Middle Class in the City

“What is Middle Class in Manhattan?” asked this New York Times real estate section story this weekend that was widely passed around. Several friends sent it to me and asked, “What do you think about this?” Setting issues of affordable housing aside for a moment, let’s look at some of the numbers:

Most researchers define the middle class by calculating the median income for a place, and grouping people into certain percentages above or below the absolute middle.

By one measure, in cities like Houston or Phoenix — places considered by statisticians to be more typical of average United States incomes than New York — a solidly middle-class life can be had for wages that fall between $33,000 and $100,000 a year.

By the same formula — measuring by who sits in the middle of the income spectrum — Manhattan’s middle class exists somewhere between $45,000 and $134,000.

But if you are defining middle class by lifestyle, to accommodate the cost of living in Manhattan, that salary would have to fall between $80,000 and $235,000. This means someone making $70,000 a year in other parts of the country would need to make $166,000 in Manhattan to enjoy the same purchasing power.

If it takes at least $80,000 to have a middle class lifestyle in Manhattan, well, I guess I’m a ways off from living a middle class lifestyle. The thing is, I live by myself in a studio apartment in a nice neighborhood, am paying my bills, and can do things like spend $28 on brunch whenever I feel like it, so I am of course living a middle class lifestyle. Later, the piece goes into what we value as defining who we are:

“Middle class, to me, is having a pretty good job, enough money to pay bills and rent, and then a little extra,” said Desiree Gaitan, 29, a manager of social media for Shairporter, a tech start-up that arranges shared taxi rides to New York airports. She says she feels middle class even though she makes about $40,000 a year (equivalent to about $17,900 a year in a more typical part of the country).

So what is middle class in Manhattan? We all have different thoughts and can’t seem to agree, though my feelings do align more with what Gaitan says. The one thing we can all agree on: the rent is too darn high.

Photo: Jeffrey Turner

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60 Comments / Post A Comment

ArizonaTime (#2,694)

So I sent this to my dad this weekend and his response was:

“MONEY ISN’T THE ONLY MEASURE OF WEALTH BUT ‘IF YOU CAN MAKE IT THERE YOU’LL MAKE IT ANYWHERE NEW YORK NEW YORK’”

So fatherly.

Mike Dang (#2)

@ArizonaTime I hope he sang this to you.

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@ArizonaTime I love that your dad responds in all caps. It reminds me of how my mom used to phrase each IM message as a complete letter, starting with “Dear WK” and ending with “Love, Mom.” (she didn’t stop doing this because she caught on that it was insane, either, but rather because she stopped IMing altogether. I think she has forgotten that IM exists.)

ArizonaTime (#2,694)

@Mike Dang I wish. Unfortunately it was via email (and yes, @WaityKatie, actually in all caps) so we’ll just have to imagine the singing together.

joyballz (#2,000)

@WaityKatie My grandma used to do the same thing, but she would sign off immediately and I wouldn’t be able to respond. I think she was confusing email and IM.

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@joyballz Ha, or maybe your inability to respond was all part of her plan!

sea ermine (#122)

Yeah, I make 40k in New York and definitely feel very comfortably middle class. I lived alone in a studio until this month and now I’m supporting an unemployed boyfriend and it’s fine and I can afford my bills and rent and have a little left over for fun treats.

I actually feel upper middle class, mostly because I was raised in an environment where I was able to have a lot of “rich people stuff” for non rich people prices, like, I went to a very very very good private school for free and grew up in countries that were much smaller than the US (so I could travel internationally for just a cheap train ticket), and spend 11 years of my life living in countries where the cost of living is much lower than in the US (my family’s salary was paid in USD) so money went farther. So even though according to this article I’m middle class I feel much wealthier than that in ways that don’t relate to my salary.

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@seaermine I’m guessing that you don’t have any debt, though? Because I can’t imagine paying debt on 40k, having my own place, and feeling *monetarily* middle or upper middle class. (I mean, I can imagine and have done the first two things but not the feeling of secure middle-class-ness while doing them).

kellyography (#250)

@seaermine Where are these affordable studios that landlords and building managers will rent to someone making $40K? Seriously, where do you find them?

I feel middle class in the way that I don’t live paycheck-to-paycheck and can go out to dinner once in a while or shopping if I need new clothes, but only because I still live with three roommates in New Jersey, and that part feels like I’m just starting out, you know?

RachelG8489 (#1,297)

@kellyography I don’t want to speak for seaermine, but from my recent apartment hunt I would guess that these rare affordable studios are still not at all cheap, and that the landlords/building managers are requiring a guarantor. That’s what we’re stuck doing for the 2-bedroom I share with a roommate- my parents are our guarantors.

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@kellyography I don’t know, I wouldn’t say that I have EVER felt “middle class,” because I’ve never had that sense of having an adequate cushion in the bank, so that if I lost my job I could make it for maybe 6 months. To me, that is what being comfortably middle class means. I may make a high salary, but everything I make goes right back out again, mostly to rent and debt. I guess I have “income” but not “wealth.” But that is not to say that I don’t feel that I have enough, because I do, it’s just…to me “middle class” implies a level of security and stability financially that I have not yet reached. So I would say that I’m doing ok, no complaints, but I wouldn’t call myself middle class. But it seems a lot of people translate “doing alright” to “being middle class,” I just seem to have a different definition of it. If we’re defining middle class as “being in the middle of the distribution of income,” that’s another thing altogether.

sea ermine (#122)

@WaityKatie I do have debt but it is student loan debt and it’s not a private loan and it’s not crazy high. I was lucky that my parents sat me down and made it clear how difficult student loan debt could be for someone in my position (at the time I wanted to study fashion which is pretty low paying). I didnt get in state tuition so I made sure to only apply to schools that would give me a scholarship big enough to make the cost at or below in state prices. Luckily I was a good student and succeeded so I graduated with 16k in loans which isn’t too bad. The payments are $182 a month but I usually pay $282. Because the amount is so low I can still put about $300 into savings a month.

sea ermine (#122)

@kellyography In Queens. Y;ou do need a guarantor though but more and more places are taking insurent so that’s something to look into. My rent is $1150 which is a little to high for me but it’s huge so it’s worth it. I’ve seen places for around $1000 a month in Harlem and Washington Heights as well.

WhyHelloThere (#1,398)

I think this may depend a bit on your stage in life, though. I think it would be hard to raise a family on $40,000 a year in Manhattan, and for many people in their 30s and older, being able to afford kids is part of what qualifies as middle class.

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@WhyHelloThere Yeah, and even without the kids thing, your standard for what you expect from life really increases as you get older. When I rented my first 300 square foot basement hellhole studio when I was 23, I was so thrilled to have “my own place” and willing to overlook the fact that it periodically flooded, homeless guys who sit outside my ground level window and stare at me, and there was a rathole right next to my front door. Yet if I had to live there now, in my mid 30′s, I would be deeply sad, frustrated, and miserable. So I might have said “hey, I’m middle class! I have my own place all to myself!” at that age, but at this age I would not say that. Also I was content to not make any progress on paying my debt at that point (not that I could have even if I wanted to), yet now I have the expectation that Debt Mountain will start shrinking, that I can at least see movement in it…and I’m not convinced that’s a crazy unreasonable expectation, either.

@WhyHelloThere
I agree that kids are a big part of being middle class, both in being able to afford good educational opportunities (living in a good school district or sending them to private school, as well as extras like piano lessons/karate/ballet/etc) and in what you are able to give your kids as they get older (college, contribute to down payments on a house) and as an inheritance. I think that’s part of why owning a home is typically important to middle class status – your kids inherit that home.

To me, being middle class is more than just brunches – it’s that long term security, for you and your family, in the form of education and real estate basically. Of course if you don’t want/have kids, the criteria must be slightly different.

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@newyorkscutestreporter I don’t want or have kids, yet I too would like some long term security! Who’s going to take care of me if I don’t do it myself?

@WaityKatie Very true. Although I don’t think it is middle class to expect your kids to take care of you – monetarily, that is (because why have kids if they do not entertain you well into your old age). So add long term financial security and the ability to afford to retire to the list for everyone!

cryptolect (#1,135)

But Mike, do you live in Manhattan, or Brooklyn? I know a few people who live in Manhattan, but none paying market rates without help or an income that a normal person would describe as “not middle-class.”

Mike Dang (#2)

@cryptolect Yes, I live in Manhattan.

Edited to add: I got my current studio without a guarantor back when I was earning about $60K.

emmabee (#2,008)

@cryptolect I found a lot of surprisingly inexpensive studios in Manhattan, mostly in Harlem/Washington Heights/Inwood but also on the Upper East Side and Upper West Side, for around $1500/month. So someone making $60k would be able to pay for it without a guarantor. (That said, I ended up in a much larger 1 br in Queens for the same amount.)

cryptolect (#1,135)

@Mike Dang I guess that was a silly question, given the thrust of the article. I think I just have different standards for “affordable” because I don’t live in Manhattan. (Or, I don’t live in Manhattan because I have different standards for “affordable.”) Even if you’re making 60K, $1500 is almost a whole paycheck!

Mike Dang (#2)

@cryptolect Yes, and it’s a personal choice. Before I moved back to Manhattan, I had a two-bedroom apartment in Astoria, Queens for $1,400 a month. Which meant I could use one of the bedrooms as an office! Hello middle class! And I loved Astoria. But I moved for a number of reasons and am happy I did it and found a way to make it work.

Jimmy Kibble (#1,603)

@cryptolect I just want to direct you to my comment below in response to this.

Liz (#504)

@cryptolect what kind of crazy math is that?? Back in my salad days I made around $30k a year and my takehome was around $2,500 … now I live on a juuust above minimum-wage grad student stipend and I still make nearly $1500 a month (I’d make that much if I didn’t have to pay for health care.)

eagerber (#1,958)

I don’t live in Manhattan, but I live in a decent one bedroom apartment in DC, by myself. I’m 28 and spent the past 9 years living with roommates (1-4 roommates at any given time), and during that time, I saved alot of money, most of which went towards paying for grad school. I have a job that I love, but it pays on the lower end of these defined middle class wages. Because I live by myself in DC, I currently put half my month’s wages towards rent, which stings. But I also contribute a healthy portion of my income towards my 401(k), have almost finished paying off my car loan ($62 to go!), and have a manageable amount of student loan debt. I have one semester left til I have a master’s degree, so I may have an easier shot at upward mobility — but you never know.

I consider myself middle class because I can make donations to charitable organizations of my choosing, but I still work 2nd (and sometimes 3rd) jobs on the weekends, to make ends meet and to save towards things I want, such as travel. I have traveled to the west coast and back three times in the past two years (that ALL involved a lot of futon/couch sleeping), but I don’t spend money on trendy workout clothes (mine are really, really holey), manicures, or expensive hair products (coupons for shampoo all the way). I have a decent savings account, but occasionally I have to say “no” to eating out, or going to a certain concert, or whatever.

I guess I feel middle class mostly because I have the ability to make decisions about how I spend my money: I don’t worry about money, but I can’t afford NOT to worry about money either. I think that’s what being middle class boils down to, for me anyway.

ellabella (#1,480)

I’m making $40,000 in NYC and paying $1315/month in rent on the Upper West Side(splitting with one roommate). I feel comfortably middle class, even though more than half my take-home salary is going to rent. But I don’t have any debt and don’t have children/other significant financial responsibilities. I’m under 26, so I’m still on my father’s insurance. Also, my roommate and I both have our fathers on our lease as guarantors–we wouldn’t have been able to get our lease without that.

What I feel most conflicted about is the idea of “affordable rent.” I don’t feel at all put upon paying 50-60% of my income in rent because I made the choice to live in NYC and decided to pay a premium to live in a city that, for me, offers a high quality of living. I think it’s great that city living is becoming more appealing to people, and with that comes higher real estate. What responsibility, and for whom, do we have to make rent affordable? For people who have been living in an area for decades? For families? For people working desperately needed low income jobs (mostly in the service industry) in the city who often commute an hour and a half to get to their jobs? Is it really a professional necessity for freelance journalists/web designers/craftspeople to live in NYC? It may be for networking reasons. I’m not sure.

Mike, Logan, and others in similar positions, do you feel like you’re making a choice to live in New York and pay a premium for that, or do you feel like it’s a professional necessity?

E$ (#1,636)

@ellabella I feel that it’s a choice. For what I do, being in a city is helpful, but it didn’t HAVE to be New York. I chose to move here and I know someday the tradeoffs I make in order to live here will be too great and I will decide to move somewhere else. (For the record, $55k, Brooklyn, $975/month with roommates.)

It’s the people with “desperately needed low income jobs” as you say that I really worry about. I can commute for longer or stretch my budget tighter if I want to, say, stop living with roommates and strike out on my own. Someone making minimum wage at a deli can’t necessarily do that, yet we have to have delis.

@ellabella We should have more affordable rents for everybody, regardless of whether their profession/family meets your definition of somebody who “deserves” to live in a city. You could just as easily make the argument that poor recent immigrants shouldn’t be allowed to live in New York, but should instead move to smaller cities or suburbs where their pay will be roughly the same but their cost of living much lower. (Of course they don’t want to do that because their families, language communities, and personal networks are in the city). In fact, if we had to force people to justify whether their living in the city is a “professional necessity,” this is much more likely outcome than driving out lower-middle-class entry-level creative industry professionals.

Also bear in mind that rents are one of the most value-destroying features of our economy — in some ways they do help allocate space to the most economically efficient uses, but at extraordinary cost (economists use the term “rent seeking” to describe behavior that enriches individuals at the expense of the broader economy).

ellabella (#1,480)

@stuffisthings I agree with a lot of what you’re saying, and I think that poor recent immigrants moving to smaller cities/suburbs is exactly what we’re seeing right now in a lot of urban areas. Take the Bay Area, where minorities and immigrants live in smaller cities outside San Francisco.

But these conversations about rent being too high often dead-end with the argument everybody should have lower rent in cities. In reality: crappy public housing and 22 affordable micro-studios. In order to fix this, I think we need to start talking about what trade-offs we should be making to lower rents in urban centers. High city taxes on the wealthy? Subsidized housing–using the funds from taxes on the wealthy? Who gets subsidized housing, and how is it distributed to prevent “blighted” neighborhoods? Do we need to develop more urban centers, now that more people want to live in cities? Will creating more appealing urban centers just draw more healthy suburbanites into cities, leaving behind abandoned McMansions?

I’m curious about your last point, and trying to understand where take it. If rents are value-destroying, should more people be buying homes? Or are you using that as another point as to why people should have affordable housing? (I agree, but think it’s more interesting to discuss how we might get there.)

@ellabella The policy mix is different for different cities, but what works and how it works is fairly well understood by housing wonks. The problem is there isn’t much political commitment.

Interestingly, encouraging affordable housing doesn’t have to be “expensive” in the traditional sense, because demand is so high that city governments are essentially a floodgate holding back a huge tide of capital that wants to build in cities. Libertarianish economists like Matt Yglesias are convinced that this means all we have to do is eliminate all regulations, and indeed if Bloomberg said tomorrow “build whatever you want, wherever you want” you would probably see hundreds of thousands of units spring up across the city.

That’s not the right way to go, but smart use of this power can be used to exact concessions from people who want to build, in a way that creates something of a win-win situation. For instance, if the mayor of DC were to say “OK we’re going to allow somebody to build a 40-story tower of this plot of prime downtown real estate. But you have to build a public park and a metro station and your residents can’t own cars and also you have to build 500 units of affordable housing.” I guarantee you developers would be falling all over themselves to give the city whatever it wanted. (On a smaller scale this IS what DC is doing, which is why you see SIGNIFICANT affordable housing, and often even supportive housing for ex-homeless, attached to fancy new condo developments all over the city.)

Now there are a lot of other issues, NIMBYs and people on the left who don’t necessarily understand that bringing more high-end units can sometimes ease prices on the low end, and developers whose political connections matter more than the needs of low-income renters, and recalcitrant landlords, and land-bankers, and people who let buildings sit empty until the neighborhood improves enough to sell for condos, etc. etc. But there are a lot of smart ways for governments to channel the energies and resources of the private sector, if only they wanted to.

@stuffisthings One thing that SHOULDN’T be a part of this discussion, though, is what “kinds” of people “deserve” to live in cities. If your income is low enough that housing is a burden for you, you should be able to qualify for affordable housing; if you earn an average income for your area, you should be able to find housing on the market that doesn’t destroy your budget. It doesn’t matter whether than income comes from a “real” job like being a dockworker or firefighter*, or a “fake” job like social media or PR.

* Though some places subsidize housing for public workers, and I don’t think it’s a bad idea.

@ellabella Argh and I should clarify, rent paid for an apartment is not always what would be considered an economic rent — but often is. But investing in housing can also be economically destructive, obviously.

An interesting side note: most economists consider that a tax on the unimproved value of land is the only kind of tax that doesn’t distort the economy, and it also encourages dense, transit-oriented development while discouraging sprawl and speculation. It’s still considered a pretty fringe idea though, mostly because of practical issues.

ellabella (#1,480)

@stuffisthings Totally agree that incentivizing mixed-income housing is a very good idea and has worked successfully in many cases when it is actually implemented.

But doesn’t how we structure what constitutes an “low enough” income versus a “high enough” income impact what “kinds” of people get subsidized/less-expensive housing? Most notably having children or student debt.

@ellabella The standard definition is that you shouldn’t pay more than 30% of your income for housing. In fact I believe that’s what HUD uses, so in some wealthy counties like Marin you can qualify for (some) housing assistance with a household income of up to $80,000. Unfortunately that assistance is not an entitlement, like food stamps, but rather the opportunity to sit on a waiting list until Congress decides to appropriate more money to the program, so it’s not all that helpful. But if you forced landlords to A) accept all applicants who meet minimum rental criteria (i.e. have a job) and B) not charge them more than 30% of their income, they might be willing to take on lower-income entry level workers in hopes that they will start earning more money and thus pay more later on. This is how some subsidized social rental housing in France works.

I think it boils down to whether “middle class” is a prescriptive or descriptive label. If its prescriptive — being “middle class” means being able to afford to do X, Y, and Z — then it’s impossibly subjective. But if it simply describes the middle band of income in a place, it’s not at all hard to figure out.

Mike Dang (#2)

@stuffisthings Also, if you’re not aligning yourself with the middle class, that means you’re aligning yourself with the low-income/working class whose problems are starkly different (experiencing hardship when it comes to housing, food, health and child care, etc.).

@Mike Dang What I mean is, we should be saying things like “Why is it so hard for many people to afford housing and education on a middle class salary in 2013?” rather than “I still struggle to afford housing and education on $250k a year so I must be middle class.”

That sidesteps the problem of coming up with a universal definition of middle class, which is impossible. (For example, a “middle class” person in India might earn a couple thousand bucks a year and have a live-in servant but no car.)

That’s also why I think “the 1%” is rhetorical genius, because it is totally objective. If you are a member of the 1% you can’t really deny it, though I guess you could argue about what it means and how you’re spending $15,000 a month sending your five kids to the best private school in the country, or whatever. Maybe we can start calling average earners “the middle quintiles?”

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@Mike Dang I agree that traditional “middle class” type struggles, like “I make a bunch of money but half of it still goes to rent and I still can’t save anything” are different/less severe than traditional “working class” type struggles, i.e., “do I buy food or pay this medical bill this month?” However: I would call anyone who essentially lives paycheck to paycheck, and must support him/herself by working for someone else, “working class.” Someone who is a business owner/has inherited money/or for some other reason doesn’t need to work for a living, I would call middle class. Honestly, I consider myself a worker, not a bourgeois. It’s true that my salary is higher than that of most factory workers, but I still feel my interests are more aligned with other workers than with “owners,” not to get too Karl Marx here.

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@WaityKatie Which is to say, I suppose, that I view our class structure more as the 99 percent (workers) vs. the 1 percent (owners). There really is no proper “middle class” with distinct interests anymore.

Jimmy Kibble (#1,603)

I just want to say that I live in Manhattan on a salary of $25k a year, and feel middle class. I have a car, I eat out a couple of times a week, and I go out on weekends. I can afford to take vacations here and there. This seems like Im living pretty fucking comfortably in the middle class.

So how do I do it? No student loans and an incredible apartment. I pay $630/mo. And live in manhattan. Yeah, you heard me right. No, I don’t have a doorman and yes I live with roommates, but it works perfectly for us. So no, the rent is not necessarily too damn high.

@Jimmy Kibble You realize you’re very lucky, right?

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@Jimmy Kibble Yes! It can be done, even in Manhattan! But why on earth do you have a car?
My mom once told me that I do the most with the least amount of money better than anyone she has ever met. The best compliment I ever received.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@angry little raincloud Why is he lucky?

@josefinastrummer Finding a $630/month apartment that is not a disgusting cesspool sounds pretty damn lucky to me. I’ve lived in NYC on and off since 2004 and only managed rent that low once, and it was in Spanish Harlem with a roommate that was, shall we say, less than desirable. I paid $900, for a share, in Bushwick. I pay $900, for a share, in Harlem. (Yes, I could probably find something a little lower in Harlem, but it’s a nice spot.)

And not having student loans.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@angry little raincloud Define less than desirable. Some people have lower standards than others but that doesn’t mean it has to be a cesspool. Also, he said he has roommates. Maybe he has three or four? And sometimes good deals come up. I share a place with a friend in Philadelphia and I pay $450 a month, in a good neighborhood next to public transportation. Would everyone want to live there? No way. But it’s just right for us.

And hopefully he will come back to tell us if he has student loans. I agree that those private loans are awful and cost people way too much money. I still want to know why he has a car in the city!

@josefinastrummer Philadelphia is known for being cheaper than NYC.

According to most of my friends, I have lower standards than most.

Last apartment: I lived in a windowless room in Bushwick, with a loft bed. $900/month. I was desperate, as I was just moving back from another state to start a job and needed someplace pronto. Inertia meant I stayed longer than I should have. Had a roommate. There was a dog.

Gross apartment in Spanish Harlem ($625/month): lived with someone who I would call batshit crazy. Told me the night I moved in that my ice cream in the freezer might be a trigger for her, as she was a recovering anorexic, had tried to kill herself, etc. Called me randomly at work for no reason. She was disgusting: didn’t flush the toilet so I got to see bloody tampons. Lovely. Left open cans of tuna fish out in the summertime, so one time I came home and smelled something from the hallway and then discovered with horror that it was coming from my apartment. Etc etc. I lived there for 4 months. I’m not sure why I didn’t move out after the 2nd day.

When I was looking for someplace new last summer, a scan of friends and Craigslist revealed that I could find something decentish– a share, mind you– for $800 – $1000. Harlem, Bed-Stuy, Crown Heights. I went with Harlem for convenience to work and nicer places overall. I found no sub-$700 shares that met even my admittedly low standards.

@josefinastrummer And the poster mentioned he has no student loans. But still, I stand by $630 rent in any borough of NYC in a place you like with roommates you like is lucky.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@angry little raincloud Right on. I should learn to read better.
And yes, Philadelphia is cheaper than most big cities it seems. It doesn’t mean it’s cheap. Just cheaper than New York or L.A. or Boston.

Jimmy Kibble (#1,603)

@angry little raincloud I’m lucky for a lot of things in my life. Which do you want me to recognize publically for you?

Jimmy Kibble (#1,603)

@josefinastrummer the car is tricky, and I hate having it. I don’t use it ever, really. But I park on the street for free, and pay $50/mo. In insurance. I do it mostly for sentimental reasons, and realize that it has absolutely no practical value to me. I need to get over this.

And no, my apartment is not a cesspool. And yes, I live with two other people, who are some of my best friends in the world. It is an idyllic situation that I basically stumbled into. I am indeed very lucky, but not because somebody with no knowledge of my situation thinks so.

Jimmy Kibble (#1,603)

@angry little raincloud Hi. Um. Person over here who works too hard for this would like to speak up. Not having student loans has little to do with luck in my case. I went to a college that I could afford, took out minimal loans 5k/yr. paid down the principle while I was in school, and just finished them all a few months ago. I’m lucky to have parents who have me guidance and to have a job. Thanks, though.

@Jimmy Kibble But to say, “So no, the rent is not necessarily too damn high” tends to read as an indictment of all the people saying the rent is too high, as in, it is all bad choices or need for lavish lifestyles and doormen and whatever. Elsewhere you admit that you have “an idyllic situation that I basically stumbled into.” That’s luck, fortuitousness, whatever word you’d like to use, but not necessarily something open to every person in NYC making $25K in need of housing.

To be lucky isn’t a bad thing. But it’s good to recognize one’s luck as such.

(And your original post wasn’t necessarily an indictment of others choices, but it is one of those things other people could point to and say, “Look! He lives on $25K just fine in NYC. The rest of you stop your whining.”)

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@josefinastrummer Philadelphia is astoundingly cheap compared to the other two cities I’ve lived in (DC and NYC). And NYC is astoundingly expensive compare to either of those other two. There’s just no comparison. I agree that finding a $650 apartment in NYC, share or not, is amazingly lucky and this person should never give up that apartment! I just hate to see all these smug comments of “I have this amazingly cheap wonderful place to live, so why doesn’t everyone do that?” Everyone doesn’t do it because there are hardly any of those places available, and when someone gets one, if they’re smart they never leave!

Jimmy Kibble (#1,603)

@angry little raincloud I get that. But what I was trying to say, and still believe, is that low rent is not just a chance thing I came across. It is a lifestyle choice. Here, if you don’t believe me, check out this craigslist post for an apt much like mine. Its further north than most people go, but I’m in a wonderful neighborhood:

http://newyork.craigslist.org/mnh/fee/3566547185.html

Jimmy Kibble (#1,603)

@angry little raincloud I am, however, incredibly lucky to have such amazing friends and roommates. I tell them that all the time.

mishaps (#65)

The thing is, everyone defines their relative affluence by the people around them, and no one wants to think of themselves as rich. So they end up defining “middle class” up. “Oh, it’s middle class to send your kids to private school without a scholarship!” “Oh, it’s middle class to have a summer house!” Which, no. If you’re bringing in $235K, you are affluent, and so are your friends.

I make a good living, if well below 235K, and it’s an effort to remind myself that actual median income for my neighborhood is something like 60% of what I earn.

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