Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Counting Classes (ABC Poll)

ABC News released a poll about how financially stressed the middle class is feeling. Asking people what class they are is always a tricky business. Americans will readily accept "middle class" as a designation, but are more resistant to labels that move away from that middle. Yet, logically and empirically, if there is a middle there must be a bottom and a top. What ABC hit upon was this: "Would you describe yourself as working class, middle class, upper middle class, or better off than that?"

Generally, if you give Americans three class choices - lower, middle, upper - 80%+ will choose middle. If you offer "working class" as an option, the middle group splits into "working" and "middle" halves. This poll adds the not-very-compromising "upper middle," plus the helpful euphemism "better 0ff than that" to draw out at least a few of the actually rich. They did not offer a "worse off than that" option for the actually poor. So what did they get?

Better off than that: 3%
Upper-middle: 11
Middle: 45
Working: 36
- and another 2% volunteered "Worse off than that."

The average income for the middle groups seems pretty realistic to me:
Upper- middle: $95,000
Middle: $55,00
Working: $35,000

This seems to me a good snapshot of the self-perception of a middle-class nation.

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