A higher percentage of Americans are choosing to identify as working or lower class, even if they earn what is considered a middle-class income.
Business Insider and Pew aren’t suggesting that a middle class income means you can afford a comfortable life, or a life free from financial worry, or even a decent apartment. In this report, “middle class” just desginates that you are earning a certain percentage of the state’s median income.
I recently traveled through parts of the Canadian Maritime provinces. As an American, I found the economic equanimity there almost jolting; there seemed to exist a vast and comfortable middle class, with little evidence of poverty or great wealth.
It also felt vaguely familiar. Then I recollected: This was the America I grew up in, in the 1960s.
In the Times, Nelson Schwartz looks at the erosion of the middle class via indicators in the business world—stores like Loehmann’s, J.C. Penney, and Sears and restaurants like Red Lobster and Olive Garden have declined in the past few years while businesses like Barneys which sell high-end goods, and bargain basement chains like Dollar Tree have seen gains on opposite ends:
Charts! We love them. We’ve talked a lot about how low wage jobs have overwhelmingly replaced the mid-wage jobs lost during the financial crisis. Data from the National Employment Law Project shows this, and new data from Goldman Sachs and the Department of Labor also supports this. More importantly the Goldman Sachs reports shows that the “hollowing out in the middle is real, it is not unique to the post-crisis period,” which means that we can’t just blame this on the financial crisis—there has been rapid growth in the low-wage sector since the booming ’90s.
Atlantic Cities looks at the metro areas in the U.S. where homes are least affordable for middle class families (or families earning the median income in the area)—San Francisco being the worst, according to an analysis by real estate site Trulia. New York, of course, also makes it near the top of the list, but New York is a city of renters (and I imagine San Francisco is one too). Where is the housing stock most affordable for median earners? Cities in Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan make the list, which you can see in full below.
Robert Reich, the secretary of labor from 1993 to 1997 and a professor of public policy at UC-Berkeley, recently met with one of his mentors, a veteran activist in his 80s who witnessed the struggle for civil rights in the 1960s, and is continuing to fight for social justice and economic inequality. Reich’s mentor, who isn’t named, believes that inequality will diminish as demographics shift and women gain more economic power. Hopefully, it won’t take 50 more years for that to happen.
Francis Fukuyama’s Saturday essay in WSJ examined the rise of the new global middle class and what they’re doing to challenge the status quo. “It would be a grave mistake to think, ‘It can’t happen here,'” Fukuyama, a fellow at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, warns.