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Some observers, including Atlantic writer Caitlin Zaloom, now believe that the American middle class is dead.
Zaloom, in fact, asserts that the work and jobs that define the middle class no longer exist. For instance, Zaloom thinks white-collar professionals in secure corporate or government jobs compose a middle class.
Furthermore, she defines a middle-class job as a white-collar position that pays enough to support a family on one salary. Zaloom maintains that the American middle class is dead because such jobs no longer exist.
The American Middle Class Is Dead: Nurses Drive Uber To Pay The Bills
To illustrate, Uber is currently recruiting teachers and nurses to drive in the San Francisco Bay Area. Uber recruits teachers and nurses because those professionals cannot make enough money at their jobs to pay their rent or mortgage in the Bay Area.
Moreover, the price of the average house in the Bay Area was $935,000 in August 2018, Curbed estimates. Amazingly, that price is down from June 2018 when the average Bay Home was selling for $1.62 million.
In addition, the average apartment in San Francisco is renting for $3,294 a month, Rent Jungle calculates. As a result, middle-class families cannot afford to live in the Bay Area.
The American Middle Class Is Dead, Is Family Life Next?
In particular, Zaloom believes that middle-class jobs and middle-class families go hand-in-hand. However, she thinks those jobs and the families they support no longer exist.
“Stability on the job gave shape to the idealized nuclear family, one that white-collar men and women could imagine anchoring their children’s adulthoods, too,” Zaloom writes.
By and large, the American middle class is dead because job security is dead. For example, 94% of the job growth between 2005 and 2015 consisted of part-time, temporary, or contract work.
The American Middle Class Is Dead Because Middle-Class Jobs Are Disappearing
Particularly, Zaloom points to the disappearance of middle-class jobs and incomes to support her thesis that the middle class is dead.
Specifically, the percentage of American adults living in households which earn a middle-class income fell from 61% in 1971 to 50% in 2015, Pew Social Trends states. Meanwhile, the percentage of lower-class or poor Americans grew from 16% in 1971 to 20% in 2015.
On the other hand, the middle class could also be shrinking because more people are joining the upper class. Pew calculates that 14% of Americans were in the upper class in 1971 while 21% of Americans were in the upper class in 2015.
Notwithstanding, economists Richard V. Reeves and Katherine Guyot still classify 60% of American households as middle-class. Reeves and Guyot have arrived at this conclusion by defining the middle class as any household making between $37,000 and $147,000 a year.
The American Middle Class Is Dead Because People Make Less Than Their Parents
Additionally, the American middle class is dead because half of Americans will make less money than their parents. Zaloom also thinks the belief that children will be richer than their parents is key to the middle-class identity.
Notably, just 50% of Americans born after 1984 will earn more than their parents, Reeves and Guyot assert. In contrast, over 90% of Americans born in 1940 have earned more than their parents.
Ultimately, the American middle class is dead because so many younger Americans are leaving it in one way or another.
The American Middle Class Is Dead But What Will Replace It?
In the final analysis, Zaloom raises an important question: if the American middle class is dead what will replace it?
“The middle class is tricky to define today because the secure jobs and stable home lives that supplied its historical definition are now gone for most Americans,” Zaloom writes.
Because of this, we must prepare for life in a country where the American middle class may lose prominence. This new version of America could end up being a very different place than what any of us are accustomed to.
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What do you think? Is the American middle class really dead? Let us know in the comments below.