What social class are you in?
If you are like most Americans, you will probably say “middle class.” In a recent Pew survey, almost nine in 10 Americans did, and about half of Americans said they were “middle middle” class. Only 2 percent acknowledge that they’re “upper class.”
How is that possible? How far does the middle stretch?
If you have a household income above around $120,000, you are in the top fifth of the distribution. If you’re above $200,000, you’re in the top tenth. Would you still say you’re in the middle?
It has long been this way. America’s self-image is of a middle-class nation, unburdened by either a lumpen proletariat working class or an aristocratic upper class. Drawing class distinctions seems almost un-American. Racial divides have been more vivid, and with good reason.
Even George Orwell noted the lack of “servile tradition” in America. British historian David Cannadine described the U.S. as “the pioneering and prototypical classless society.” Inspired, politicians in other countries have often urged the creation of a “classless” society.
But America’s “classless” society is in danger, thanks in large part to the actions of the upper middle class, or top 20 percent.