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The Middle Class, What is It?

Discussion in 'The OT' started by Rich, Oct 12, 2012.

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  1. Oct 13, 2012 #21 of 108
    veryoldschool

    veryoldschool Lifetime Achiever Staff Member Super Moderator DBSTalk Club

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    Maybe, of late, the middle class could now be called the "working poor".

    An old definition would have been living moderately well, as opposed to being "poor", or living lavishly well.

    $100k can be rich in one location and not in another when the cost of housing varies as much as it does.
     
  2. Oct 13, 2012 #22 of 108
    hdtvfan0001

    hdtvfan0001 Well-Known Member

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    Agree - quite true.

    You can live quite comfortably in parts of the U.S. on a $100,000 family income if you don't go overboard in debt....a home, a car, and decent (but not exorbitant) lifestyle.

    In other parts (like New York, much of California for example), that same income level is enough to "get by" and not a whole lot more than that.

    It's for that reason that using income levels (alone) to define "middle class" has been a myth, often used within political and other discussions.
     
  3. Oct 13, 2012 #23 of 108
    Rich

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    What kills me about that is the frequent cries for tradesmen. In the late '90s it seems a lot of big places stopped their apprentice programs to save money. Short sided thing to do. Now we don't have enough tradesmen in this country.

    That's another thing that surprised me when I started Googling about this. Never occurred to me that an upper middle class income would be so low.

    Yup, my friend the oral surgeon was determined to move to the San Francisco area about 20 years ago. He came back totally disheartened. Said he'd never be able to live as well there as he does in NJ. I thought that said a lot about the cost of living in CA.

    Rich
     
  4. Oct 13, 2012 #24 of 108
    Rich

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    I remember when credit cards started appearing and the warnings were all there from the get-go. Now it's so easy to bury yourself in debt it's almost criminal.

    Living in NYC is so expensive it's almost unimaginable. Little (one room with a bathroom) studio apartments go for over $3,000 a month.

    I get that and knew it when I started this thread. What I don't get is who the folks in office are talking about when they start in on the MC.

    Rich
     
  5. Oct 13, 2012 #25 of 108
    dsw2112

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    In my opinion it's just pandering and rhetoric. The "who" is whomever identifies with the words being spoken.
     
  6. Oct 13, 2012 #26 of 108
    AntAltMike

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    Middle class characters in prime time sit-coms can always somehow afford metropolitan apartments.
     
  7. Oct 13, 2012 #27 of 108
    veryoldschool

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    The management of this complex built this one and at least one other in Texas, back in the early '90s.
    This 800 sq ft, one bedroom, goes for over $2,300 to new renters and the exact same floor plan goes for $800 in their Texas complex. :eek2:
     
  8. Oct 13, 2012 #28 of 108
    James Long

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    True ... and although the examples that followed were money related it demonstrates that even if income is the guide the definition needs to be adjusted based on where the person lives.

    I like the dictionary's approach ... not picking a number but choosing a range between those with "nothing" (which would include the laboring class) and those with "everything".

    The numbers I provided were statistical and not based on mindset, dividing the population into equal thirds and labeling them lower, middle and upper. When economists talk about a growing middle class they ignore the statistical percentage of people at each level and define levels by other means.

    The classic definition of that group would be lower class ... but people don't want to be called that (there is pride). Perhaps that is why the "middle class" is growing to include people who are lower class.

    And yet the couple from Boston who purchased my in-laws former home in Indiana a couple of years ago could not believe the low price. Being in an area where the cost of living is lower takes the bite out of having a job that doesn't pay that well.

    The midwestern factory and farm workers probably should be considered lower class (although as noted above - people don't like that). Even the support workers who operate the technology that keeps the world running are basically wage slaves. Not exactly classic "middle class".
     
  9. Oct 13, 2012 #29 of 108
    phrelin

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    Substantive cultural divides exist in this country that make the meaning of income figures meaningless.

    For instance, statistically the census has designated a San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA Combined Statistical Area. Within that area are the Vallejo-Fairfield Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), the Santa Rosa-Petaluma MSA, and the Santa Cruz-Watsonville MSA. San Jose is a different culture than San Francisco. And Fairfield, Watsonville, and Petaluma are different from either and each other. IMHO the "Middle Class" experience in San Francisco is radically different from the "Middle Class" experience in Watsonville.

    And IMHO neither is very similar to the "Middle Class" experience in the Topeka, KS MSA.

    From the 1950's to the 1980's we had one common base in television entertainment, news, and sports. To use a sports analogy, Little League baseball as a focus didn't compete with the term soccer moms. But that really never created a common middle class from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon, from Detroit, Michigan, to Atlanta, Georgia. But we believed there was such a thing because we appeared to all share in "the good life." We listened to Tony Bennett sing, but didn't listen to the lyrics which warn "Well, just wake up, Kiss the good life, goodbye."
     
  10. Oct 13, 2012 #30 of 108
    veryoldschool

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    I'd say my point was more those that were living a molested "middle class" life, aren't anymore, and yet aren't on welfare or foodstamps as they still have a job, which hasn't had raises keeping up with the cost of living, so they moved to "the working poor" class.
     
  11. Oct 13, 2012 #31 of 108
    James Long

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    That is why I called it a "classic" definition ... I would not consider those people to be middle class. Keeping it simple for the purpose of this thread, I stuck with upper, lower and middle classes. Dividing the country into a dozen classes from "homeless" to "uber-rich" just adds to the confusion.

    In keeping with the definition of "average person" ... a person who is middle class is average. Is the average person on welfare or food stamps? If so welcome them to the middle class (in that respect).

    I would NOT use employment as the line between lower and middle classes. Nor would I use assistance from others (government or charity). I would look for the middle - and then decide how wide to go.

    The "middle class" most people push is not really the middle ... it is more of a concept of "life is good but it could be better" expanding the upper class to being a top 40% where "life is good enough" (even though anyone could still want better) and reducing the lower class to a lower 20%-25% where "life isn't good".

    It is a compliment to America that most people are living above the average - that more people are above the middle - but statistically it presents a problem.
     
  12. Oct 13, 2012 #32 of 108
    veryoldschool

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    I guess we all have our own definitions.
    I grew up in a town that had three classes and it was easy to see upper, middle, and lower class neighborhoods.

    Those now living in the same neighborhoods that were "middle class" back then, are well above that now.
    Those the "used to" live in those neighborhoods, can't anymore.
     
  13. Oct 13, 2012 #33 of 108
    Nick

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    I think 'class' in America is as much a social construct as it is an economic one. The trailer trash, low-morals nere-do-well who wins the lottery big-time and is suddenly *rich* doesn't suddenly or automatically become a member of the upper-class by virtue of his new-found wealth.

    Also, as a yout, I recall the term 'upper middle class' being used, perhaps implying there was a 'lower' middle class.
     
  14. Oct 13, 2012 #34 of 108
    veryoldschool

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    I think that may be because at the time, upper class was "old money", so upper middle class would be those "doing well" for themselves.
     
  15. Oct 13, 2012 #35 of 108
    James Long

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    And today some are saying the middle class goes all the way up to the top 2%.
    Perhaps it does ... if the only other categories are dirt poor and uber-rich.

    Then divide "middle class" into upper, lower and middle middle class ... call the middle middle class "middle class" and I'd probably agree with the income ranges.

    Lower Class ... Lower Middle Class ... Middle Class ... Upper Middle Class ... Upper Class.
     
  16. Oct 13, 2012 #36 of 108
    wilbur_the_goose

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    Excellent point. My mother grew up during the Great Depression, and her father passed away in 1940-ish. Left her mom and four kids. They ended up moving to the projects, but they never lost their sense of middle class. They kept up their apartment as if it was their own, they kept their heads up, and led life as best as they could. A real hero story to me.

    That mindset helped our family. In 1964, my dad was out of work for a year (no unemployment) with three kids and my mom, who couldn't get a job. We lived day to day and usually shared a can of corned beef for dinner (we won a case in a raffle). But we never thought we were "poor", although in retrospect, we probably were.

    Likewise, growing up, my dad worked for NY State (good job in info. technology) with four kids (one was a late surprise). Mom never worked. Looking back, we didn't have anything material of note, but we NEVER wanted for anything. Again, we never lost our sense of being in the middle class.

    I'm 50+ now, and make a pretty good living (IT Security). My wife and I are members at a nice country club, and we've played some of the best courses in the country. But I'm still firmly middle class - I'm in the townhouse I bought for <$130K in 1993, I drive a 7 year old BMW and a 6 year old Honda Civic. We never eat out at "nice" restaurants, and we carry essentially no debt.

    Last point - I know a guy that may be one of the richest men in Pennsylvania. He has one helluva home, but he's definitely a cheapie like me. Old money is often very frugal and often leads a "middle class" lifestyle.
     
  17. Oct 13, 2012 #37 of 108
    Cholly

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    With three kids to put in college and no financial aid, I quickly ran through my life's savings and had to refinance out home in NY twice. My wife was a dental hygienist and had to quit her job due to a latex allergy. When I took early retirement, I worked as a church custodian for a few years, then worked part time in retail. A year after my wife died, I sold my home at a very good profit and moved here in NC, where I share a nice home with my oldest son and family. I was able to pay off an interest only loan that we got sucked into, and am comfortably living on what is probably a lower middle class income from pension and social security while paying a share of the monthly bills.
     
  18. Oct 13, 2012 #38 of 108
    Nick

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    I've often heard it said that 'poor' is more of a state of mind -- one can be 'broke' financially without necessarily being 'poor'.
     
  19. Oct 14, 2012 #39 of 108
    Rich

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    I've been in a lot of Manhattan apartments and they look nothing like what you see on TV. Those apartments you see in shows would be so expensive no MC person could afford one unless it was rent controlled. Just look at all the folks leaving the City after work. They won't pay those high rents even if they can. Just on my 4 house court two families have men who commute to NYC every day. Even that costs a fortune, but it's still cheaper than an apartment in the City.

    Rich
     
  20. Oct 14, 2012 #40 of 108
    AntAltMike

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    Middle class characters in prime time crime dramas living in rent controlled apartments get murdered by greedy landlords who can't convert their buildings into condos until they are free of tenants.
     
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