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Defining the Middle Class - 6/9/15

One thing that many Americans seem to agree upon is that the nation’s middle class is shrinking.  But not many people can actually define who is and who is not a member of the middle class.  A recent review by CNNMoney uncovered several ways that federal agencies, economists and others define middle class.  It is common for people to look first and foremost at one’s income. 

Some define the middle class as literally comprised of the middle fifth of the nation’s income ladder.  A broader characterization includes everyone but the highest earning twenty percent and the lowest earning twenty percent.  The Pew Research Center defines the middle class as anyone with between two-thirds and two times the national median income for one’s household size.  For a family of four, that means that the middle class includes households earning between forty seven thousand and one hundred and forty one thousand dollars. 

One might look at wealth as opposed to income since some people, particularly the elderly, don’t generate much income and live off their respective nest eggs.  Many people are in debt, so they have negative wealth.  According to New York University Professor Edward Wolff, the middle class includes anyone with zero wealth to around four hundred thousand dollars.

Anirban Basu, Chariman Chief Executive Officer of Sage Policy Group (SPG), is one of the Mid-Atlantic region's leading economic consultants. Prior to founding SPG he was Chairman and CEO of Optimal Solutions Group, a company he co-founded and which continues to operate. Anirban has also served as Director of Applied Economics and Senior Economist for RESI, where he used his extensive knowledge of the Mid-Atlantic region to support numerous clients in their strategic decision-making processes. Clients have included the Maryland Department of Transportation, St. Paul Companies, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Players Committee and the Martin O'Malley mayoral campaign.