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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Middle Class

At AEI, Karlyn Bowman reviews survey data on the middle class:

  • Defining the middle class: Of those who self-identify as middle class, 54 percent say the factor that most “makes you middle class” is income or wages (Allstate/National Journal). A Pew survey found that Americans thought it would take an annual income of $70,000 for a family of four to lead a middle-class lifestyle in their area (median response).
  • •Class identification: Since the 1970s, Americans have vacillated between describing themselves as middle or working class. Continuing a trend from the last decade, a plurality of Americans identify as middle class, although the percentage has declined in recent years.
  • Middle-class lifestyle: A secure job tops the list of what Americans say they need to be considered part of the middle class, with 86 percent giving that response (Pew). Those in the middle class also identify the ability to keep up with expenses and stay out of debt as a defining characteristic of the middle class.
  • Economic challenges: Seventy-one percent of citizens say life has gotten worse for middle-class Americans over the past 10 years (CBS News), and 70 percent agree that the economy makes it too tough for the middle class to make ends meet (George Washington University Battleground Survey). Majorities of people who self-identify as middle class say it is “very realistic” that they will be able to own a home, pay their bills, and balance work and family time given their current financial situation, but they seem less certain of their ability to retire comfortably or pay for their children’s college education.
  • Helping the middle class: When asked who is making things better for the middle class, Americans give local business owners the most positive rating, while 64 percent say Congress is making things worse (Allstate/National Journal).
  • Politics and the middle class: Majorities or strong pluralities consistently say that they trust Democrats more than Republicans to do a better job helping the middle class (ABC News/Washington Post), although exit-poll data from the 2014 midterm elections show that Republicans did well with the middle-income bracket.