The Disappearing Middle Class

The other day the New York Times ran an article that said that the middle class in America can not be defined as it was in the mid 20th Century. Middle class then meant that a family could look forward to a steady paycheck that would translate into owning ones own home, having a car in the driveway and sending one’s children to college, or at least providing them an opportunity to achieve the equivalent of a college education. Parents expected their children to do better economically then they did.

The article went on to say that that is no longer the case today. Middle class is now defined differently in America. Economically, middle class is anyone, or a family, making 250,000.00 down to about 100,000.00 annually. The problem with this economic definition is that many persons in the economic middle class do not remain there regularly. There is no such thing as steady employment in that salary range. As a result, the kind of accumulated wealth needed to buy a house, buy a car and send one’s children to college does not exist today. Worse, parents today do not see their children doing better economically than they did. Socially, the middle class still exists. People identify themselves as middle class. They try to live out the goals and aspirations of the middle class of yester-year. They have resigned themselves as never being rich as they see the ceiling lowering. The situation is unsettling at best, depressing at worst.

If one is lucky/fortunate/blessed enough to have retired before the above became a reality, one only need look to the progeny of family and friends to see that even with a college education, a constant place in the economic middle class of yester-year is not possible. If one is gifted enough to become a movie or athletic star, or one is brilliant enough to develop the next social media software, one may join the super rich.

Or, perhaps the lessening of material goals may force the unsure middle class of today to strive for higher cultural, environmental or spiritual goals. Hopefully, this is not just wishful thinking.

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