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What is the American Middle Class?

posted Jul 1, 2011, 3:32 PM by Take Back Country   [ updated Jul 5, 2011, 4:13 AM ]
The American middle class is a social class in the United States.
While the concept is typically ambiguous in popular opinion and common language use, contemporary social scientists have put forward several, more or less congruent, theories on the American middle class. Depending on class model used, the middle class may constitute anywhere from 25% to 66% of households.
One of first major studies of the middle class in America, White Collar: The American Middle Classes, was made by sociologist C. Wright Mills in 1951. Later sociologists such as Dennis Gilbert of Hamilton College commonly divide the middle class into two sub-groups. Constituting roughly 15% to 20% of households is the upper or professional middle class consisting of highly educated, salaried professionals and managers. Constituting roughly one third of households is the lower middle class consisting mostly of semi-professionals, skilled craftsmen and lower level management. Middle class persons commonly have a comfortable standard of living, significant economic security, considerable work autonomy and rely on their expertise to sustain themselves.

Everyone wants to believe they are middle class...But this eagerness...has led the definition to be stretched like a bungee cord — used to defend/attack/describe everything...The Drum Major Institute...places the range for middle class at individuals making between $25,000 and $100,000 a year. Ah yes, there's a group of people bound to run into each other while house-hunting.
—Dante Chinni

Members of the middle class belong to diverse groups which overlap with each other. Overall, middle class persons, especially upper middle class individuals, are characterized by conceptualizing, creating and consulting. Thus, college education is one of the main indicators of middle class status. Largely attributed to the nature of middle class occupations, middle class values tend to emphasize independence, adherence to intrinsic standards, valuing innovation and respecting non-conformity. Politically more active than other demographics, college educated middle class professionals are split between the two major parties. Income varies considerably from near the national median to well in excess of $100,000. Household income figures, however, do not always reflect class status and standard of living, as they are largely influenced by the number of income earners and fail to recognize household size. It is therefore possible for a large, dual-earner, lower middle class household to out-earn a small, one-earner, upper middle class household. The middle classes are very influential, as they encompass the majority of voters, writers, teachers, journalists, and editors. Most societal trends in the US originate within the middle classes.