Rallying the nebulous, ever-changing “middle class” by Winston Shi

“People making from $30k to $100k self-identify with being in the middle-class. What do you think the middle class is defined as?” – GC

Rallying the nebulous, ever-changing “middle class” by Winston Shi

The middle class is the most powerful dream in American politics. Republicans bitterly fight over who can carry the middle-class banner. Democrats argue that they themselves are the true guardians of the middle class. In the coming presidential election, it’s taken almost for granted that the candidate that can speak to the desires and needs of the middle class will come away with the White House, but are these candidates chasing something real, or do we need to dig deeper? After all, nobody in the United States can agree on what the middle class actually is.

In fact, the only rule about the middle class seems to be that you are in it. Not long ago, the Wall Street Journal found out that 58 percent of Americans surveyed self-identified as middle-class. Even more surprisingly, this tendency was uniform across nearly all income brackets. People in most major income brackets tended to place themselves in the middle class — a plurality of people making under $30,000 a year said that $30,000 was middle-income, and a similar plurality of people making up to $100,000 a year said that they were middle-income too.

Clearly, the middle class is not a fixed entity, and it certainly is not a monolithic one. We can certainly agree that the notion of the “middle class” is part and parcel of the American Dream, but if we’re going to understand why the middle class means so much to Americans, we need better definitions for the aspirations that our politicians seek to channel.

Read the full article at: Stanford Daily

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