Economy & Business

VIDEO: Nobody Knows What ‘Middle Class’ Means

Like — not even the government.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about whether or not President Obama’s plans for the middle class are good ones — but what’s the point if nobody even really knows what “middle class” means?

On Thursday, I ventured around New York City and asked people what they thought a middle-class household income was. I got everything from “I don’t know” to $35,000 or $150,000:

“What is a middle-class income?” happened to be one of the most Googled questions during Tuesday’s State of the Union address. Rightfully so – much as the president talked about working for the middle class, the federal government has no exact definition of the phrase, which is perhaps why it’s such a popular one to throw around.

Whether because or in spite of the confusion over what the middle class is, a CNN poll found that 69 percent of the speech’s viewers felt that Obama’s proposals would be effective in helping it.

According to a 2014 Pew poll, 85 percent of Americans identify themselves as either middle, upper-middle, or lower-middle class, so lots of people understandably assume any benefits of the president’s policies would apply to them. 

In the same poll, only 1 percent said they had “no opinion,” which seems a little low when people are clearly not sure what these terms really mean.

After all, what a “middle class” income means on a national level would be pretty hard to define, wouldn’t it?

As many of the people I interviewed noted, what income makes you rich, poor, or middle-class varies dramatically based on where you live — which makes it an even trickier for the president of the whole United States to promise anything to the group.

— Katherine Timpf is a reporter at National Review Online.

Most Popular


George Packer Gets Mugged by Reality

Few journalists are as respected by, and respectable to, liberals as The Atlantic’s George Packer. The author of The Assassin's Gate (2005), The Unwinding (2013), and a recently published biography of Richard Holbrooke, Our Man, Packer has written for bastions of liberal thought from the New York Times Magazine ... Read More

How to Bend the News

This, from ABC, is a nice example of a news organization deliberately bending the truth in order to advance a narrative that it wishes were true but is not: Venerable gun manufacturer Colt says it will stop producing the AR-15, among other rifles, for the consumer market in the wake of many recent mass ... Read More

Trump’s Total Culture War

 Donald Trump is waging a nonstop, all-encompassing war against progressive culture, in magnitude analogous to what 19th-century Germans once called a Kulturkampf. As a result, not even former president George W. Bush has incurred the degree of hatred from the left that is now directed at Trump. For most of ... Read More

Iran’s Act of War

Last weekend’s drone raid on the Saudi oil fields, along with the Israeli elections, opens a new chapter in Middle Eastern relations. Whether the attack on Saudi oil production, which has temporarily stopped more than half of it, was launched by Iranian-sponsored Yemeni Houthis or by the Iranians themselves is ... Read More