From 2000 to 2010 virtually all socioeconomic classes have suffered to some degree. The middle class, however, has taken the biggest hit. In fact, the most recent decade has been the most financially unstable for the middle-income tier since World War II.
That’s all very shocking, but who qualifies as middle class? Who am I referring to, specifically?
In addition to looking at a “statistical middle” derived from government data, this report looks at those who self-identify as middle class, based on a Pew Research Center national survey of 2,508 adults. In the survey, 49% of adults describe themselves as middle class; 53% said the same in a similar survey in early 2008, when what is now known as the Great Recession was gathering steam. That recession, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009.
The 2012 survey finds an increase in those who self-identify as being in the lower or lower-middle class—32% place themselves in these categories, up from 25% in 2008. And 17% now say they are in the upper or upper-middle class, down from 21% in 2008.
Noteworthy patterns by race, age and gender are present in all of these self-categorizations.
Similar shares of whites (51%), blacks (48%) and Hispanics (47%) say they are middle class, even though government data show that whites have a higher median income and much more wealth than blacks or Hispanics.
Adults ages 65 and older (63%) are more inclined than all other age groups to call themselves middle class and less inclined to say they are lower class (20%). Meantime, younger adults (those ages 18 to 29) are more likely to say they are in the lower or lower-middle class; fully 39% say this now, compared with 25% who said so in 2008.
Men (46%) are somewhat less likely than women (53%) to include themselves in the middle class. In 2008, a somewhat larger share of men (51%) said they were middle class, and 54% of women said they were.
Here is some data you should know about these people who identify themselves as middle class:
1. 85% of all the individuals who identified themselves as middle class say the that it is more difficult to maintain their standard of living now than it was a decade ago.
2. In 2010, the upper-income tier took in 46% of the nation’s household income, up from 29% in 1970. The middle-income tier took in 45%, down from 62%. This is a difference in 17% with both tiers.
3. Even though the economic downturn (AKA “The Great Recession”) ended a few years ago, middle-income families are still feeling economic hardships. Roughly 62% reported that they had to reduce household spending in the last year. In 2008, this figure was 9% lower at a 53%.
4. 44% say they are more financially secure than they had been 10 years ago, and 42% say less. (An additional 12% volunteered that it’s about the same.)
5. And finally, below is a chart which shows the demographics of the middle-income group:
All statistics were taken from this Pew Study