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Thread: Classes in America

  1. #1
    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
    Feb 2004
    Chicago, IL

    Classes in America

    While the government has a definition for what constitutes the lower class. Poverty has a government defintion. Most people in this country of course would say they're in the middle class. The middle class itself can be divided into lower or "working" class, middle-middle class and an upper middle class. Of course then there is the upper class which is quite small and comprises business leaders, entertainment stars, etc.

    The question I have here is whether or not their is an official defintion for each of these classes, or least a popular one. A while back I recall reading about what it would take to live an upper middle class lifestyle in different regions of the U.S. Their defintion of middle class involved homes costing close to $1,000,000, vacation homes, fairly new luxury cars, and more. By this defintion the upper middle class would comprise a very small portion of America. Certainly the different classes are not divided into equal numbers. The upper class is certainly not the upper third of society. I would be surprised if it even equaled one percent.

    Anyways, just wondering how Cyburbians viewed the economic classes and how they would break them down.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
    Apr 2005
    Southern Antarctica
    For a single adult individual, living alone - as measured by annual income, I would define class thusly (off the top of my head):

    1. $0-$10,000 poor
    2. $10,000-$20,000 working class
    3. $20,000-$30,000 lower middle class
    4. $30,000-$45,000 middle class
    5. $45,000-$65,000 upper middle class
    6. $65,000-$90,000 lower upper class
    7. $90,000-$120,000 upper class
    8. $120,000-$160,000 upper upper class
    9. $160,000+ wealthy

    Obviously, these ranges would have to be stretched a bit if you're talking about raising a family $40,000 is quite comfortable for a single person, but if you have 3 kids, let alone an unemployed spouse, then $40,000 would probably be like upper working class.

    With considerably more time to spend on this than I'm willing to right now, this type of analysis would be much more meaningful with data showing the income distribution for the population as a whole and how it breaks out into this or any other means of defining class boundaries.

    Edit: As PlannerGirl pointed out below - if you're living in a dense big city such as Manhattan, San Fran, Chicago, Boston, DC, etc., these ranges would also have to be stretched quite a bit. But then again, a large apartment in Manhattan is considered tiny most everywhere else. That's why, I think it's easier to define weath in terms of income, than in terms of posessions. Lots of upper middle class people have mortgages on houses in suburbia of a size that not even the filthiest rich live in Manhattan. It's definitely relative.
    Last edited by dobopoq; 27 Feb 2006 at 3:12 PM.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
    Mar 2005
    Clayobyrne, CB
    Surprisingly, I find your numbers to be agreeable. Many in American overestimate the numbers required to be part of the "upper class."

    In HS, we once had an intense conversation regarding what constituted "upper middle/upper class." I along with another guy, who also grew up in a working class household and neighborhood, agreed that an in-ground swimming pool was a sure sign of upper middle-/upper-classdom. Meanwhile, our other friend, who likely had a swimming pool at home, argued that a swimming pool was not a sign of upper-classdom, but simply an average/middle class possession.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Plus PlannerGirl's avatar
    Mar 2002
    That is pretty location driven, in many parts of the DC metro area a single person making $50,000 can qualify for low income homes
    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin

    Remember this motto to live by: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'WOO- HOO what a ride!'"

  5. #5
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
    Apr 2003
    Philadelphia, PA
    I think you account for regional differences by looking at things on a regional level.

    The median houshold income in WV is around $30k a year.
    In MD it's around $55k a year.

    Here's a good table of income distribution. It's almost 10 years old but income has only skewed more towards the upper end. Real wages for the bottom 60% are stagnant (they've actually been stagnant for men since 1971 with all wage gains being made by women)


  6. #6
    A few stats (from the US Census):

    Median Family Income in 2004: $44,389

    Poverty level for a family of 4 (wiith 2 children): $19,806

    Percent in poverty 12.7%

    Number in poverty: 37 million

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Random Traffic Guy's avatar
    Jul 2005
    Lone Star State
    Only 2 classes in the US:

    1. Productive

    2. Unproductive

  8. #8
    Jan 2003
    Santiago, Chile
    I hate economics class subdivision.... it's annoying as hell. You may add all the parameters you want, but you'll end with something so complex that it's useless. So either you have an overgeneralized lower middle and upper class, or overcomplicate things and subdivide it too much.

    I hate trying to fit people into groups... must be because I don't fit in anywhere...

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