What is considered middle class in the United States? It probably depends on where you live. Kim Kardashian would see the word “middle class” and think it’s a middle seat in first class on an airplane. We know better. Middle class is something entirely different.
The cost of living is so different in some places compared to others that even people who truly do belong to the middle class would have a different perception depending on their location. Middle class in New York City is much different than the middle class in rural Kentucky. That’s because a $50,000 a year salary in Kentucky can probably have you feeling like the descendant of royalty. In the Big Apple, the closest thing to royalty you’ll feel is visiting a Burger King while in Queens.
From the sources I’ve looked at, the middle class does have a wide range. It starts at about a little over $50,000 per year in a household of three or fewer people. It can go as high as $155,000 per year for a family of about the same size.. After around $155,000, you’re considered upper class when there aren’t any more than two children and a pair of parents. I’m sure families making $160,000 a year don’t often feel upper class. It’s a good number but things are expensive.
These numbers confirm Jenny and I are very middle class and kind of stuck there. The range is wide enough where one of us could lose our job and we’re not considered lower class despite a much tighter budget. We can even add another member to our family and be considered middle class. Anyone out there looking to be adopted into a middle class life? Our couch does pull out and we don’t snore loudly–most nights.
If $50K all of the way up to $150K is considered middle class, why does it constantly feel like we’re much closer to the bottom than the top? We can’t be alone in feeling like middle class isn’t so middle.
Middle class in America doesn’t feel what we thought the middle should
Jenny would have a different perspective on middle class lifestyle than me because she grew up in another country. Nevertheless, I think she can agree that the middle class has its problems. Many of us think of the middle class as mostly worry-free with the occasional unexpected emergency to put a dent in our savings. The truth couldn’t be further from this. Middle class has its struggles and it goes beyond a weak WiFi connection.
There’s this false sense that the middle class should be safe but not overly prestigious. At least that’s the way I grew up thinking about it. Middle class families on TV were able to go on vacations and find ways to solve any financial issues through crazy schemes. Maybe I spent too much time watching The Simpsons and much less of it paying close attention to my own family’s money issues.
The middle class does actually make more money than ever. There’s a catch. We also seem to have many more expenses. The internet is a necessity for almost everyone at this point. Jenny and I work from home and it’s an expense required to have this benefit.
We need cell phones to communicate because it’s just not practical to rely solely on a landline you can’t bring with you everywhere. Payphones are non-existent. You have to pay money and often a lot of it just to belong in today’s world.
The middle class mentality may not have changed all that much. Our needs, however, have increased.
The middle class is changing
Within the middle class, there are also levels like upper-middle-class and lower-middle-class which seems to suggest some people within this range are better off than others. Is it strictly salary or lifestyle based? If it’s income that determines it, would a single penny more or less make a difference?
Middle class is simply a label. It’s an inaccurate one, too. I consider myself middle class because I have the money for my needs without those extra luxury items like a new car, prestigious memberships, or extra guacamole on a sandwich.
Naturally, the middle class tends to be the most common classification of people in the country. That’s because the financial measure is an average and many of us are within that reasonable range of $50K to about $155K per year.
Those benefits of being in the middle class we were taught to believe in don’t really exist. We have the same money worries as everyone else. We might just have better means to afford to fix them than those in the lower class. Compared to the upper class, we have to set aside far more of those items that become wants.
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