The new middle

by Rhode

A Portrait Of America’s Middle Class, By The Numbers

Our favorite topic – what is the middle class…

Do you agree with the numbers?

I found the shape of the middle class by numbers interesting. Who knew Sheboygan had 3.6 million people? But seriously, the more expensive the area, the larger the proportion of lower income (and the lower the median income). The McAllen Texas area is telling – and probably more representative of “middle America” than we on the coasts would like to believe.

How do you think these numbers will shape decisions at the Federal level? When we talk of political candidates talking to the middle class, do we mean middle class by income (like this article), or is it a more “cultural” middle class defined by attributes and values?

The dance recital

by Mémé

We often spar on the Totebag about what is Middle Class, invoking regional and educational differences in raw income numbers and in cultural markers of that status. But recently someone remarked about dental health that an astounding percentage of US kids now have braces at some point in their lives. So straight teeth are a fairly universal middle class marker.

I recently had the opportunity to observe another of those universal middle class markers. The end of year Dance Recital.

20150625.TDanceRecital

A neighbor suggested that they take my eldest granddaughter to dance class along with their same aged girl. Her Cambridge/Portland alternative style parents had no idea what they were getting into. Coco and Ella (assumed names) ended up on stage for 130 seconds of a 2 ½ hour extravaganza in 50 dollar gold and sequined tutus stomping their tap shoes to a cover version of The Lion Sleeps Tonight. I knew enough to bring several wrapped and beribboned roses for presentation to the young performer.

The school is clearly the secondary “fun” one in their area – the only marginally competent numbers were adult tap and the break dancers. But all was forgiven after the chubby mentally handicapped teen with glasses and a diaphanous gown glided across the stage with her group as best she could to Every Little Thing You Do is Magic.

Totebaggers, please share your recital stories from your children’s or your own life. Parents of physical or mind sport athletes, feel free to weigh in on sports banquets and the like.

Income Disparities and Dealing With Them

by Pregnant Teen Mom

I have a really neat problem.

A very good friend of my little family and his wife are hedge fund people. They are Mitt Romney wealthy—certainly not Warren Buffett wealthy, but what’s the difference, really? I don’t really speak to my friend all that often. He is too busy. We were puppies together in New York. But his wife and I probably yak on the phone every other day. They are both close to my son.

The thing is, they are very generous. Where do I draw the line? I mean when they come visit, they stay in a suite at the Biltmore. When they go to the Keys they stay in the Chica Lodge. We are always invited, and I can barely pay the Resort Fee. Vacations are in St. Bart’s or some equivalent place. They’re taking the Fund’s jet. Do we want them to pick us up at Tamiami?

I have always paid my own way. My friends are by no means pretentious and their invites are sincere. I know they would pay for Junior and me, but I don’t want them to. Junior and I are solidly middle class. I am pretty much retired. I don’t want Junior to get used to flying even in coach—except as a privilege—much less in a hedge fund jet.

I know my friends are well meaning and extraordinarily generous. But I am fiercely independent. (Yeah, I know that sounds like a “severe conservative”, which I am most definitely not.)

Any thoughts?

Middle Class Discussion

by AustinMom

While the term “middle class” is frequently used, even the Census Bureau does not have an official definition because the middle is relative to the entire spectrum.  A 2011 Pew Charitable Trust Study, listed the range the 30 to 70 percentiles of income in America (in dollars that is $32,900 to $64,000). However, this percentile income range for “middle class” also varies based on the cost of living and salaries in your area.  This means “middle class” is more about a frame of mind or what is viewed as important – as of August 2012 that was a secure job and health insurance (Secure Job – Ticket to the Middle Class).

The nebulousness of middle class is borne out in two recent articles.  The first article talks about middle class from a psychological perspective, near the end is an interactive chart that is interesting. (Economically Insecure Middle Class)

The second one shows how defining “middle class” by income as a fixed dollar range can be misleading.  (Living Paycheck to Paycheck on $75K).

I used the this Census site (Census State Income) to get a rough estimate of middle class based on the percentile definition. The range is $25,000 to $75,000. Based on this figure, we have dipped into the middle class in the last 10 years, but overall have remained slightly above that. However, within Texas I live in an area (as are most big cities in the state) where the cost of living is slightly above the average national cost of living. (Cost of Living)  Including this measure, our income is slightly more than the city’s average cost of living. Since that does not include saving for totebag important items such as retirement and college, I would say our family falls in the definition of middle class.

Do you think you are middle class based on your income and location?