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What does it mean to be middle class?

Posted: February 24, 2016 3:10 a.m.
Updated: February 24, 2016 3:10 a.m.
Sam Turner/

Are you middle class? What does it mean to be middle class, and should it affect how you vote?

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Middle class, middle class, middle class. Everyone is talking about the middle class.

Though more popular among Democrats than Republicans, every major candidate from both parties has mentioned the middle class in their speeches and debates.

They want to expand the middle class. They want to help the middle class. They want to cut their taxes, raise their wages, and increase their quality of life.

But "middle class" is more than just a political buzzword, used to catch voters' attention long enough to push a political platform.

What is the middle class?

Perhaps more accurately described as "middle income," the middle class is a political designation of people within a certain income range. According to Pew research, the middle class have an annual household income between two-thirds and double the national median income.

Are you middle class?

This middle-class calculator from CNN will tell you based on your region, or use this middle-class calculator from Pew, which accounts for household size.

The middle class is shrinking

According to a recent study by Pew Research Center, the middle class has shrunk significantly in the past four decades. Now only 50 percent of Americans are middle class, an 11 percent drop from 1971.

Poor and upper classes are, in turn, increasing in number, meaning a greater divide between rich and poor.

The middle class is dissatisfied

A new study from Pew shows that most Americans don't think the government is doing enough to help the middle class.

According to the study, 62 percent of people beleive that the federal government "does not do enough" to help the middle class, 29 percent say that it does the "right amount," and 6 percent say that it does "too much."

Among wealthy people, however, 61 percent said that they thought the federal goverment did "too much" to help the middle class.

Pew also looked at which class people thought political parties favored: 62 percent thought that the Republican party favors the rich. Respondents were divided on what class the Democrats favor.

What does the middle class want?

Pew did not ask specifically what the middle class wants the government to do to help them, but they did say that the top issues for the middle class are terrorism and the economy.

When Barack Obama began his presidency, he started a task force to raise the living standards of middle class families.

These are the task force's goals:

  • Expand education and lifelong training opportunities.
  • Improve work and family balance.
  • Restore labor standards, including workplace safety.
  • Help protect middle-class and working-family incomes.
  • Protect retirement security.


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