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Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 182 -- What Is Middle Class?

The Middle Class-

"Middle class" is an interesting term. Statistically, it refers to that middle 20% of income-earners (roughly $25,000-$42,000 per year), but culturally, it means so much more. If you ask just about any American to self identify based on "class" (itself such a nebulous, almost un-American concept), you'll unanimously hear some variation of "middle."

And that's because Americans, by and large, are not obsessed with class. Americans are not perpetually conscious and resentful and/or proud of class differences like citizens of some countries. And Americans making well over $42,000 per year, even over $100,000, may very well consider themselves solidly Middle Class (and with good reason).

Indeed, as The Tax Foundation notes:

Only 2 percent of U.S. adults consider themselves upper class, and fully 79 percent say they are lower-middle, middle, or upper-middle class.

Clearly, 4-out-of-5 Americans cannot be middle class, statistically. Haven't we been told that the middle is shrinking while the rich get richer and the poor get poorer?

Americans know better. Culturally, 4/5 of Americans are Middle Class, whether they fit neatly into that middle income quintile or not.

But class differences are effectively exploited in demagogic fashion by many on the left, even today. These Kucinich-types, who identify with Marx's view of a constant class struggle, with rigid and immobile class markers, are able to tap into a potent and dangerous stream of political support. But such support is ultimately shallow on the national stage, as most Americans believe in their own probability of upward mobility.

But let's take a look at the changing complexion of America's Middle Class. We can't make sound judgments about tax reform without understanding the true nature of "the middle class" in America.

As tax reform takes center stage, domestically, here's a prediction. We're going to hear quite a bit about "tax cuts for the wealthy" from Democrats. We're going to hear about how proposed tax reforms "benefit the rich at the expense of the middle class." We're going to hear it all.

So let's look at a few facts, first, about the changing nature of the typical American tax filer over the past few decades.

First, singles, unlike in 1960, are now by far the most common type of American taxpayer:


Now, note that the lower end of the tax scale coincides with more singles, while the higher end coincides with married couples:

Among the bottom 20 percent of taxpayers, 84 percent are single while just 16 percent are married. By contrast, 86 percent of those taxpayers in the top 20 percent are married while just 14 percent are single. As we’ll see later, many of these high-income married couples are simply dual-income. It’s easy to see that with two incomes, working couples appear twice as wealthy as single individuals.

This is an important development, and something to keep in mind when we hear the rhetoric from high-tax-loving Democrats about the rich not paying their fair share at the expense of working Americans. With two-income families becoming the norm among married couples, we're seeing two very much middle income folks joining their incomes and suddenly becoming part of that high-income quintile. It's hard to imagine two junior high school teachers, married to each other and filing their income taxes jointly, considering themselves "rich."

But that's precisely what many on the left would have us believe.

So, soaking the rich as a solution to all of our income tax problems may really mean that we're soaking solidly Middle Class Americans who just happen to be married.


The Tax Foundation.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: The Rich Pay Plenty In Taxes.

Posted by Will Franklin · 11 October 2005 12:17 PM


There you go.
I was explaining this to my wife just 2 days ago, minus the graphs which I'm going to show her. The tax rate hikes that they always propose never seem to adjust for joint filers in the calculation of whealth. Somehow I "magically" became rich in the left's eyes just by tying the knot.

Posted by: Rob B. at October 11, 2005 01:59 PM