National Edition

Who belongs to the middle class? People like me

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 1 2013 12:05 p.m. MDT

While only 13 percent of U.S. citizens earn more than $100,000, they pay 87 percent of the nation’s income tax, according to a report by the Tax Foundation.

Jacquelyn Martin, Associated Press

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Americans are inclined to think that those who make about the same money as they do are "middle class," according to a recent poll from the Wall Street Journal and NBC News.

Among households earning $40,000 to $50,000, 48 percent defined middle-income as within their own income bracket. Fifty percent of those earning $50,000 to $75,000 said their income was the true middle-income measure. And among households earning $75,000 to $100,000 a year, 39 percent said being middle-income meant earning what they do.

More than 90 percent of those surveyed defined a "middle-income household" as families with total income at or below $100,000, which the Wall Street Journal says is a narrower definition than a number of politicians, as "some lawmakers often put the cut-off closer to $200,000 or $250,000."

And although those surveyed with incomes over $100,000 mostly agreed that $50,000-$100,000 defined a middle class life, a full quarter of them thought bringing in six figures was middle-income.

A 2011 study from the Pew Charitable Trust found that if "middle class" is defined as being within the 30th to 70th percentile of income distribution, it means those making between $32,900 to $64,000 are properly defined as middle class.

But such a definition may not be so simple, according to an article from Dan Horn in USA Today. While defining the median income may be easy, "The hard part is figuring out how far above or below the middle someone's income can go and still be considered middle class," Horn wrote. He said that a combination of income, attitudes and lifestyle all contributed to whether someone considered herself middle class.

"Saying 'We're a middle-class family' has more than financial connotations to it," Julie Heath, director of the University of Cincinnati's Economics Center, told Horn. "It has a salt-of-the-earth feel to it. That's the bedrock."

EMAIL: dmerling@deseretnews.com

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