Are you middle class?

I took this little survey in the Washington Post that takes into account your income, number of dependents, and region of the country you live in, and it tells me that I am officially and totally middle class. I’m right smack in the center of the arbitrarily defined boundaries that delimit “middle class” — and that the way I got to this point was by getting rid of those pesky kids who were holding me back. Fifteen years ago, I discovered, I was way down deep in lower middle class territory.

Your household has a middle-class income, and you have the financial security associated with the middle class. Your income is similar to others in your Zip code above the median for rural Minnesota. Rural Minnesota is an inexpensive place to live, and you would still be considered middle income anywhere in the country.

It’s a comfortable place to be, but there is no hope that I will ever be wealthy. That’s good enough.

I won’t ask you what class you fall into, because only a grifter cares about that sort of thing.


  1. jo1storm says

    With around 30k yearly salary I am considered to be top 1% earner in my country of Serbia. Median salary is 586$ monthly, which translates to around 7k USD yearly. Funny thing is, for average consumer basket (which sucks compare to US or EU but that’s statistics for you) you need 850$ monthly salary.

    All in all, while poverty is relative being ultrarich is not. That grade-A asshole Friedrich Merz would be in top 0.0001 here.

  2. mordred says

    @1: Oh yeah, der Mitteklasse-Merz. So glad we did not end up with this guy as chancellor.
    Of course, our current chancellor seems to do what he can to hand the job over to him with the next election.

  3. numerobis says

    I remember some time ago you mentioned how much you make as a full prof; it was comparable to the minimum I can offer a new computer science graduate in Montreal and have any hope that they’ll accept. And we’re a low-wage city; I can’t get new grads from Toronto or Vancouver, never mind the US, to join at that rate (exception from the US: if they really want to leave Trumpistan).

  4. Dunc says

    Call that a class system? Pffft.

    Britain has 36.4 million subtly different social classes

    THE UK now has 36,402,339 different social classes, all of which can be detected and categorised in a face-to-face meeting in less than a minute.

    The classes, which include Think They’re Middle Class, Posh But Not Rich, Rich But Not Posh and Working Class Carvery Obsessive, are often separated by a single detail but can be instantly recognised by any British person.

  5. stwriley says

    Yeah, my wife and I didn’t qualify as middle class either, though we’ve been pretty aware of that for a while. We’re in about the top 18% of household income and thus qualify as upper class, even though that’s certainly not where either of us came from. We both grew up very middle class and spent our younger days as theater technicians and, like PZ, were very much lower middle class at best. But when we got into our 30s, went back to grad school, and got professional jobs that all started to change. Now my wife is a fairly highly placed academic librarian (at a large and prestigious private university) and I’m a high school teacher (very much the second income in our household.) We often wonder how on Earth people who make less and have kids (which we never did) make ends meet at all. We’re not spendthrifts by any means, but I watch many of my teaching colleagues struggle to keep their financial heads above water, taking second jobs and “side hustles” (one of the most pernicious modern economic terms ever invented) even though they too live in two income households. We’ve been incredibly lucky and come out on the upper side of the current economic system almost by chance, but that’s the very reason that we try to change it. Even though we’re not at a place where we’re likely to be taxed more by any of the current proposals, we certainly could be. It’s long past time that an income like ours actually was a middle class income, made so by both severely trimming off the vast reaches of wealth above us and by raising the floor for the better than 80% below. We are hard-working professionals, but we shouldn’t be that far above so many other hard-working people, nor as far below in real terms as we are from others who live on wealth accumulated by means other than just hard work.

  6. says

    I’ve always been middle class. My family was middle class. My wife’s family was middle class. We’re teachers, roofers, bakers, butchers, computer programmers, government employees, fruit farmers, electrical engineers, sales persons. You name it, there’s gonna be someone doing it somewhere in our family. One thing you won’t find: people who don’t work for a living.

    The article mentions security, but it doesn’t mention working for a living.

    I think middle class means at least one member in the family works for a living to support the rest, and their job security is the family’s living security: their shelter, their food, medical care, education, everything, hangs from that one precarious thread, and those persons’ ability to support it. That’s what middle class is about, in my opinion. Not just about income or which neighborhood you live in.

    Is this why rich people think they’re middle class, because they feel precarious, too? I don’t know. I talked to one lady, both of us waiting for a flight, and she was saying she was on her way to her vacation home in the Bahamas. She was widowed, but didn’t seem to have any concern for her future. Was her house big? Yes, but she had people cleaning it. She believed she was middle class. I don’t know why. Nightmares of guillotines?

  7. chigau (違う) says

    I did this quiz.
    I do not live in Yankeeland, so I just picked a “zipcode”; result was weird.
    So I googled, “What Yankee city is equivalent to My City?”.
    I am emphatically NOT “Middle Class”.
    In fact, I got the impression that the quiz found me rather pathetic.

  8. GMBigKev says

    I’m considered higher than middle class and for my zip code I’m well above water compared to others in the same area, however I have no short term nor long term financial stability and my wife is out of a job so we’re starting to have some financial troubles. The overall area we live in is one of the most expensive in the entire country so trying to live within our means is extremely hard given our varying needs and money problems.

  9. birgerjohansson says

    The part of the economy belonging to the American “Middle class” has been shrinking ever since Reagan.
    The economy has grown enormously since 1980 but guess which segment that got nearly all of that growth?

  10. R. L. Foster says

    I took that quiz too. They say we’re in the upper 40% of median income in our zip code. They place us in the Virginia Beach region. But, and here’s the rub, our actual zip code is 60 miles from Virginia Beach. That undercuts the validity of these numbers right out of the gate.

  11. Oggie: Mathom says

    I am middle class, but they really left out my situation. The survey asked about retirement savings. I’m already retired, so my income is very secure, but I used much of my savings to retire all debt but house and car. So yeah, but not so much.

  12. Daryl Lafferty says

    The focus is on income and ignores savings, except to confirm that you have 3 months worth.. Someone with a few million dollars might look like middle class based on their income of dividends and interest, but they could certainly support an upper class lifestyle.