ON-Lion Letter

"Middle-class economics" has been a focal point of President Barack Obama's latest economic proposals.  What does it mean to be middle class?  The March issue of the AEI Political Report, from the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., examines how Americans define "middle class" in terms of income and lifestyle, who identifies as belonging in the middle class, what economic challenges this class faces, and who Americans think best helps the middle class overcome those challenges.

The AEI Political Report is a monthly compilation of polls by AEI senior fellow and research coordinator Karlyn Bowman, whose work is supported by Milwaukee's Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

Of those who self-identify as middle class, 54% say the factor that most "makes you middle class" is income or wages, according to the March issue.  A Pew survey found that Americans thought it would take an annual income of $70,000 for a family of four to lead a middle-class lifestyle in their area.

Since the 1970s, Americans have vacillated between describing themselves as middle or working class, Bowman's report continues.  Continuing a trend from the last decade, a plurality of Americans identify as middle class, although the percentage has declined in recent years.

A secure job tops the list of what Americans say they need to be considered part of the middle class, with 86% giving that response, it goes on.  Those in the middle class also identify the ability to keep up with expenses and stay out of debt as a defining characteristic of the middle class.

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