Sunday, November 12, 2017

The American Middle Class and Class Identity

I'm prepping for my SOC 101 course tomorrow, looking at a Pew resource about the middle class in America.

In terms of who is middle income, it's determined by household income and size of household, depicted here:

The Pew report states: "The hollowing of the American middle class has proceeded steadily for more than four decades. Since 1971, each decade has ended with a smaller share of adults living in middle-income households than at the beginning of the decade, and no single decade stands out as having triggered or hastened the decline in the middle."

As Philip Cohen has observed on his Family Inequality Blog, there's been a rise in the percentage of people describing themselves as "lower class." Here he applies data from the General Social Survey, focusing on the question which asks: "If you were asked to use one of four names for your social class, which would you say you belong in: the lower class, the working class, the middle class, or the upper class?"

You can go to his post to see how he shows the decline in percentage of people describing themselves as middle-class.

He makes a good point in saying that the 2016 election heightened awareness of the "working class," a phrase often used as shorthand for "white working class." Here's my related observation: think of all the times you've heard the phrase "white working class" in the past few years. I hear it constantly. How often, if ever, have you heard the phrase "black working class" used by media in the past few years? Or "working class people of color," or something like that?

I've got a lot of prep ahead of me for class, but just wanted a share a few things I'll be using to talk with my students about income distribution and trends in how people identify their social class.

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