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?