It seems to have become an accepted political “fact” that the American Middle Class is disappearing. People act like this is a new thing, but I have been hearing this since the 70s. Is it actually true?
For one thing, the definition of “middle class” seems to be varied, inconsistent and politically charged. One definition would have nearly every American who isn’t a multi-millionare or on wellfare self-identifying as “middle class”. Others define it statistically as income brackets (typically 2nd and 3rd quartile) or within some number of standard deviations from the mean household income (around $45k IIRC). And still others would define it as a very specific socio-economic subculture of working professionals, middle managers, and small business owners who drive practical cars and don’t shop at Walmart with less affluent people being considered “working class” or “poor”.
This assertion is often intertwined with the easily verifyable fact that some very small percent of the population (1-10% depending on who you talk to) makes the most income and controls most of the wealth (80-99% depending on who you talk to). But does Mark Zuckerberg’s fortune or some Goldman Sach trader’s bonus really effect some family in Ohio?
And of course, a lot of people were hit hard during the financial crisis of 2008. That continues to have an effect.
But is the middle class really “disappearing”? People say we are becomming like Brazil with it’s income disparity, but I don’t see millions of people outside of New York City living in favella-style shantytowns. Is the “Middle Class” dream of going to some average state college, getting a moderate-pay job you barely tolerate as a cog in some large company, marrying some moderately attractive person, and having 2.5 kids in a 2500 sq ft split level ranch 24.3 minutes from the nearest major city beyond the reach of most Americans?