millionaires and the middle class

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Half of America says it's middle class – and they're not happy about it.

What exactly does it mean to be “middle class”? An intriguing new study didn’t bother to find out. It simply asked people if they think they’re middle class. Almost half (49 percent) did.

Yet middle class doesn’t mean content. According to marketing firm Mintel, less than a third of these self-proclaimed middle-classers “are satisfied with their personal financial situation,” and only a quarter “find their work personally fulfilling.”

They fret about the nation’s economy (86 percent), tax increases (79 percent), and having their jobs outsourced overseas (68 percent). But it’s not Trump’s fault, Mintel says.

The firm has conducted similar polling in previous years – and “current concerns mirror those of Americans five years ago, indicating there hasn’t been a dramatic shift in concerns for the country since 2011.”

What is “middle class”?

Social scientists don’t have a specific definition of what “middle class” is. The Pew Research Center uses city, state, ethnicity, age, marital status, household income and amount of people living in your home to determine your income status (low, middle, and high) and defines class based on that.

Only 30 percent of the country feels college education is necessary to be middle class. The more we make, the less we think education is necessary to be considered middle class.

Trump and the “middle class”

During Donald Trump’s inauguration, he promised to be a hero to the “middle class.” His supporters believe he has been championing on their behalf, whereas his critics say not much has changed.

The issues the “middle class” are concerned about in 2017 match what they were concerned about 5 years ago. Last February, most Americans felt the federal government wasn’t doing enough to help the middle class.

Trump’s tax reform plan says it will provide tax relief for the middle class by letting “people keep more money in their pockets and increase after-tax wages.” And if such a plan was actually proposed and passed by Congress, it would, according to the Tax Policy Center — about $1,000 for the average U.S. “middle class” worker. But the wealthy will reap the most benefits, with the 1 percent seeing about $250,000 in tax relief, and the very wealthy 0.1 percent getting over $1 million.

U.S. approval of Trump and the economy

Trump’s overall approval rating is now around 39 percent, according to the Pew Research Center. His disapproval rating is at 55 percent.

Meanwhile, positive views of the U.S. economy are on the rise, according to a recent CBS news poll. Sixty-four percent of Americans say the economy is in good shape — the highest the approval rate has been since 2002 — but only Trump’s supporters attribute that to him.

Overall, 42 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s handling the economy. That number goes up for Republicans to 80 percent, and 41 percent of independents approve. Only 15 percent of Democrats approve of Trump’s handling of the economy.

In 2011, Obama’s third year of his first term, Gallup reported only 13 percent of the U.S. said they were “satisfied” with Obama’s handling of the economy. Americans were worried about unemployment (32 percent), and the economy in general (32 percent). We were just edging out of the recession.

“Despite positive economic indicators, only a small portion say their standard of living exceeds their expectations,” says Dana Macke, Mintel leisure analyst. “This suggests that Americans are looking for more opportunities, work that is personally fulfilling and a community with shared values.”

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Meet the Author

Joe Pye

Joe Pye

Associate editor

Pye is the associate editor of



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