Not surprisingly, the majority of Americans consider themselves middle class. We tend to work and socialize with people of similar wealth and income levels, so our tendency is to assume we fit somewhere in the middle of the pack.
But is it really true? What’s the middle of the pack, anyway?
This question has been highlighted recently by the proposed changes to tax legislation. Many advocates of the tax plan have maintained that the plan would benefit the middle class. But others have questioned whether politicians, many of whom are wealthy, even know what middle class is.
According to the Pew Research Center, middle class income ranges from $42,000 to $125,000 for a family of three, and barely half of American households fall within that range. But a recent Gallup poll found that 62 percent of Americans consider themselves to be middle class. Clearly, many people believe they are middle class when statistics say they are not.
That’s probably because most of us don’t think of middle class as just an income figure, but rather, a measure of lifestyle. Are you living paycheck to paycheck? Can you afford some extras?
The answers to these questions depend on many factors. In addition to your income, the size of your family and the cost of living in your area matter a great deal in determining your financial status. They make a substantial difference in your ability to buy a home or car, or to send your kids to college—things many people consider the staples of middle class life.
So—are you middle class? The Washington Post has created a middle class calculator to help you find out. Using it, I found that a family in King County, Washington is middle class if they make between $45,263 and $147,984 annually. The calculator allows you to add your income and location, though family size is set to a default of 2.5 people. But it will give you a relative idea of how your income compares to other households in your county and nationally.