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Downwardly Mobile in America: Fewer Americans Feel They’re Middle Class


One-third of Americans who identified as middle class in 2008 now say they’re lower or lower-middle class, according to a Mother Jones analysis of recent Pew research. A national survey found that, post-recession, fewer Americans feel that they’re middle class than ever before — 44 percent, or just slightly more than the 40 percent who feel they’re lower or lower-middle class.

long way down 

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“…[A]s dramatic as that sounds, it’s actually even more dramatic than those bare words suggest,” writes Kevin Drum in Mother Jones. “Class self-identification is deeply tied up with culture, not just income, and this decline means that a lot of people — about one in six Americans — now think of themselves as not just suffering an income drop, but suffering an income drop they consider permanent. Permanent enough that they now live in a different neighborhood, associate with different friends, and apparently consider themselves part of a different culture than they did just six years ago.”

The middle class isn’t the only group suffering. In 2008, according to Pew Research, 21 percent of Americans identified as upper or upper-middle class; today, only 15 percent do.

In fact, every demographic group saw some slippage over the past six years, although not all were equally affected. College graduates who identified as lower or lower-middle class increased only 8 percent, while those with some college, but no degree, increased by 23 percent.

Gen Y was also hard hit by the recession, with young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 suffering the greatest decline in their perception of their social standing: 49 percent reported feeling that they were lower or lower-middle class, as opposed to 25 percent in 2008.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you think you’ve become lower or lower-middle class in the past few years? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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