# How Much Does the Middle Class Make?

## The Middle Class: What Is It?

According to the most recent (2021) assessment from the P ew Research Center, half of the U. S. population (50%) is middle class.

This is in line with the larger trend of the middle class declining over the previous fifty years.

According to a previous survey by Pew, the majority of Americans do not belong to the middle class for the first time since at least the 1960s. Only half of American adults had middle-class incomes in 2021, down from 54 percent in 2001, 59 percent in 1981, and 61 percent in 1971.
In addition to a declining share of the population, the middle class is also witnessing a smaller piece of the income pie.

## Middle Class is shrinking.

The median household income in 2020 according to the most recent census data. The answer to this question is contingent upon the number of people in the family. For a single person, the middle class is considered to be between the annual incomes of \$30,000 and \$90,000. The range for a household of two is from \$42,430 to \$127,300, that of three from \$60,000 to \$180,000, and that of four from \$67,100 to \$201,270.

### How many get paid more?

More than 20% of all income in the United States goes to the top 1% of earners.

### Which Class Do I Have?

Where does that leave me, S O, is the natural follow-up question. Which category do I belong to?

The United States government has recently revealed certain income statistics. According to the Census Bureau, in 2021, the median household income was about \$65,000, an all-time high.

Those who make between 67% and 120% of the median family income are considered middle class by Pew.

Those with an annual salary between \$43,350 and \$130,000 fall into the middle-income bracket, according to the Pew Research Center’s definition.

This estimate is not adjusted for factors such as household size or geographic region. Those making less than \$43,350 are considered to be in the lower income bracket, while those making more than \$130,000 are considered to be in the upper income bracket. Just like that, right? Take a look at the stats and discover where your family’s income falls.

The income calculator at the Pew Research Center has been modified so that you may easily determine where you fall on the socioeconomic spectrum. Education, age, race, and marital status come behind state, metro region, income before taxes, and number of people in the home as determinants of social class.

## Situating Issues

The problem is that the quality of living you can afford in a small town in the Midwest may not be the same as in a large coastal city. Due to the wide range in the cost of living within the United States, families earning the median income lead drastically diverse lives.

Because of this, identifying your socioeconomic class might be challenging. According to nonresident fellow Stephen Rose’s paper for the Urban Institute titled “The Growing Size and Incomes of the Upper Middle Class,”

Even though their earnings are significantly below or above the U.S. S. median, people who live in neighborhoods with similar incomes may perceive themselves to be in the middle of the distribution since their neighbors’ circumstances are similar to their own.

PEOPLE IN GENERAL TEND TO LIVE, WORK, AND SOCIALIZE WITH OTHER PEOPLE OF SIMILAR INCOME LEVELS. Because of this, we frequently lack reliable standards by which to evaluate our actual social standing.

## Changing Perspectives on American Social Classes

It turns out that categories like “lower class,” “middle class,” and “upper class” are not as simple as they seem. If you want to see how your income compares to others in your area and with your history, the Pew Income Calculator is a fantastic place to start. However, there are other factors besides salary that determine your social class. Before we go on, it’s important to reflect on the ways in which your background and experiences have shaped the person you are today.

## Cultural and Social Wealth

Start with social and cultural capital, a concept introduced by French sociologist and public intellectual PIERRE BOURDIEU in 19 8 6. His essay “The Forms of Capital” discusses the effects of various capital types on social stratification. Social and cultural capital, he continued, are just as important as financial wealth.

Your connections are your SOCIAL CAPITAL. It’s all about the people you associate with and the connections you make. According to Bourdieu, it’s being part of a community. For those who are aware with the adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” the concept of social capital will come as no surprise.

Although it’s harder to pin down, a person’s cultural capital can be thought of as their level of cultural literacy. A person’s cultural capital consists of their level of education, their abilities, their cultural knowledge and taste, as well as their mannerisms, vocabulary, and wardrobe. It’s the way you carry yourself that shows the world your social standing.

It’s vital to keep in mind that class is about more than money, even after taking into account things like the cost of living and actual life circumstances. The emergence of alternative monetary systems is largely responsible for this augmented impact. SOCIAL AND CULTURAL CAPITAL OFFERS DIFFERENT KINDS OF CURRENCY AND SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT KINDS OF CLASS STATUS. It’s also worth noting that having access to one sort of finance greatly facilitates the acquisition of the others.

Ranking: 1–20, 81–100
Upper, middle, and lower may not be the most useful ways to classify people anymore. Neither is the politically divisive divide between the top 1 percent and everyone else. Another major factor influencing your life and the economy could be your income bracket.

In his book Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a S Problem, and What to Do About It, Brookings Institution S enior Fellow Richard V. Reeves breaks down the American class system in terms of 20% and 8 P 0%, rather than the traditional 1% and 99%. In many respects, the top 20% stands out from the rest.

While “between 1979 and 2013, average incomes for the bottom 8 0% of American households rose by 42%...by contrast, those of the next richest 19% rose by 70%, and of the top 1% by 192%,” The Economist reports in a review of the book Why the 20%, and Not the 1% Are the Real Problem by P Roblem.
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The top 20% of the population consists of highly paid professionals such as CEOs, MDs, and JDs. They marry later, have more education, and more extensive social networks than their younger counterparts. They also have lower incidences of obesity and cardiovascular disease than the general population.

For Reeves, this course is crucial to the study of inequality for two reasons. The first is that this group considers itself to be of the middle class, even if its members are among the wealthiest in the country. But because they aren’t part of the top 1%, their actions are rarely scrutinized.

The second justification is that the expansion of the country has largely benefited the top quintile of earnings, those who make more than about \$112,000. While the top 20% of incomes in the United States aren’t sharing in the prosperity of the top 1%, they are benefiting from rising wages and investments and enjoying the perks of the upper crust.

Reeves contends that the top quintile should be the focus of policymaking efforts to increase national income tax collection in order to fund social programs, as many Democrats would like to do.

In any event, it’s not just about being cozy. This “opportunity hoarding” by the top 20%, as described by Reeves, undermines the United States’ self-image as a meritocracy by influencing “zoning laws and schooling, occupational licensing, college application procedures, and the allocation of internships.”

## Where Is Economic Mobility Going?

Consideration should also be given to how far up or down the economic ladder you and your family members have climbed. As Matthew Stewart writes in The Atlantic article “The 9.9 Percent Is the New American Aristocracy,” most Americans are aware of the wealth gap in the country but are generally OK with it because “in the United States everyone has the opportunity to make the leap: Mobility justifies the inequality.”

However, there is a notion called intergenerational earnings elasticity (IGE) that shows that “contrary to the popular myth, economic mobility in the land of opportunity is not high and is going down,” as Stewart argues. A child’s income is a direct reflection of their parents’ earnings, and this is what IGE attempts to quantify. If the result was zero, there was no correlation between parental and offspring income, and if it was one, offspring income was totally determined by parental income.

The U.S. has an IGE of about 0.5. Compared to “almost every other developed economy,” that’s a lot, as Stewart puts it. According to him, that doesn’t bode well for economic mobility or equality of opportunity.

In the same piece, Stewart references the late Alan Krueger, an economist and former chair of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors. According to Krueger, rising inequality and stagnant mobility are not independent tendencies. Stewart adds, paraphrasing Krueger, “It’s as if human societies have a natural tendency to separate, and then, once the classes are far enough apart, to crystallize.”

## How Societal Inequality Affects People of Different Classes

How does the growing concentration of wealth in fewer hands affect people’s perceptions of their own socioeconomic status? SOMETHING OF THIS REQUIRES AWARENESS. Understanding and confronting inequality alters perspectives and actions. At either extreme of the range, this realization has different ramifications. That’s the topic of “The Psychology of Inequality,” an article by Elizabeth Kolbert that appeared in The New Yorker.

## Experiencing Poverty as an Emotion

According to psychologist Keith Payne, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of “The Broken Ladder: How Inequality Affects the Way We Think, Live, and Die,” Kolbert discusses this by describing Payne’s findings. Payne writes, “...what’s really damaging about being poor…is the subjective experience of feeling poor.”

It’s hardly an overly harsh judgment. Historian Rutger Bregman comments in The Guardian’s piece advocating for universal basic income, “It’s a harsh question, but look at the data: poor people borrow more, save less, smoke more, exercise less, drink more, and eat less healthily.”
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Payne also cites studies that show the impoverished are more likely to take chances.

The traditional narrative about poverty blames poor individuals for their circumstances, yet recent studies show the opposite to be true. Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much is a book written by Eldar Shafir and Sendhil Mullainathan, an economist and a behavioral scientist, respectively, in which they discuss the concept of “the scarcity mindset.”

Their efforts are succinctly summarized in The Economist book review. When a person is short on money, friends, time, or calories, their brain responds in fundamentally different ways.

## There are two benefits to adopting a scarcity mentality:

The mind sets its laser-like attention on the tasks at hand.
People have a far clearer idea of how much more valuable a dollar would be if they actually possessed one, and this “gives people a keener sense of the value of” that object they seem to lack.
A scarcity mentality can be mentally draining. It “narrows a person’s perspective and shortens his horizons, creating a dangerous tunnel vision,” S o it causes people significant anxiety, sapping brainpower and “reducing mental “bandwidth.”

Therefore, the research presented in Scarcity implies that being impoverished alters how people think and act. Payne, later in Kolbert’s article, refers to studies that he says “provided the first evidence that inequality itself can cause risky behavior.”

## Extreme wealth and its “discomfort”

This concentration of wealth is unsettling to the wealthy as well, but for different reasons. Sociologist Rachel Sherman asks the 1% of the population uncomfortable questions about their money and power in her book Uneasy Street: The Anxieties of Affluence.

Sherman classifies the top one percent into two groups, the achievers and the losers. The ambitious “tended not even to think of themselves as socially advantaged” since they surrounded themselves with others of similar socioeconomic status. The disadvantaged, who tend to have friends from a wider range of socioeconomic backgrounds, were “more likely to see themselves as privileged” and expressed considerable unease about their position.

Whatever direction the affluent were facing, Kolbert sums up one of Sherman’s main results beautifully: “...the privileged prefer not to think of themselves that way.”

Sherman found that the extremely wealthy made efforts to disassociate themselves from common stereotypes of the wealthy as ostentatious, selfish, snobby, and entitled, writing about this group in an op-ed for The New York Times. Sherman’s descriptions and actions are discussed by Kolbert, who describes Sherman as saying that they provide light on “moral conflicts about having the privilege.”

On the other hand, Sherman concludes that “such moves [from the 1%] help wealthy people manage their discomfort with inequality, which in turn makes that inequality impossible to talk honestly about—or to change.”

## It’s a Tricky Question

A challenging issue is class. It’s not only about money at all. Living expenses, personal preferences, and actual life experience all factor significantly. It is made up of one’s network and one’s culture. S o, while the Pew Research Center’s income calculator can give us a general idea of where we stand, the experience of class is completely subjective. PEOPLE infer their class standing from cues in their immediate environment, such as their neighborhood, place of employment, and social circle.

The size of the middle class has leveled down, but it is losing ground in terms of income to the top 20% and especially the top 1%. Moreover, the top 20% and the top 1% should be kept in mind while discussing the impacts of class in America, as the actions and decisions of both of these groups appear to promote growing class inequality and stagnation.

The vast majority of people see themselves as part of the middle class. But the reality is that the middle class consists of people with quite varied priorities and ways of life. What Pew calls the upper class makes up roughly what Reeves calls the upper middle class. PEOPLE WHO ARE IN THE LOWER PARTS OF THAT QUINTILE MAY NOT FEEL VERY WEALTHY IF THEY ARE AROUND MUCH WEALTHY. People who don’t identify with the middle class may also unwittingly adopt habits that are linked to their subjective assessments of their own material well-being.

## Is There a Decline in the Middle Class ?

More than half of the U.S. population (52%) is considered middle class, according to a 2018 P Pew Research Center research. That’s up slightly from a 2015 Pew study that found 50% of the population was middle class, but it’s still down significantly from its peak in the 1970s. In 2001, 54% of Americans were considered to be part of the middle class, down from 59% in 1981 and 61% in 1971.

As a result, the percentage of the population living in middle-income homes has decreased from 62% in 1970 to 43% in 2014.

## Which Income Class Is Growing the Fastest?

In recent decades, there has been a growth in the size of both the middle class and the wealthy. One-fifth to one-fifth of the population now lives on less than two-thirds of the median income in the United States, a rise from 16% in 1971.

At the same period, the share of the population living in the wealthiest households increased from 4% to 9%.

## Is There a Quick and Simple Way to Tell What Income Class I Fall Into?

One approach is to investigate what constitutes a middle-class income. U.S. median household income was \$65,000 in 2021, hence households making between \$65,000 and \$150,000 are considered middle class by the Pew Research Center. It’s the Census.

The median household income in the United States is \$43,350, according to the Pew Research Center.

However, this is a rough estimate that does not take into account factors such as household size or location.

The income calculator at the Pew Research Center has been modified so that you may easily determine where you fall on the socioeconomic spectrum. Education, age, race, and marital status come behind state, metro region, income before taxes, and number of people in the home as determinants of social class.

## Is a Salary of \$100,000 Considered Middle Class?

There are regional and household factors to consider. If you’re a single person, earning \$100,000 would put you in the upper income bracket. Making \$100,000 per year as a family of two to four puts you smack in the middle of the income distribution.