What's a middle class lifestyle?

Apologies in advance – I’m not really sure how to word this.

I get the impression that “middle class” is defined as being households that earn a certain range of money per member, range somewhere (natch) in the middle of all household income levels. (People talk about the “shrinking middle class” which leads me to believe that household income is becoming more bimodal. Maybe that’s a separate issue.)

With that definition, then the middle class lifestyle seems to me to be defined as the lifestyle a family can afford on a middle class income. Then at one point in time a middle class lifestyle might include, say, 400 square feet of residence per household member, one midrange automobile per household full-time employee, and 2 family dinners at restaurants per month. At another point in time, a middle class lifestyle might include 500 square feet of residence space, still one midrange car, but 8 family dinners at restaurants per month.

Has anyone looked at this the other way around? That is, defining a middle class lifestyle as including certain elements and then determining what percentage of households are considered to be middle class by virtue of being able to afford that lifestyle? If we looked at it from that perspective, would the middle class still be seen as shrinking?

I’ve always assumed that references to “middle class lifestyle” meant enjoying the perks a middle class person would reasonably afford - 2 cars for a couple, all the toys - stereo, cable TV, large screen TV, internet, computer(s).

Basically, you own a house and a car, you get to take a vacation once a year, and will send your kids to college when they are old enough.

(Or, if you are young, your life trajectory is such that you eventually will match the above description.)

The OP might find this article interesting:

What is middle class, anyway?

They review some common definitions of middle class on the basis of income (how much you earn every year), wealth (how much you’ve accumulated over the years), and consumption (how much you spend every year); since the OP is specifically interested in the middle-class lifestyle, I think the consumption metric is probably the most relevant here.