Everyone Thinks They Are Middle Class

This week we take a look at social class self identification in the United States. 

In the US, the majority of people self-identify as middle class, regardless of how much money they actually make. This is likely due to the fact that, in general, people tend to compare themselves to those around them rather than to the country as a whole. So, even if someone is making a lot of money, if most of the people around them are also making a lot of money, they're likely to still consider themselves middle class.

There are a few exceptions to this rule. For example, people who are very wealthy are often more likely to identify as upper class, and people who are very poor are often more likely to identify as lower class. But, by and large, most people in America self-identify as middle class.

There are a number of reasons why this might be the case. First of all, the middle class is often seen as the ideal in America. It's the class that is most associated with the American Dream, and so people aspire to be middle class. Additionally, the middle class is often seen as being more stable and more secure than either the upper or lower classes. And finally, there's a lot of social pressure to identify as middle class in America. It's seen as being more respectable and more desirable, and so people are often reluctant to self-identify as anything else.

Whatever the reasons, the fact remains that most people in America self-identify as middle class. This is true even for people who are actually quite wealthy or quite poor. It's a reflection of the way that people in America view themselves and their place in society.

Source: GSS. Davern, Michael; Bautista, Rene; Freese, Jeremy; Morgan, Stephen L.; and Tom W. Smith. General Social Surveys, 1972-2021 Cross-section [machine-readable data file, 68,846 cases]. Principal Investigator, Michael Davern; Co-Principal Investigators, Rene Bautista, Jeremy Freese, Stephen L. Morgan, and Tom W. Smith; Sponsored by National Science Foundation. -- Chicago: NORC, 2021: NORC at the University of Chicago [producer and distributor]. Data accessed from the GSS Data Explorer website at gssdataexplorer.norc.org

0-$9,999 $10,000-$19,999 $20,000-$29,999 $30,000-$39,999 $40,000-$49,999 $50,000-$59,999 $60,000-$74,999 $75,000-$89,999 $90,000-$109,999 $110,000-$129,999 $130,000-$149,999 $150,000-$169,999 $170,000 OR OVER
Lower class 0-$9,99929,70% $10,000-$19,99928,57% $20,000-$29,99917,27% $30,000-$39,99912,00% $40,000-$49,9996,33% $50,000-$59,9992,66% $60,000-$74,9992,51% $75,000-$89,9990,72% $90,000-$109,9991,08% $110,000-$129,9991,45% $130,000-$149,9990,60% $150,000-$169,9990,33% $170,000 OR OVER0,41%
Working class 0-$9,99939,77% $10,000-$19,99949,49% $20,000-$29,99960,00% $30,000-$39,99960,74% $40,000-$49,99963,73% $50,000-$59,99962,60% $60,000-$74,99950,90% $75,000-$89,99946,25% $90,000-$109,99938,00% $110,000-$129,99926,92% $130,000-$149,99922,36% $150,000-$169,99924,50% $170,000 OR OVER10,50%
Middle class 0-$9,99927,68% $10,000-$19,99920,49% $20,000-$29,99921,95% $30,000-$39,99926,67% $40,000-$49,99929,17% $50,000-$59,99934,59% $60,000-$74,99945,63% $75,000-$89,99951,87% $90,000-$109,99959,38% $110,000-$129,99969,36% $130,000-$149,99973,41% $150,000-$169,99969,54% $170,000 OR OVER68,08%
Upper class 0-$9,9992,85% $10,000-$19,9991,44% $20,000-$29,9990,78% $30,000-$39,9990,59% $40,000-$49,9990,77% $50,000-$59,9990,16% $60,000-$74,9990,96% $75,000-$89,9991,15% $90,000-$109,9991,54% $110,000-$129,9992,28% $130,000-$149,9993,63% $150,000-$169,9995,63% $170,000 OR OVER21,01%