Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

What is the Middle Class?(Flashback 2008-More Than $97,000 a Year, It's Upper Class)
American Public Media ^ | January 11, 2008 Transcript | Tess Vigeland

Posted on 09/03/2012 5:43:46 AM PDT by Son House

So, is there a hard and fast number to define the middle class?

United States government, you wanna help us out here? No? Not really?

Well, at least there's an official poverty line. In 2007, it was an annual income under $20,650 for a family of four.

As for middle class, well, the Congressional Research Service issued a report last year pegging middle class income as between $19,000 a year and $91,000 a year.

But even the specialist in quantitative economics who put together that study said there is no consensus or official government definition.

So we decided to ask around.

First up; Brookings Institution economist Gary Burtless:

Gary Burtless: You don't need to show a passport or a baptism certificate or a club ID to be admitted to this group. If you say you're a member, then I think you're in the middle class.

He uses the term "middle income" rather than "middle class" and he bases his definition on the median household income -- which last year was $48,200.

Burtless says the middle can range from half of that to twice that number, so $24,000 to $96,000.

But in surveys, people and families far outside that range will say they're middle class. Burless says that's just American egalitarianism at work.

Burtless: So people who have very high incomes may not want to claim superior position. Similarly, people who have modest incomes do not want to accept any indication that they have second class status in our society.

MIT economist Frank Levy came up with a definition based on Census data for families in their prime earning years.

Frank Levy: I would say a reasonable range is about $30,000 to $90,000. Most of what we mean by middle class, I think, is how easy it is for you to afford the basic building blocks of a good life in America and that means can you afford a single-family house and can you afford a car and can you afford to heat the house and so on and so forth.

And finally, we hit the campaign trail to find out how this year's presidential candidates are trying to attract the middle class.

Here's how Republican Mike Huckabee is drawing the line in a current TV ad:

Mike Huckabee: I believe most Americans want their next president to remind them of the guy they work with, not the guy who laid them off.

Huckabee isn't the only candidate wooing the middle class. John Edwards is well known for his "two Americas" theme. Republicans like John McCain and Rudy Giuliani say their tax cut proposals will help the middle class and Hillary Clinton promised not to raise taxes on those making above $97,500 just to save Social Security:

Hillary Clinton: I do not want to fix the problems of Social Security on the backs of middle class families and seniors.

In a recent debate Barack Obama took issue with that figure:

Barack Obama: Understand that only 6 percent of Americans make more than $97,000 a year. So, 6 percent is not the middle class; it's the upper class.

And Clinton's response?

Clinton: It is absolutely the case that there are people who would find that burdensome. I represent firefighters. I represent school supervisors. I'm not talking, I mean, you know... it's different parts of the country.

Exactly. Go to's cost-of-living calculator and compare two major cities.

Living a nice life on $90,000 in Atlanta? You'll need $147,000 here in Los Angeles for a similar life.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: class; economy; middle; upper
On Sunday Axelrod is stating the Obama Economic plan is to build the economy from the middle class out. How's that work? Just fill businesses with everyone who wants to be in the middle class? How would Democrats know their businesses will profit enough to sustain the American middle class? (I'm thinking Solyndra)

The Obama economic plan only extends the Bush tax cuts for the middle class for 1 year. Would that really have any impact on the economy? I think not.

Back in 2007, the Democrat Congress had to ask Researchers to define the Middle Class, and yet, now only 5 years later, we're expected to believe Economic Growth can come OUT from a Middle Class define as Subjective? Nonsense!

the Congressional Research Service issued a report last year pegging middle class income as between $19,000 a year and $91,000 a year.

But even the specialist in quantitative economics who put together that study said there is no consensus or official government definition.

You tell me!

1 posted on 09/03/2012 5:43:56 AM PDT by Son House
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: Son House

$91,000 or $97,000 per year is wealthy? In California that’s just scratching the surface of middle class....

2 posted on 09/03/2012 5:53:00 AM PDT by freebilly
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: freebilly
Having to go to work to sustain your lifestyle means you are not wealthy.

There is quite a bit of confusion (helped in large part by politicians and the media) over income vs current net worth vs age.

3 posted on 09/03/2012 6:39:51 AM PDT by Paladin2
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Son House

Perhaps slightly off topic, but around here about five years ago an older retired bachelor who died made the local paper.

He had been a mid level government worker, making 60 grand or so a year. Kinda reclusive and shy, but kept his home presentable.

When he died, he left his nieces and nephews $5 million that he had made in the stock market over the decades. Annual income is not always the best barometer for measuring “class” but they have to do it somehow, I suppose.

4 posted on 09/03/2012 6:44:27 AM PDT by SnuffaBolshevik (In a tornado, even turkeys can fly.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson