Middle class

The middle class is a class of people in the middle of a social hierarchy. The very definition of the term "middle class" is highly political and vigorously contested by various schools of political and economic philosophy. Modern social theorists - and especially economists (with widely divergent open and hidden political motivations behind their arguments) - have defined and re-defined the term "middle class" in order to serve their particular political ends. The definitions of the term "middle class" therefore are the result of the more- or less-scientific methods used when delineating the parameters of what is and isn't "middle class".

In Weberian socioeconomic terms, the middle class is the broad group of people in contemporary society who fall socio-economically between the working class and upper class. The common measures of what constitutes middle class vary significantly among cultures. One of the narrowest definitions limits it to those in the middle fifth of the nation's income ladder. A wider characterization includes everyone but the poorest 20% and the wealthiest 20%.[1]

In modern American vernacular usage, the term "middle class" is most often used as a self-description by those persons whom academics and Marxists would otherwise identify as the working class which are below both the upper class and the true middle class, but above those in poverty. This leads to considerable ambiguity over the meaning of the term "middle class" in American usage. Sociologists such as Dennis Gilbert and Joseph Kahl see this American self-described "middle class" (i.e. working class) as the most populous class in the United States.[2]

History and evolution of the term

The term "middle class" is first attested in James Bradshaw's 1745 pamphlet Scheme to prevent running Irish Wools to France.[3][4] Another phrase used in Early modern Europe was "the middling sort".[5][6]

The term "middle class" has had several, sometimes contradictory, meanings. Friedrich Engels saw the category as an intermediate social class between the nobility and the peasantry of Europe in late-feudalist society.[7] While the nobility owned the countryside, and the peasantry worked the countryside, a new bourgeoisie (literally "town-dwellers") arose around mercantile functions in the city. In France, the middle classes helped drive the French Revolution.[8] This "middle class" eventually overthrew the ruling monarchists of feudal society, thus becoming the new ruling class or bourgeoisie in the new capitalist-dominated societies.[9]

The modern usage of the term "middle-class", however, dates to the 1913 UK Registrar-General's report, in which the statistician T.H.C. Stevenson identified the middle class as that falling between the upper-class and the working-class. Included as belonging to the middle-class are: professionals, managers, and senior civil servants. The chief defining characteristic of membership in the middle-class is possession of significant human capital.

Within capitalism, "middle-class" initially referred to the bourgeoisie; later, with the further differentiation of classes in the course of development of capitalist societies, the term came to be synonymous with the term petite bourgeoisie. The boom-and-bust cycles of capitalist economies result in the periodical and more or less temporary impoverisation and proletarianisation of much of the petit bourgeois world resulting in their moving back and forth between working-class and petit-bourgeois status. The typical modern definitions of "middle class" tend to ignore the fact that the classical petit-bourgeoisie is and has always been the owner of a small-to medium-sized business whose income is derived almost exclusively from the employment of workers; "middle class" came to refer to the combination of the labour aristocracy, the professionals, and the salaried white collar workers.

The size of the middle class depends on how it is defined, whether by education, wealth, environment of upbringing, social network, manners or values, etc. These are all related, but are far from deterministically dependent. The following factors are often ascribed in modern usage to a "middle class":

In the United States by the end of the twentieth century, more people identified themselves as middle-class than as lower or "working" class (with insignificant numbers identifying themselves as upper-class).[13] The Labour Party in the UK, which grew out of the organised labour movement and originally drew almost all of its support from the working-class, reinvented itself under Tony Blair in the 1990s as "New Labour", a party competing with the Conservative Party for the votes of the middle-class as well as those of the Labour Party's traditional group of voters - the working-class. By 2011 almost three-quarters of British people were found to identify themselves as middle-class.[14]


In Marxism, which defines social classes according to their relationship with the means of production, the "middle class" is said to be the class below the ruling class and above the proletariat in the Marxist social schema and is synonymous with the term "petit-" or "petty-bourgeoisie". Marxist writers have used the term in two distinct but related ways.[15] In the first sense it is used for the bourgeoisie, the urban merchant and professional class that arose between the aristocracy and the proletariat in the waning years of feudalism in the Marxist model. V. I. Lenin, stated that the "peasantry ... in Russia constitute eight- or nine-tenths of the petty bourgeoisie".[16][17] However, in modern developed countries, Marxist writers define the petite bourgeoisie as primarily comprising, as the name implies, owners of small to medium-sized businesses who derive their income from the exploitation of wage-laborers (and who are in turn exploited by the "big" bourgeoisie i.e. bankers, owners of large corporate trusts, etc.) as well as the highly educated professional class of doctors, engineers, architects, lawyers, university professors, salaried middle-management of capitalist enterprises of all sizes, etc. – as the "middle class" which stands between the ruling capitalist "owners of the means of production" and the working class (whose income is derived solely from hourly wages).

Pioneer 20th century American Marxist theoretician Louis C. Fraina (Lewis Corey) defined the middle class as "the class of independent small enterprisers, owners of productive property from which a livelihood is derived."[18] Included in this social category, from Fraina's perspective, were "propertied farmers" but not propertyless tenant farmers. Middle class also included salaried managerial and supervisory employees but not "the masses of propertyless, dependent salaried employees.[18] Fraina speculated that the entire category of salaried employees might be adequately described as a "new middle class" in economic terms, although this remained a social grouping in which "most of whose members are a new proletariat".[18]

Social reproduction

According to Christopher B. Doob, a sociology writer, the middle-class grooms each future generation to take over from the previous one. He states that, to do this the middle class have almost developed a system for turning children of the middle-class into successful citizens. Allegedly those who are categorized under the American middle-class give education great importance, and value success in education as one of the chief factors in establishing the middle-class life. Supposedly the parents place a strong emphasis on the significance of quality education and its effects on success later in life. He believes that the best way to understand education through the eyes of middle-class citizens would be through social reproduction as middle-class parents breed their own offspring to become successful members of the middle-class. Members of the middle-class consciously use their available sources of capital to prepare their children for the adult world.[19]

The middle-class childhood is often characterized by an authoritative parenting approach with a combination of parental warmth, support and control. Parents set some rules establishing limits, but overall this approach creates a greater sense of trust, security, and self-confidence.[20]

In addition to an often authoritative parenting style, middle-class parents provide their children with valuable sources of capital.[21]

Parents of middle-class children make use of their social capital when it comes to their children's education as they seek out other parents and teachers for advice. Some parents even develop regular communication with their child's teachers, asking for regular reports on behavior and grades. When problems do occur, middle-class parents are quick to "enlist the help of professionals when they feel their children need such services".[22] The middle-class parents' involvement in their children's schooling underlines their recognition of its importance.[23]

Professional-managerial class

In 1977 Barbara Ehrenreich and her then husband John defined a new class in United States as "salaried menial workers who do not own the means of production and whose major function in the social division of labor ... [is] ... the reproduction of capitalist culture and capitalist class relations"; the Ehrenreichs named this group the "professional-managerial class".[24] This group of middle-class professionals are distinguished from other social classes by their training and education (typically business qualifications and university degrees),[25] with example occupations including academics and teachers, social workers, engineers, managers, nurses, and middle-level administrators.[26] The Ehrenreichs developed their definition from studies by André Gorz, Serge Mallet, and others, of a "new working class", which, despite education and a perception of themselves as being middle class, were part of the working class because they did not own the means of production, and were wage earners paid to produce a piece of capital.[27] The professional-managerial class seeks higher rank status and salary,[28] and tend to have incomes above the average for their country.[29]

Compare the term "managerial caste".[30]

Recent global growth

It is important to understand that modern definitions of the term "middle class" are often politically motivated and vary according to the exigencies of political purpose which they were conceived to serve in the first place as well as due to the multiplicity of more- or less-scientific methods used to measure and compare "wealth" between modern advanced industrial states (where poverty is relatively low and the distribution of wealth more egalitarian in a relative sense) and in developing countries (where poverty and a profoundly unequal distribution of wealth crush the vast majority of the population). Many of these methods of comparison have been harshly criticised; for example, economist Thomas Piketty, in his book "Capital in the Twenty-First Century", describes one of the most commonly used comparative measures of wealth across the globe – the Gini coefficient – as being an example of "synthetic indices ... which mix very different things, such as inequality with respect to labor and capital, so that it is impossible to distinguish clearly among the multiple dimensions of inequality and the various mechanisms at work."[31]

In February 2009, The Economist asserted that over half the world's population now belongs to the middle class, as a result of rapid growth in emerging countries. It characterized the middle class as having a reasonable amount of discretionary income, so that they do not live from hand to mouth as the poor do, and defined it as beginning at the point where people have roughly a third of their income left for discretionary spending after paying for basic food and shelter. This allows people to buy consumer goods, improve their health care, and provide for their children's education. Most of the emerging middle class consists of people who are middle-class by the standards of the developing world but not the rich one, since their money incomes do not match developed country levels, but the percentage of it which is discretionary does. By this definition, the number of middle-class people in Asia exceeded that in the West sometime around 2007 or 2008.[32]

The Economist's article pointed out that in many emerging countries the middle class has not grown incrementally, but explosively. The point at which the poor start entering the middle class by the millions is alleged to be the time when poor countries get the maximum benefit from cheap labour through international trade, before they price themselves out of world markets for cheap goods. It is also a period of rapid urbanization, when subsistence farmers abandon marginal farms to work in factories, resulting in a several-fold increase in their economic productivity before their wages catch up to international levels. That stage was reached in China some time between 1990 and 2005, when the Chinese "middle class" grew from 15% to 62% of the population, and is just being reached in India now.

The Economist predicted that surge across the poverty line should continue for a couple of decades and the global middle class will grow enormously between now and 2030. Based on the rapid growth, scholars expect the global middle class to be the driving force for sustainable development. This assumption, however, is contested.[33]

As the American middle class is estimated by some researchers to comprise approximately 45% of the population,[34][35][36] The Economist's article would put the size of the American middle class below the world average. This difference is due to the extreme difference in definitions between The Economist's and many other models.

In 2010, a working paper by the OECD asserted that 1.8 billion people were now members of the global "middle class".[37] Credit Suisse's Global Wealth Report 2014, released in October 2014, estimated that one billion adults belonged to the "middle class", with wealth anywhere between the range of $10,000–$100,000.[38]

According to a study carried out by the Pew Research Center, a combined 16% of the world's population in 2011 were "upper-middle income" and "upper income".[39]


In 2012, the "middle class" in Russia was estimated as 15% of the whole population. Due to sustainable growth, the pre-crisis level was exceeded.[40] In 2015, research from the Russian Academy of Sciences estimated that around 15% of the Russian population are "firmly middle class", while around another 25% are "on the periphery".[41]


A study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) estimated that 19% of Chinese were middle class in 2003, including any household with assets worth between $18,000 and $36,000.[42]


According to a 2011 report by National Council for Applied Economic Research of India, India's middle class population is expected to increase from 160 million to 267 million in 2016, 20.3% of the country's total population. Further ahead, by 2025-26 the number of middle class households in India is likely to more than double to 547 million individuals.[43] Another estimate put the Indian middle class as numbering 475 million people by 2030.[44]


According to a 2014 study by Standard Bank economist Simon Freemantle, a total of 15.3 million households in 11 surveyed African nations are middle-class. These include Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.[45] In South Africa, a report conducted by the Institute for Race Relations in 2015[46] estimated that between 10%-20% of South Africans are middle class, based on various criteria.[47] An earlier study estimated that in 2008 21.3% of South Africans were members of the middle class.[48]

A study by EIU Canback indicates 90% of Africans fall below an income of $10 a day. The proportion of Africans in the $10–$20 middle class (excluding South Africa), rose from 4.4% to only 6.2% between 2004 and 2014. Over the same period, the proportion of "upper middle" income ($20–$50 a day) went from 1.4% to 2.3%.[49]

According to a 2014 study by the German Development Institute, the middle class of Sub-Saharan Africa rose from 14 million to 31 million people between 1990 and 2010.[50]

Latin America

According to a study by the World Bank, the number of Latin Americans who are middle class rose from 103m to 152m between 2003 and 2009.[51]

Middle-class shares by income and wealth

The American middle class is smaller than middle classes across Western Europe, but its income is higher, according to a recent Pew Research Center analysis of the U.S. and 11 European nations.[52]

The median disposable (after-tax) income of middle-class households in the U.S. was $60,884 in 2010. With the exception of Luxembourg – a virtual city-state where the median income was $71,799 – the disposable incomes of middle-class households in the other 10 Western European countries in the study trailed well behind the American middle class.[52]

The numbers below reflect the middle, upper, and lower share of all adults by country by net wealth (not income). Middle class is defined here for the US as those adults with a net wealth of between USD 50,000 and USD 500,000 in mid 2015. Purchasing power parity is used to adjust these number for other countries.[53] Unlike that of the upper class, wealth of the middle and lowest quintile consists substantially of non-financial assets, specifically home equity. Factors which explain differences in home equity include housing prices and home ownership rates. According to the OECD, the vast majority of financial assets in every country analysed is found in the top of the wealth distribution.[53][54]

Source: Global Wealth Report 2015, Credit Suisse[53]
Country/Territory Middle class
Upper class*1
Lower class*2
 Australia 66.1 14.2 19.7
 Singapore 62.3 16.0 21.7
 Belgium 62.1 12.3 25.6
 Italy 59.7 8.6 31.7
 Japan 59.5 9.1 31.4
 Taiwan 59.4 15.2 25.4
 United Kingdom 57.4 12.2 30.4
 Norway 56.4 12.2 31.4
 United Arab Emirates 56.4 7.8 35.8
 Spain 55.8 3.8 40.4
 Netherlands 54.1 7.4 38.5
 Ireland 50.3 7.4 42.3
 New Zealand 50.3 21.9 27.8
 France 49.2 12.5 38.3
 Canada 47.8 10.5 41.7
 Greece 47.2 2.8 50.0
 Finland 45.6 4.4 50.0
 Portugal 44.6 2.7 52.7
 South Korea 44.6 2.9 52.5
  Switzerland 44.5 14.0 41.5
 Hong Kong 44.4 5.1 50.5
 Austria 44.0 7.9 48.1
 Israel 42.5 3.7 53.8
 Germany 42.4 7.6 50.0
 Denmark 39.5 10.5 50.0
 Sweden 39.4 11.5 49.1
 United States 37.7 12.3 50.0
 Saudi Arabia 33.1 2.1 64.8
 Czech Republic 26.5 1.6 71.9
 Chile 22.3 1.5 76.2
 Poland 19.3 1.0 79.7
 Mexico 17.1 1.0 81.9
 Malaysia 16.7 1.2 82.1
 Colombia 15.3 0.9 83.8
 South Africa 13.7 1.1 85.2
 China 10.7 0.6 88.7
 Peru 10.3 0.8 88.9
 Turkey 9.9 0.8 89.3
 Brazil 8.1 0.6 91.3
 Egypt 5.0 0.4 94.6
 Philippines 4.8 0.4 94.8
 Indonesia 4.4 0.6 95.0
 Russia 4.1 0.5 95.4
 Argentina 4.0 0.3 95.7
 Thailand 3.7 0.3 96.0
 India 3.0 0.2 96.8

^ *1: (Middle class and above) - (Middle class)

^ *2: 100 - (Middle class and above)

See also



  1. ^ http://money.cnn.com/infographic/economy/what-is-middle-class-anyway/index.html
  2. ^ Gilbert, Dennis (1998). The American Class Structure. New York: Wadsworth Publishing. 0-534-50520-1.
  3. ^ "Home : Oxford English Dictionary". oed.com.
  4. ^ James Bradshaw (1745). scheme to prevent the running of Irish wools to France: and Irish woollen goods to foreign countries. By prohibiting the importation of Spanish wools into Ireland, ... Humbly offered to the consideration of Parliament. By a Merchant of London. printed for J. Smith, and G. Faulkner. pp. 4–5. Retrieved 18 May 2012.
  5. ^ Hunt, Margaret R. (1996). The Middling Sort Commerce, Gender, and the Family in England, 1680-1780. University California Press.
  6. ^ "To be one of "the middling sort" in urban England in the late seventeenth or eighteenth century was to live a life tied, one way or another, to the world of commerce."
  7. ^ Engels, Friedrich (1892). 1892 Introduction to "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific". Marxists Internet Archive: Marxists Internet Archive.
  8. ^ Georges Lefebvre, La Révolution Française, 1951 1957
  9. ^ Marx, Karl; Engels, Friedrich (1848). Manifesto of the Communist Party. Marxists Internet Archive: Marxists Internet Archive.
  10. ^ "Who is the Middle Class?". PBS. 25 June 2004. Retrieved 19 April 2011.
  11. ^ "Survey on Class". Ipsos MORI. 19 March 2008. Retrieved 18 April 2011.
  12. ^ "Perceptions of Social Class (trends)". Ipsos MORI. 19 March 2008. Retrieved 18 April 2011.
  13. ^ "Room for Debate: Who Should Be the Judge of Middle Class?". The New York Times. 23 December 2010.
  14. ^ "Why is 'chav' still controversial?". BBC News. 3 June 2011 – via www.bbc.co.uk.
  15. ^ Communist League Britain, Marxism and Class: Some definitions. undated. http://www.mltranslations.org/Britain/Marxclass.htm at §The 'Middle Class'
  16. ^ Lenin, V. I. (25 February 1907). "The Bolsheviks and the Petty Bourgeoisie". Marxists Internet Archive. Novy Luch. Retrieved 8 June 2018. In particular, the, peasantry, who in Russia constitute eight- or nine-tenths of the petty bourgeoisie, are struggling primarily for land.
  17. ^ Lenin, V.I. (October 9–10, 1917). "The Tasks of the Revolution". Marxists Internet Archive. Rabochy Put. Retrieved 8 June 2018. Russia is a country of the petty bourgeoisie, by far the greater part of the population belonging to this class.CS1 maint: Date format (link)
  18. ^ a b c Lewis Corey, "American Class Relations", Marxist Quarterly, vol. 1 no. 2 (January–March 1937), p. 141.
  19. ^ Doob, Christopher B. (2013). "The Badly Besieged Middle Class". Social Inequality and Social Stratification in US Society. New Jersey: Pearson. pp. 157–167.
  20. ^ Demo, David H.; Martha J. Cox (2000). "Families with Young Children: A Review off Research in the 1990s". Journal of Marriage and the Family. 62 (November): 876–95. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2000.00876.x.
  21. ^ Doob, Christopher B. (2013). "The Badly Besieged Middle Class". Social Inequality and Social Stratification in US Society. New Jersey: Pearson. pp. 157–67.
  22. ^ Lareau, Annette (2002). "Invisible Inequality: Social Class and Childrearing in Black Families and White Families". American Sociological Review. 67 (October): 747–76. doi:10.2307/3088916. JSTOR 3088916.
  23. ^ Madland, David; Nick Bunker. "The Middle Class is the Key to a Better Educated Nation". Center for American Progress Action Fund. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
  24. ^ Stewart Clegg, Paul Boreham, Geoff Dow; Class, politics, and the economy. Routledge. 1986. ISBN 978-0-7102-0452-3. Retrieved 4 October 2009.
  25. ^ Philip Green, Green, Philip (1985). Retrieving democracy: in search of civic equality Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-0-8476-7405-3. Retrieved 4 October 2009.
  26. ^ Hidden Technocrats: The New Class and New Capitalism. Transaction Publishers. 1991. ISBN 978-1-56000-787-6. Retrieved 4 October 2009.
  27. ^ Walker, Pat (1979). Between labor and capital - Google Books. ISBN 978-0-89608-037-9. Retrieved 4 October 2009.
  28. ^ The general theory of ... - Google Books. 1998. ISBN 978-0-521-59006-8. Retrieved 4 October 2009.
  29. ^ Gail Paradise Kelly, Sheila Slaughter; Women's higher education in comparative perspective. Springer. 1990. ISBN 978-0-7923-0800-3. Retrieved 4 October 2009.
  30. ^ Kay, Geoffrey (1975). Development and underdevelopment: a Marxist analysis. Macmillan. p. 194. ISBN 978-0-333-15402-1. Retrieved 1 January 2011. [...] the new managerial caste [...] as a force in capitalist society [...]
  31. ^ Piketty, Thomas (2014). Capital in the Twenty-First Century. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. p. 243. ISBN 978-0-674-43000-6.
  32. ^ Parker, John (12 February 2009). "Special report: Burgeoning bourgeoisie". The Economist (published 13 February 2009). Retrieved 13 December 2009.
  33. ^ "It is doubtful, whether "middle classes" in developing countries are driving progress". D+C.
  34. ^ Gilbert, D. (2002) The American Class Structure: In An Age of Growing Inequality. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth; Thompson, W. & Hickey, J. (2005).
  35. ^ Society in Focus. Boston, MA: Pearson, Allyn & Bacon; Beeghley, L. (2004).
  36. ^ The Structure of Social Stratification in the United States. Boston, MA: Pearson, Allyn & Bacon.
  37. ^ "Page not found". oecd.org.
  38. ^ "China's "middle class" 10 times larger than that in India". The Times of India.
  39. ^ "World Population by Income". Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project. 8 July 2015.
  40. ^ "Rosgosstrakh Strategic Research Centre" (PDF).
  41. ^ "Russian middle class slowly stirred to action by economic crisis". Yahoo News UK. 10 April 2015.
  42. ^ "China's middle class growing fast". BBC News.
  43. ^ "India's middle class population to touch 267 million in 5 yrs". The Economic Times. 2011-02-06.
  44. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 7 January 2016.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  45. ^ "Making sense of Africa's middle class". howwemadeitinafrica.com. 2014-09-12.
  46. ^ "How South Africa's middle class makes use of technology - htxt.africa". htxt.africa. 2015-08-03.
  47. ^ "Black middle class has expanded quickly but may now slow – new IRR report". irr.org.za.
  48. ^ "SA middle class getting poorer".
  49. ^ "Few and far between". The Economist. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
  50. ^ https://www.die-gdi.de/uploads/media/DP_35.2014.pdf
  51. ^ "Latin America's middle class". The Economist. 2014-06-27.
  52. ^ a b "Through an American lens, Western Europe's middle classes appear smaller". 5 June 2017.
  53. ^ a b c Global Wealth Report 2015. October 2015. p. 32.
  54. ^ https://www.oecd.org/std/household-wealth-inequality-across-OECD-countries-OECDSB21.pdf

Further reading

  • Balzer, Harley D., ed. Russia's Missing Middle Class: The Professions in Russian History (ME Sharpe, 1996).
  • Banerjee, Abhijit V. and Esther Duflo (December 2007). What is middle class about the middle classes around the world? (PDF). Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Economics. p. 50. Archived from the original on 2009-05-25. Retrieved 2009-05-09.
  • Blackbourn, David, and Richard J. Evans, eds. The German Bourgeoisie: Essays on the Social History of the German Middle Class from the Late Eighteenth to the Early Twentieth Century (1991).
  • Cashell, Brian W. Who Are the "Middle Class"?, CRS Report for the Congress, 20 March 2007
  • Fry, Richard; Kochhar, Rakesh (11 May 2016). "Are you in the American middle class? Find out with our income calculator". Pew Research Center. Retrieved 18 February 2018.
  • Jones, Larry Eugene. "'The Dying Middle': Weimar Germany and the Fragmentation of Bourgeois Politics." Central European History 5.1 (1972): 23-54.
  • Kocka, Jürgen. "The Middle Classes in Europe," Journal of Modern History 67#4 (1995): 783-806. doi.org/10.1086/245228. online
  • Kocka, Jürgen, and J. Allan Mitchell, eds. Bourgeois Society in 19th Century Europe (1992)
  • Lebovics, Herman. Social Conservatism and the Middle Class in Germany, 1914-1933 (Princeton UP, 2015).
  • López, A. Ricardo, and Barbara Weinstein, eds. The Making of the Middle Class: Toward a Transnational History (Duke University Press, 2012) 446 pp. scholarly essays
  • McKibbin, Ross. Classes and Cultures: England 1918-1951 (2000) pp 44-105.
  • Mills, C. Wright, White Collar: The American Middle Classes (1951).
  • Pilbeam, Pamela. The Middle Classes in Europe, 1789-1914: France, Germany, Italy, and Russia (1990)
  • Wells, Jonathan Daniel. "The Southern Middle Class," Journal of Southern History, Volume: 75#3 2009. pp 651+.

External links

African-American middle class

The black middle class consists of black Americans who have middle-class status within the American class structure. It is a societal level within the African-American community that primarily began to develop in the early 1960s, when the ongoing Civil Rights Movement led to the outlawing of de jure racial segregation.

American middle class

The American middle class is a social class in the United States. While the concept is typically ambiguous in popular opinion and common language use, contemporary social scientists have put forward several ostensibly congruent theories on the American middle class. Depending on the class model used, the middle class constitutes anywhere from 25% to 66% of households.

One of the first major studies of the middle class in America was White Collar: The American Middle Classes, published in 1951 by sociologist C. Wright Mills. Later sociologists such as Dennis Gilbert of Hamilton College commonly divide the middle class into two sub-groups. Constituting roughly 15% to 20% of households is the upper or professional middle class consisting of highly educated, salaried professionals and managers. Constituting roughly one third of households is the lower middle class consisting mostly of semi-professionals, skilled craftsmen and lower-level management. Middle-class persons commonly have a comfortable standard of living, significant economic security, considerable work autonomy and rely on their expertise to sustain themselves.Members of the middle class belong to diverse groups which overlap with each other. Overall, middle-class persons, especially upper-middle-class individuals, are characterized by conceptualizing, creating and consulting. Thus, college education is one of the main indicators of middle-class status. Largely attributed to the nature of middle-class occupations, middle class values tend to emphasize independence, adherence to intrinsic standards, valuing innovation and respecting non-conformity. Politically more active than other demographics, college educated middle class professionals are split between the two major parties.Income varies considerably, from near the national median to well in excess of US$100,000. However, household income figures do not always reflect class status and standard of living as they are largely influenced by the number of income earners and fail to recognize household size. It is therefore possible for a large, dual-earner, lower middle class household to out-earn a small, one-earner, upper middle class household. The middle classes are very influential as they encompass the majority of voters, writers, teachers, journalists and editors. Most societal trends in the U.S. originate within the middle classes.


The bourgeoisie (; French: [buʁʒwazi]) is a polysemous French term that can mean:

a sociologically defined class, especially in contemporary times, referring to people with a certain cultural and financial capital belonging to the middle or upper middle class: the upper (haute), middle (moyenne), and petty (petite) bourgeoisie (which are collectively designated "the bourgeoisie"); an affluent and often opulent stratum of the middle class who stand opposite the proletariat class.

originally and generally, "those who live in the borough", that is to say, the people of the city (including merchants and craftsmen), as opposed to those of rural areas; in this sense, the bourgeoisie began to grow in Europe from the 11th century and particularly during the Renaissance of the 12th century (i.e., the onset of the High Middle Ages), with the first developments of rural exodus and urbanization.

a legally defined class of the Middle Ages to the end of the Ancien Régime (Old Regime) in France, that of inhabitants having the rights of citizenship and political rights in a city (comparable to the German term Bürgertum and Bürger; see also "Burgher").The "bourgeoisie" in its original sense is intimately linked to the existence of cities recognized as such by their urban charters (e.g. municipal charter, town privileges, German town law), so there was no bourgeoisie "outside the walls of the city" beyond which the people were "peasants" submitted to the stately courts and manorialism (except for the traveling "fair bourgeoisie" living outside urban territories, who retained their city rights and domicile).

In Marxist philosophy, the bourgeoisie is the social class that came to own the means of production during modern industrialization and whose societal concerns are the value of property and the preservation of capital to ensure the perpetuation of their economic supremacy in society.Joseph Schumpeter saw the incorporation of new elements into an expanding bourgeoisie, particularly entrepreneurs who took risks to bring innovation to industries and the economy through the process of creative destruction, as the driving force behind the capitalist engine.

Educational attainment in the United States

The educational attainment of the U.S. population is similar to that of many other industrialized countries with the vast majority of the population having completed secondary education and a rising number of college graduates that outnumber high school dropouts. As a whole, the population of the United States is spending more years in formal educational programs. As with income, levels differ by race, age, household configuration and geography.Overall, the households and demographics featuring the highest educational attainment in the United States are also among those with the highest household income and wealth. Thus, while the population as a whole is proceeding further in formal educational programs, income and educational attainment remain highly correlated.

Lower middle class

In developed nations across the world, the lower middle class is a sub-division of the greater middle class. Universally the term refers to the group of middle class households or individuals who have not attained the status of the upper middle class associated with the higher realms of the middle class, hence the name.

Social class

A social class is a set of subjectively defined concepts in the social sciences and political theory centered on models of social stratification in which people are grouped into a set of hierarchical social categories, the most common being the upper, middle and lower classes.

"Class" is a subject of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, anthropologists and social historians. However, there is not a consensus on a definition of "class" and the term has a wide range of sometimes conflicting meanings. In common parlance, the term "social class" is usually synonymous with "socio-economic class", defined as "people having the same social, economic, cultural, political or educational status", e.g., "the working class"; "an emerging professional class". However, academics distinguish social class and socioeconomic status, with the former referring to one's relatively stable sociocultural background and the latter referring to one's current social and economic situation and consequently being more changeable over time.The precise measurements of what determines social class in society has varied over time. Karl Marx thought "class" was defined by one's relationship to the means of production (their relations of production). His simple understanding of classes in modern capitalist society are the proletariat, those who work but do not own the means of production; and the bourgeoisie, those who invest and live off the surplus generated by the proletariat's operation of the means of production. This contrasts with the view of the sociologist Max Weber, who argued "class" is determined by economic position, in contrast to "social status" or "Stand" which is determined by social prestige rather than simply just relations of production. The term "class" is etymologically derived from the Latin classis, which was used by census takers to categorize citizens by wealth in order to determine military service obligations.In the late 18th century, the term "class" began to replace classifications such as estates, rank and orders as the primary means of organizing society into hierarchical divisions. This corresponded to a general decrease in significance ascribed to hereditary characteristics and increase in the significance of wealth and income as indicators of position in the social hierarchy.

Social class in the United Kingdom

The social structure of the United Kingdom has historically been highly influenced by the concept of social class, which continues to affect British society today.British society, like its European neighbours and most societies in world history, was traditionally (before the Industrial Revolution) divided hierarchically within a system that involved the hereditary transmission of occupation, social status and political influence. Since the advent of industrialisation, this system has been in a constant state of revision, and new factors other than birth (for example, education) are now a greater part of creating identity in Britain.

Although definitions of social class in the United Kingdom vary and are highly controversial, most are influenced by factors of wealth, occupation and education. Until recently, the Parliament of the United Kingdom was organised on a class basis, with the House of Lords representing the hereditary upper-class and the House of Commons representing everybody else. The British monarch is usually viewed as being at the top of the social class structure.

British society has experienced significant change since the Second World War, including an expansion of higher education and home ownership, a shift towards a service-dominated economy, mass immigration, a changing role for women and a more individualistic culture, and these changes have had a considerable impact on the social landscape. However, claims that the UK has become a classless society have frequently been met with scepticism. Research has shown that social status in the United Kingdom is influenced by, although separate from, social class.The biggest current study of social class in the United Kingdom is the Great British Class Survey.

Social class in the United States

Social class in the United States is a controversial issue, having many competing definitions, models, and even disagreements over its very existence. Many Americans believe that in the country there are just three classes: the American rich; the American middle class; the American poor. More complex models that have been proposed describe as many as a dozen class levels; while still others deny the very existence, in the European sense, of social class in American society. Most definitions of class structure group people according to wealth, income, education, type of occupation, and membership in a specific subculture or social network. Most of the social classes entirely ignore the existence of parallel Black, Hispanic and minorities societies.

Sociologists Dennis Gilbert, William Thompson, Joseph Hickey, and James Henslin have proposed class systems with six distinct social classes. These class models feature an upper or capitalist class consisting of the rich and powerful, an upper middle class consisting of highly educated and affluent professionals, a middle class consisting of college-educated individuals employed in white-collar industries, a lower middle class composed of semi-professionals with typically some college education, a working class constituted by clerical and blue collar workers whose work is highly routinized, and a lower class divided between the working poor and the unemployed underclass.

Standard of living in India

Standard of living in India varies from state to state. With one of the fastest growing economies in the world, clocked at a growth rate of 7.6% in 2015, India is on its way to becoming a large and globally important consumer economy. According to Deutsche Bank Research, there are between 30 million and 300 million middle-class people in India. If current trends continue, India's share of world GDP will significantly increase from 7.3 in 2016 to 8.5 percent of the world share by 2020. In 2011, less than 22 percent of Indians lived under the global poverty line, nearly an 8 percent reduction from 29.8 percent just two years prior in 2009.600 million people, or more than half of India's population, belong to the middle class. Another estimate put the Indian middle class as numbering 475 million people by 2030.Its also considerable that India homes some of the world's richest persons with overflowing wealth while some residents are extremely poor. It is estimated that average real wages will quadruple between 2013 and 2030.The standard of living in India shows large disparity. For example, there is widespread poverty in rural areas of India, where medical care tends to be very basic or unavailable.Too,most of the cities like Mumbai,Delhi,Chennai,Hyderabad,Bengaluru etc boast of world class medical establishment,luxuries, sport complexes and infrastructure as those in Developed Western nations . Similarly, the very latest machinery may be used in some construction projects, but many construction workers work without mechanisation in most projects. However, a rural middle class is now emerging in India, with some rural areas seeing increasing prosperity.In 2010, the per capita PPP-adjusted GDP for India was US$3,608.

Standard of living in the United States

The standard of living in the United States is high by the standards that most economists use, and for many decades throughout the 20th century, the United States was recognized as having the highest standard of living in the world. Per capita income is high but also less evenly distributed than in most other developed countries; as a result, the United States fares particularly well in measures of average material well being that do not place weight on equality aspects.

The Middle (TV series)

The Middle is an American sitcom about a lower middle class family living in Indiana facing the day-to-day struggles of home life, work, and raising children. The series premiered on September 30, 2009, on the ABC network and concluded on May 22, 2018. The series features Everybody Loves Raymond actress Patricia Heaton and Scrubs actor Neil Flynn. The Middle was created by former Roseanne and Murphy Brown writers Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline of Blackie and Blondie Productions. The show is produced by Warner Bros. Television and Blackie and Blondie Productions. The Middle was praised by television critics and earned numerous award nominations.

A spin-off of the series centered around Eden Sher's character Sue Heck was set to launch in 2019. However, the pilot was passed on by ABC, and is being shopped to other networks.

Upper class

The upper class in modern societies is the social class composed of people who hold the highest social status, usually are the wealthiest members of society, and wield the greatest political power. According to this view, the upper class is generally distinguished by immense wealth which is passed on from generation to generation. Prior to the 20th century, the emphasis was on aristocracy, which emphasized generations of inherited noble status, not just recent wealth. Because the upper classes of a society may no longer rule the society in which they are living, they are often referred to as the old upper classes and they are often culturally distinct from the newly rich middle classes that tend to dominate public life in modern social democracies. According to the latter view held by the traditional upper classes, no amount of individual wealth or fame would make a person from an undistinguished background into a member of the upper class as one must be born into a family of that class and raised in a particular manner so as to understand and share upper class values, traditions, and cultural norms.

The term is often used in conjunction with terms like upper-middle class, middle class, and working class as part of a model of social stratification.

Upper middle class

In sociology, the upper middle class is the social group constituted by higher status members of the middle class. This is in contrast to the term lower middle class, which is used for the group at the opposite end of the middle-class stratum, and to the broader term middle class. There is considerable debate as to how the upper middle class might be defined. According to sociologist Max Weber the upper middle class consists of well-educated professionals with postgraduate degrees and comfortable incomes.

The American upper middle class is defined similarly using income, education and occupation as the predominant indicators. In the United States, the upper middle class is defined as consisting mostly of white-collar professionals who not only have above-average personal incomes and advanced educational degrees but also a higher degree of autonomy in their work. The main occupational tasks of upper-middle-class individuals tend to center on conceptualizing, consulting, and instruction.

Upper middle class in the United States

See American Professional/Managerial middle class for a complete overview of the American middle classes.In sociology, the upper middle class of the United States is the social group constituted by higher-status members of the middle class. This is in contrast to the term lower middle class, which refers to the group at the opposite end of the middle class scale. There is considerable debate as to how the upper middle class might be defined. According to Max Weber, the upper middle class consists of well-educated professionals with graduate degrees and comfortable incomes.

The American upper middle class is defined using income, education, occupation and the associated values as main indicators. In the United States, the upper middle class is defined as consisting of white-collar professionals who have above-average personal incomes, advanced educational degrees and a high degree of autonomy in their work, leading to higher job satisfaction. The main occupational tasks of upper middle class individuals tend to center on conceptualizing, consulting, and instruction.

Valley girl

Valley girl is a socioeconomic stereotype depicting a class of women characterized by the colloquial California English dialect Valleyspeak and materialism.

Originally referring to upper-middle class girls from the Los Angeles commuter communities of the San Fernando Valley during the 1980s, the term in later years became more broadly applied to any female in the United States who engendered the associated affects of ditziness, airheadedness, and/or greater interest in conspicuous consumption than intellectual or personal accomplishment.

Victorian era

In the history of the United Kingdom, the Victorian era was the period of Queen Victoria's reign, from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. The era followed the Georgian period and preceded the Edwardian period, and its later half overlaps with the first part of the Belle Époque era of Continental Europe. In terms of moral sensibilities and political reforms, this period began with the passage of the Reform Act 1832. There was a strong religious drive for higher moral standards led by the nonconformist churches, such as the Methodist, and the Evangelical wing of the established Church of England. Britain's relations with the other Great Powers were driven by the colonial antagonism of the Great Game with Russia, climaxing during the Crimean War; a Pax Britannica of international free trade was maintained by the country's naval and industrial supremacy. Britain embarked on global imperial expansion, particularly in Asia and Africa, which made the British Empire the largest empire in history. National self-confidence peaked.Ideologically, the Victorian era witnessed resistance to the rationalism that defined the Georgian period and an increasing turn towards romanticism and even mysticism with regard to religion, social values, and arts.Domestically, the political agenda was increasingly liberal, with a number of shifts in the direction of gradual political reform, industrial reform, and the widening of the franchise. There were unprecedented demographic changes: the population of England and Wales almost doubled from 16.8 million in 1851 to 30.5 million in 1901, and Scotland's population also rose rapidly, from 2.8 million in 1851 to 4.4 million in 1901. However, Ireland's population decreased sharply, from 8.2 million in 1841 to less than 4.5 million in 1901, mostly due to emigration and the Great Famine. Between 1837 and 1901 about 15 million emigrated from Great Britain, mostly to the United States, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia.The two main political parties during the era remained the Whigs/Liberals and the Conservatives; by its end, the Labour Party had formed as a distinct political entity. These parties were led by such prominent statesmen as Lord Melbourne, Sir Robert Peel, Lord Derby, Lord Palmerston, Benjamin Disraeli, William Gladstone, and Lord Salisbury. The unsolved problems relating to Irish Home Rule played a great part in politics in the later Victorian era, particularly in view of Gladstone's determination to achieve a political settlement in Ireland.

White flight

White flight is a term that originated in the United States, starting in the 1950s and 1960s, and applied to the large-scale migration of people of various European ancestries from racially mixed urban regions to more racially homogeneous suburban or exurban regions. The term has more recently been applied to other migrations by whites, from older, inner suburbs to rural areas, as well as from the U.S. Northeast and Midwest to the milder climate in the Southeast and Southwest. The term has also been used for large-scale post-colonial emigration of whites from Africa, or parts of that continent, driven by levels of violent crime and anti-colonial state policies.Migration of middle-class white populations was observed during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s out of cities such as Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City and Oakland, although racial segregation of public schools had ended there long before the US Supreme Court's decision Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. In the 1970s, attempts to achieve effective desegregation (or "integration") by means of forced busing in some areas led to more families' moving out of former areas. More generally, some historians suggest that white flight occurred in response to population pressures, both from the large migration of blacks from the rural South to urban northern and western cities in the Great Migration and the waves of new immigrants from around the world. However, some historians have challenged the phrase "white flight" as a misnomer whose use should be reconsidered. In her study of West Side in Chicago during the post-war era, historian Amanda Seligman argues that the phrase misleadingly suggests that whites immediately departed when blacks moved into the neighborhood, when in fact, many whites defended their space with violence, intimidation, or legal tactics. Leah Boustan, Professor of Economics at Princeton, attributes white flight both to racism and economic reasons.The business practices of redlining, mortgage discrimination, and racially restrictive covenants contributed to the overcrowding and physical deterioration of areas where minorities chose to congregate. Such conditions are considered to have contributed to the emigration of other populations. The limited facilities for banking and insurance, due to a perceived lack of profitability, and other social services, and extra fees meant to hedge against perceived profit issues, increased their cost to residents in predominantly non-white suburbs and city neighborhoods. According to the environmental geographer Laura Pulido, the historical processes of suburbanization and urban decentralization contribute to contemporary environmental racism.

Working class

The working class (or labouring class) comprises those engaged in waged or salaried labour, especially in manual-labour occupations and industrial work. Working-class occupations (see also "Designation of workers by collar color") include blue-collar jobs, some white-collar jobs, and most pink-collar jobs. Members of the working class rely for their income exclusively upon their earnings from wage labour; thus, according to the more inclusive definitions, the category can include almost all of the working population of industrialized economies, as well as those employed in the urban areas (cities, towns, villages) of non-industrialized economies or in the rural workforce.

In Marxist theory and socialist literature, the term working class is often used interchangeably with the term proletariat and includes all workers who expend both physical and mental labour (salaried knowledge workers and white-collar workers) to produce economic value for the owners of the means of production (the bourgeoisie in Marxist literature).


"Yuppie" (short for "young urban professional" or "young, upwardly-mobile professional") is a term coined in the early 1980s for a young professional person working in a city.

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