are middle class,” he wrote in his 2005 article, “One more Social Security quibble: Who is middle class?,” “But this eagerness...has led the definition to be stretched like a bungee cord - used to defend/attack/describe everything.”
Chinni too asked the question of trying to figure out who the middle class is:
“Well, you are, of course,” he explained. “And me, while we’re at it. The middle class is the backbone of the country - all those hard-working Americans who get up every morning and make this great country of ours strong. That’s the politician’s answer every four years, and it’s wonderful to recite as “America the Beautiful” plays low in the background. But that’s not going to cut it this year, because money is actually going to be at stake.”
That was seven years ago; this election season money is still at stake - and people are still describing themselves as belonging to this quintessential middle class.
According to the “The Lost Decade of the Middle Class," the Pew Research Center surveyed more than 2,500 adults, and revealed that 1,287 people describe themselves as middle class. It interestingly found “an increase in those who self-identify as being in the lower or lower-middle class - 32% place themselves in these categories....and 17% now say they are in the upper or upper middle class.”
And according to research and studies from sociologist Dennis Gilbert of Hamilton College those two subgroups indeed exist: highly educated, salaried professionals and managers account for about 15 to 20 percent of households constituted in the upper middle class. While semi-professionals, skilled craftsmen and lower-level management make up roughly one-third of households in the lower middle class.
So we’re all in this cubicle-sitting, benefits-having, family-oriented, self-determined race to feel apart of a white-collar, salesmanship mentality. We’re a loving, faithful, (sometimes spiritual or religious) group of people, a large part of us are, or at least desire, to be college-educated. We feel like we have a comfortable standard of living, a sense of significant economic security, considerable work ethic, and we’re experts at surviving. And who feels that way? - well darn near everybody - or at least those not completely ready to admit that they’re either really poor or really rich.
The Pew study revealed that included the young and old, men and women, 51 percent of white people, 48 percent of blacks, just about the same percentage for Hispanics among highlighting that “whites have a higher median income and much more wealth than blacks or Hispanics”.
But even those of us who can admit to falling behind are nonetheless determined to move ahead. The Pew survey noted that “The Great Recession officially ended three years ago, but most middle-class Americans are still feeling pinched. About six-in-ten (62%) say they had to reduce household spending in the past year because money was tight....”
Precisely why President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the republican presidential nominee, are spending oodles of campaign cash, all in dire hopes of relating to people, this group of “middle class.” They understand that Americans are always looking to the future and a commander-in-chief to lead them there. Even if many aren’t as fired up and ready to go as they were in the 2008 presidential campaigns, they’ve still got a mix of apprehension and mute optimism just waiting to be ignited.
Whomever snags the candidacy will have their work cut out for them.
The Pew study cited that just 23 percent of middle class adults feel very confident that they’ll have enough income and assets to last them throughout their retirement years and “just 43 percent of those in the middle class expect that their children’s standard of living will be better than their own....”, down from 56 percent four years ago.
But the candidates seem to be up for the challenge. President Obama said this in his public remarks on extending tax cuts for middle-aged families:
“I’ve often said that our biggest challenge right now isn’t just to reclaim all the jobs that we lost to the recession -- it’s to reclaim the security that so many middle-class Americans have lost over the past decade. Our core mission as an administration and as a country has to be, yes, putting people back to work, but also rebuilding an economy where that work pays off -- an economy in which everybody can have the confidence that if you work hard, you can get ahead.”
But what about the money? Romney recently had that discussion with Good Morning America’s George Stephanopoulos. He addressed his gaffe-like comments regarding his remarks about what’s happening in the Middle East, President Obama’s likability and Ben Bernanke’s leadership of the Federal Reserve, and interestingly suggested that the middle income was not considered $100,000, but rather a cutoff for households earning $200,000 to $250,000. Romney noted how the biggest source of getting the country to a balanced budget is not by raising taxes or by cutting spending, but by encouraging the growth of the economy.