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What is considered “middle class”?


That’s a very simple question that can only be answered in a very subjective way. It depends on whom you ask and where you are. In a young country like the United States, the term generally has an economic connotation. If you’re not rich or poor, you’re middle class, and you can probably be identified by such characteristics as a desk job, a college education and a home that you own instead of rent.
In Europe, where the social history is longer and class distinctions have a more palpable presence in everyday life, middle class is more a matter of, well, class than bank balance. The middle class historically has been the group between the great working-class mass of humanity and the landed nobility. People in the middle-class there are seen as members of the working class who have attained through their own effort a portion of the creature comforts that the upper class was born into.
In America we see class affiliation as more fluid than Europeans do. We can be born poor and have a reasonable expectation of entering the middle class through a good education, hard work and a few breaks. Therefore we have tended to draw inspiration from self-made individuals. By contrast, there is a widespread belief in Europe in a class system so rigid that few escape the station they were born into. That’s why those in the European working class are inclined to hold members of the middle class in disdain, viewing them as overachieving strivers. Perhaps that is why in surveys Americans are more inclined than Europeans to identify themselves as middle class.
-Conrad de Aenlle