Thinking hard about who is middle class

Published 11:22 am Wednesday, February 22, 2023

By Bonnie Brown


There are many definitions of social class in the United States:  upper class, new money, middle class, working class, working poor, and poverty level – and more complex models.  I’ve fallen into several of these categories at one time or another during my lifetime.   

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I recently read an article about signs that reveal someone is middle class.  According to Wikipedia, “the middle class refers to a class of people in the middle of a social hierarchy, often defined by occupation, income, education, or social status.”  

It’s where my people are. And by my people, I mean my family, my friends, my circle.  

I eagerly read on to see what being in the middle class meant. I was more than a little surprised by the defining characteristics of “my” American middle class. 

For instance, many of us have a middle class lifestyle where we own exercise equipment at home. Interesting. Tom and I have owned two treadmills.  We actually used the first one. The second one we bought was an upgrade.  It didn’t get used – at all.  

Middle classers (my term) also turn to health fads as a shortcut to weight loss and better health.  Also, they subscribe to meal services.  Unless take-out qualifies as a meal service, this is not us.  

This group also owns Dyson products, which are considered high-end appliances. We do own a Dyson vacuum cleaner. But its competition is our battery-powered Orfeld vacuum, or stick (as I call it) that has headlights and does a dandy job.  

Many middle classers subscribe to personal shoppers. Not me. I guess I’m really picky and cheap so even the most discerning personal shopper could not please me.  And middle classers like to show off designer brands.  

Again, I’m more excited about a good bargain than a designer label.  Another trait of the middle class is the frequency with which they go to Starbucks.  Again, not for me.  Well, not on a regular basis.  We have been known to go to Starbucks when we travel simply because it is familiar to us, but not a habit.  

Middle classers have midlife crises.  And the United States is pretty much the only place where folks have midlife crises.  These crises occur because many people realize they made wrong choices early on, regret career choices, and have arrived at a pivotal point in their lives.  

Keeping up with the Joneses is important to middle classers.  They are the first to upgrade their Apple devices.  

Middle class folks care about celebrities because they live vicariously through their lifestyles.  They also watch a lot of reality TV, again to escape their own lives.  They also seek validation via social media – certainly not a measurement of their own value.  hey also watch a lot of Hallmark Christmas movies where there is no violence.  

As I reviewed these traits of the middle class, I have come to the conclusion that perhaps I’m not middle class after all. I do like Hallmark movies, mostly because there is a happy ending.  I don’t upgrade my Apple devices until absolutely necessary.  I like Starbucks, but not enough to go there regularly.  I’m not into designer labels, follow social media influencers, and I drive a car that my grandchildren call a teenager although we do have a newer car that is quite nice.  

I’m not sure what my category is now.  Perhaps I have unwittingly created a new social class.  (Smile!)