When asked to identify their social class, 73% of Americans identify with the middle or working classes, according to a survey.
It is not as straightforward as taking out a calculator or perusing a pay stub to determine one’s economic class standing in the United States. Individuals’ economic strata and their perceptions of their standing among other Americans are influenced by a variety of factors. Continue reading to learn more about how Americans perceive themselves economically and the definition of the middle class, which is constantly evolving.
How Americans Classify Their Socioeconomic Status
According to a survey conducted by Gallup in April 2022, 73% of Americans identify with the middle or working class.
In addition, 14% of the population classifies themselves as upper-middle class and 2% as upper class. According to experts, when determining their social classes, individuals frequently consider factors such as education, location, and familial history. “It’s more of a feeling,” says Jeffery M. Jones, senior editor at Gallup, regarding the definition of the middle class. It is about economic security, being able to afford what you need and perhaps a little bit more. “Perhaps vacations, something extra-recreational, a third car, or money for extra-necessary expenses.”
Economic trends may influence how individuals perceive their class standings. Recent economic trends, such as high inflation rates, surges of employee layoffs, concerns of an impending recession, and other COVID-19-related ripple effects, have impacted the financial health of households and businesses.
According to a January 2023 Gallup poll, after a year with the highest inflation rates since 1982, declining stock market values, and consistently rising interest rates, fifty percent of Americans say they are “financially worse off” than the previous year. Only twice since Gallup’s introduction of the poll in 1976 have at least half of Americans reported being worse off, in 2008 and 2009.
In addition, according to a Gallup poll conducted in April 2023, 61% of Americans say that recent price increases have caused financial hardship for their households, up from 55% in November 2022. Time will reveal how the events of the past year have affected how Americans perceive their economic class rankings.
Trends in the Middle Class over the Past 50 Years
The majority of contemporary political discourse focuses on the difficulties confronting the middle class. Although household incomes have increased over the past 50 years or so, it took more than 15 years for them to recover from the 2001 recession and the Great Recession, according to Richard Fry, a senior researcher at the Pew Research Center.
“The 15-year period of stagnation was an unprecedented occurrence in the preceding half-century,” he says. According to Fry, modest income gains have likely contributed to frustration and downward mobility. And while the majority of American households are better off than they were fifty years ago, the benefits have not been distributed equally, he notes.
“Everyone is better off, but the wealthy are particularly better off,” he says.
Classification of the Middle-Class by Income
Some researchers classify individuals into economic divisions based on their revenues. Using this information, they classified earners as impoverished, lower-middle class, middle class, upper-middle class, and affluent. The income thresholds that divide these income ranges can vary from year to year and between methodologies, but here’s a notion of where they stand based on recent data.
The Pew Research Center defines middle-income Americans as having annual household incomes that are between two-thirds and twice the national median (adjusted for local cost of living and household size). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median weekly earnings for full-time American employees in the second quarter of 2023 were $1,100. This results in a median annual income of approximately $57,200.
According to the guidelines of the Pew Research Center (two-thirds to double the national media), middle-income Americans would have annual incomes between $38,133 and $114,400 in 2023, before adjusting for local cost of living and household size.
Am I a member of the middle class?
According to specialists, a person’s perception of their social class extends beyond what their W-2 form indicates they earn. You can determine where you fall based on your income, education, marital status, location, familial history, and many other factors. Nonetheless, finding the answer is more complicated than simply examining a number.
Also, where you belong within the American economic class system may fluctuate over the course of your lifetime or even from year to year. A law student, for instance, may earn a modest graduate student stipend of $20,000 per year, placing them in the lowest income bracket. Nevertheless, education and future earnings will likely propel their income and class standing to a higher level in the future.
Stephen Rose, a nonresident fellow at the Urban Institute and research professor at the George Washington Institute of Public Policy, explains, “People must realize that whatever is happening (with their class rank) today is part of a trajectory, part of their life.”
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Source: US News