Monday, December 17, 2007

Time for class again!

The Caucus (at the NYT, might require registration) wants to know why the politicians have such a fuzzy definition of class. Of course, I've been working on the problem of defining classes in the US for a while, so I found some interesting stuff in the entry.

We know what we mean by poverty, more or less; the federal government defines that by income ($20,650 for a family of four at the moment), and about 14 percent of Americans qualify. But you might be surprised to learn — I certainly was — that there is no recognized definition of what it means to be middle class.

Despite the importance of the category to rhetoric.

The median household income in America, which should be a useful guidepost here, is something like $48,000. But Third Way showed—convincingly, it seemed to me, though Warren attacked the methodology—that if you remove single teenagers and senior citizens from the equation (not the people we generally think of as “middle class families,” after all), the median income is actually about $20,000 higher than that.

Ooh, that's a useful distinction. I'm not sure I'd agree: I think retired people count as "middle class" but teens might be worth segregating in the analysis. Their situations are more labile.

I think we're onto something with the choice factor. Income allows access to more choices, for sure, but so do some other things, like good health and smarts.

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