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What Is Middle Class?

April 21st, 2008 · 5 Comments

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Last week, after Charlie Gibson’s assertion in the last debate that people earning $200,000 a year qualified as middle class, I got into a discussion with my fellow travelers about what exactly you’d earn to qualify as middle class.

Then I saw this article in yesterday’s NYTimes about the $20-an-hour wage and how it’s now a thing of history.

The article states quite simply that

$41,600 annually […] many experts consider the minimum income necessary to put a family of four into the middle class.

When I was a kid, I was under the impression that $60,000 a year made you almost rich. I’m definitely not under that impression anymore. I wonder how a family of four can even make it on $41,600 a year these days.

Just curious… what salary do you guys think means middle class these days? Hit me up in the comments.

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Tags: My Commenters Iz Smarter Than Me

  • Joy

    I missed it but I heard about it over the weekend. These days and times, I have no idea. Those that were once swimming in wealth are now struggling just like I am. However, I do wonder what now qualifies as “middle class.”

  • Brian

    Yeah. Me too. I think for the last couple of years people got an inflated sense of wealth because they were suddenly able to purchase $400k houses. And before that, because their 401ks went up like 80% a year. But we know how that has turned out.

  • Willy

    It depends where you live. One of the ridiculous things about the way the Federal Government classifies people by income is that the cost of living varies so much by region in this country.

    200k a year probably puts you in the middle class (although still upper middle class) here in Connecticut, while in many other places in the country it would make you downright rich.

  • Patricia Robb

    The definition of middle class is over taxed.

    …you make too much to qualify for tax credits, but not enough to qualify for tax benefits.

  • Pablo Honey

    People can make a lot of money and still live paycheck-to-paycheck, so perhaps that is the thinking behind a $200k income being “middle class”. If this hypothetical $200k family were up to its ears in debt due to car payments, a large mortgage, daycare, private schools, shopping sprees and various other wants/needs, I could see how they wouldn’t “feel” wealthy, even if they gave the appearance of wealth.

    Paradoxically, if they lived below their means and tucked away the savings into the bank (i.e. lived in a 2000 sq ft home instead of 4000, drove a Honda CR-V instead of a Range Rover, etc), they would appear “middle-class”, even though in reality it’d greatly increase their net worth.