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Thread: Middle Class

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
    May 2003
    Northwestern Ohio

    Middle Class

    I searched the archives in an attempt to locate the "ultimate" middle class thread.....to no avail. We have enjoyed threads that touched on different aspects of middle class, as a topic. But no real thread that just explores that subject.

    The politicians (of all stripes) carry on with endless comments about their plans, their proposals, their change.....and how those things will help the middle class. Seems that the definition of middle class is somewhat stretched.

    What's the income level of middle class? Does income even matter, if so much of our lifestyles are based on borrowed money? Is it the location of their home? Does a 2-income family living in a poor neighborhood qualify? Perhaps the choices they make in lifestyle award them middle class status. Soccer moms, middle class?

    What about education level? Home ownership? Rifle rack in the back window of your one-ton Chevy? Or, you meet the definition if you plop your axx in front of the TV night after night, remoting through the babble that is commercial TV.

    This Bear is stumped.

    I always considered myself middle-class. That wasn't meant to be a put-down of the friends I had who were from "the other side of the tracks" or the workmates who struggled to compose a simple sentence. (Hey, I haven't written a simple sentence since the Russians shot off their first H-bomb.)

    My parents were not well-to-do.....we lived in what is now the inner city of Toledo until the mid-1950s. We moved to west Toledo.....brick ranch, you know the type, Jewish neighbors (friendly as hexx), whiffle-ball regularly played on the paved street. Things were going well for Pops and we had a nice "middle class" life. Cue Wally and the Beav.

    My dad's business died (with a government closure of a huge defense plant that he ran the food service for). We lost our house, went from new cars to used cars. College became something that I had to pay for....the parents struggled after that. But we always considered outselves middle class.

    If I own a home in a suburb and a cottage on a lake, am I still middle class? If my income is well above poverty level but I am putting my kids through college, leaving me with nearly empty pockets, am I still middle class? If my income is at or below recognized poverty levels but I do well with what I have, thank you, am I still middle class?

    I remain perplexed. What is middle class?

    Before I give the official "what say you?", let me ask that we refrain in this thread from excessive bashing of whomevers, whatevers, Democrats, Republicans, left-leaners, right-leaners, FDR, LBJ, Reagan, Bush, big corporations. Not looking for the WHY.....looking for WHO (as in a description of).

    OK.....what say you?

    Occupy Cyburbia!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Zoning Goddess's avatar
    Sep 1999
    400 miles from Orlando
    I think I'm middle class because I had a viable college degree (in Geography) and had a 3/2 home and a kid in private school, at least thru grade 5 (on 34-45k a year). Watching the $$, incremental advances at the job, no extraneous cash for trips or perks because I was paying for private school..

    As opposed to my upbringing which included membership in the biggie country club in Orlando and the tennis club in Winter Park, and tuition at the major private prep school, forced ballroom dance lessons in 8th grade, etc.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
    Mar 2004
    Where the weak are killed and eaten.
    I must not be middle class. I watched the debates and saw Sen McCain look frustrated when he said "but the other guy wants to pay for his tax breaks by increasing taxes for families that make over $250,000 a year!" I think of $250,000 a year as a lot of cash. If the good Senator from AZ defines $250,000 as being close to poverty. I'm in trouble and living in poverty.

    I live in the ghetto. The house next door to mine has had a fire and I have no idea who the abentee landlord is. I tried to find this out, but he had all the tax bills sent to the house (which was a rental). I do however have a vacation house near a lake too. I can't see selling either house. Its not like I am attached to either, its just that the market sucks so bad that you can't sell. If the market was halfway decent the house next door would have been fixed by now, but now its just an eyesore.

    I grew up in the ghetto as well. My father had a good job, but spent a large chunk of his income on sending his kids to Catholic Schools because he knew that if he could not get us through at least high school, we would have no chance. I bought the house on the lake largely for my parents who dreamed to have such a place, but could not. Growing up this way, I have always been overly concerned with my debts and try to live without any. I could never be middle class. My ethics, fears, and background would never allow me to be comfortable driving a new car or living in a fancy house in the burbs. I could make a million dollars a year and not be comfortable unless I was giving it away to those I could make a difference in their lives.

    Middle-class must be a false life, a Potemkin Village type of existence.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Richmond Jake's avatar
    Aug 2001
    Jukin' City
    I am middle class and always have been. My dad retired as postmaster. Mom was a stay-at-home housekeeper.

    Me? Public schools all the way through. Totally middle class career gov't worker.

    BTW, ZG was born with a silver spoon in her mouth.

    You know my biggest concern and worry? My sons won't do as well as me. I know they work hard, but the opportunities won't be there for them.
    Last edited by Richmond Jake; 29 Sep 2008 at 10:25 PM. Reason: sons thought
    Annoyingly insensitive

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Zoning Goddess's avatar
    Sep 1999
    400 miles from Orlando
    Quote Originally posted by RichmondJake View post
    I am middle class and always have been. My dad retired as postmaster. Mom was a stay-at-home housekeeper.

    Me? Public schools all the way through. Totally middle class career gov't worker.

    BTW, ZG was born with a silver spoon in her mouth.
    WAS NOT. Had to work a job from when I turned 16. Worked thru college. OK, Dad tried to tempt me with Harvard Law, but I said NO. I paid for graduate school myself.

  6. #6
    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
    Dec 2005
    Wishing I were in Asia somewhere!
    Blog entries
    My family was middle class until my parents divorced, then it was just me and my mom and she barely made above minimum wage. To this day I do not know how she made it all work.

    I was middle class when I was married...we earned just shy of 100K combined, had a house, a new car and an older car, took an annual vacation, had money in the bank. That ended when I got divorced but I still managed a healthy 50K in the South where the money went far.

    Then I moved to NJ and became a grad student which is a double whammy. Despite earning 40K from my various endeavors we barely make it, have no room for error, and have no savings. This place sucks money out of you like there is no tomorrow. The median household income where I live was 73K in 2006 I'm quite poor in comparison.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  7. #7
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
    Mar 2007
    Lowering the PCI in the Hills
    Maybe it's just the nerdy demographer in me but when I think of Middle Class I want to be able to define that segment of the population with a quantifiable figure so I have always thought of the middle class as somebody making the median income (whether it be a household or a couple or a single person) or maybe roughly within a 10% or 20% range (either up or down) of the median income for their particular geography.

    I don't think there are many people out there who seriously consider there to be anything offensive about calling one a member of the Middle Class and in my opinion, it seems like folks who are earning substantially more than the median income in their area (I mean those making upwards of four or five times the median) still associate themselves with the Middle Class because they fear appearing as out-of-touch.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  8. #8
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
    Feb 2004
    on my 15 minute break
    Middle class. Just want to add something to the discussion. Not only is the term middle class indicative of a level of income, but often certain cultural values as well. The Beverly Hillbillies were funny because they were not upper class people, they just had a lot of money.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  9. #9
    Cyburbian ofos's avatar
    Jul 2006
    Slightly Off-Center
    If you don't need to work, you're rich. If you have to work and you don't have a job, you're poor. If you know you're not rich and you know you're not poor, then you must be Middle Class.
    “Death comes when memories of the past exceed the vision for the future.”

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Plus JNA's avatar
    Jun 2003
    De Noc
    Just your ordinary average middle class now.

    For several years I was poor -
    no savings, no benefits, everything I owned fit in my car, working minimum wage and with a college degree.
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)

    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Fat Cat's avatar
    Nov 2006
    Rockwood, MI

    Fat Cat

    Never gave it much thought
    Grew up in a rural area, everything was paid for in cash, when it broke, you fixed it
    Went in the military out of high school
    After the military, have mostly lived and worked in metro areas
    Went to college on VA
    First house - VA
    Held down two jobs and Mrs Katt worked to put our children through school
    Drive a ten year old car. A little two comlicated for me to much work except for very basics like bulb and filter replacement
    Saw another former coworker in the obits today
    Just glad to be alive and healthy and that my family is the same
    So I guess I still dont know what middle class is
    Because of what I do for a living I do not discuss politics or party preference

  12. #12
    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
    Oct 2003
    A Dog in a Hat
    My family transitioned from lower class to middle class as I grew up. For the first 5 years of my life I had two parents who worked an average of 1 full time job (my mom stayed home with me or worked as a teacher and my dad worked part time while going through seminary). I later found out we qualified for food stamps but my mom would not take them. When I was 5 we moved, bought a house, and both parents got full time jobs. We were comfortable through my teenage years...usually had used cars but still owned the house we lived in...when I was probably 13 or 14 my dad bought what I believe was our first new car.

    I think my parents always tried to live the dream and act like we were middle class but it wasn't till I was in college (my parents paid tuition and I funded the rest through student loans [you could actually get one back then] and part time jobs) that I found out how in debt my parents were. We're talking well over $10k on credit cards. I never realized it. When my mom quit teaching and moved into working for a medical office, she cashed out her teacher retirement, which magically disappeared.

    My parents divorced about 5 years ago (both in their mid 50s) and my mom is just now getting out of debt. She bought a new car about 3 years ago and rents an apartment. I make more in my first full time job than she has ever made (including adjusting for inflation, I would assume) in her life. My dad has either improved his position or remains to hide his debt well. Both parents were always "there for me" financially...if I ever went broke in college, my dad would always be able to send me a couple hundred bucks for food and rent...but when I look back, I think things were always sort of on the brink.

    Today, coming from my childhood of "middle class" and considering the income my wife and I have, I would consider ourselves upper middle class...but we might just be middle class by everyone else's standards. But as I make alone more than my parents made combined when they were my age, I feel like I am pretty wealthy. Don't get me wrong, we don't have much in savings (well, not after we bought a house last month) but I know that if I didn't spend as frivilously as I do, that I would really be pretty well off. So, my profile:

    Married, mid 20s, two dogs, no kids. Own a 1200 sqft house and two cars (both purchased used). Make in the close to but sub 100k range combined and have about as much in savings as I have in credit card debt...however, I don't usually carry a balance on credit and we usually have more in savings, but the financials are all out of whack due to the house buying thing. Have started a 401k, but it doesn't have that much in it at the moment.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian craines's avatar
    Dec 2006
    Los Angeles, California
    Middle class is too broad of a term..............here in los angeles we break down middle class into three segments.....Upper, Middle and Lower Middle Class.

    I grew up Middle, Middle and am still am middle middle despite having a a household income of $150,000. Our House is Valued at $750k (down $100k from 6 months ago) and we live in a neighborhood much like my parents like my parents did only that the next door neighbor dosen't work for boeing but is a stay at home computer consultant or studio technician or bit actor. the other neighbor is a drag queen who does a show at the a drag club in hollywood.

    Its getting a bit weird.
    Looking for Sanity
    In this Crazy Land Of Ours

  14. #14
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
    Jul 2003
    Down by Dun Ringill
    Blog entries
    I would say I have been middle-class most of my life. My family (meaning my mom, dad and siblings) has never wanted for anything. My dad was an attorney and my mom had money from her family's agricultural businesses. We always had a nice place to live, could travel modestly and never wanted for anything. My mom paid for our education - from kindergarten (though I went straight to first grade) through college. We were probably upper middle class.

    When I got out on my own, I struggled sometimes, but still again I had a decent car, could rent a place to live, and had disposable income much of the time. I was probably lower middle class in my twenties and thirties.

    Once I became a planner I was solidly middle-class. I own my house (mostly the bank owns it but I get to live in it), have two cars (one is a beater), have money socked away for my retirement, a student loan payment with a few years to go, got a few credit cards to pay off too, and my family (wife, son and me) we have enough, though not always plenty.

    I make less money than my brothers, but more than my sister. We are doing okay in the midstream.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  15. #15
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
    Mar 2004
    Where Valley Fever Lives
    Blog entries


    How about checking this site out?

    Take a look at the William Thompson & Joseph Hickey, 2005 portion of the table. It seems reasonable to me:


    If you can believe anything on Wikipedia
    "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."
    John Kenneth Galbraith

  16. #16
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
    May 2005
    The Fox Valley
    Blog entries
    At the end of the day, I'm a person and an American, and I don't prescribe to classifying myself by how much money I make.
    Last edited by illinoisplanner; 30 Sep 2008 at 11:35 PM. Reason: didn't see the anti-politics disclaimer
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
    -Steven Tyler

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