I grew up with middle class being defined as that home-owning family, with the dad (and maybe the mom) in good white-collar jobs, the newer cars in the driveway, family vacations to somewhere that took a plane trip.
I thought I’d grow up, get married, buy a home, take care of the kids and travel with my own work, all while planning family trips to Disney World.
The perception of middle-class has changed from a cushy one to one that is successful and stable.
When I was in junior high, the original survey said that homeownership and a couple of cars in the garage were big qualities of middle class Americans.
Now? The most popular answer is a secure job, and by the lack of a collar mentioned any kind of secure job.
I’ve felt extremely lucky for years, that my husband could keep his job, that even when his work struggled there were no layoffs and over a decade later he is still there, still working, although he isn’t where he thought he would be by now.
But there has always been a paycheck.
So, instead of me taking a low-wage job and paying for care for our son – with my employment history I fall into too experienced for this, not enough for that - the better choice was to work it on one income and for me to stay home.
We are lucky to be secure, even though the one with the college education isn’t the one employed.
We own a couple of vehicles, both paid off. Are we middle class?
We own a little money in investments, but not nearly enough as we should. Luckily, there is already college money for Wonder Boy set aside and more will come.
And the health insurance? Well, two out of three of us have insurance, which isn’t because we weren’t prepared to pay for it, but because the company decided one of us was too risky, even though they are rarely sick and the company is ridiculous and even the doctor doesn’t understand why they were denied. (Health care reform, we need it.)
I’ve been thinking of the different families we know, how luckily for some that middle class status is now theirs, and for others it is unattainable at the present.
Some of them are upside down and drowning in debt, some are struggling to find a better job that actually covers the bills, some have huge college loans to pay back and are just getting it together.
And also wondering… what will middle-class be when my son is old enough to worry about these things. Will it still be a secure job? Will it again be defined by what kind of job, how many cars you drive?
Will he be able to afford a house like the one he will grow up in?
Will he need a college education to get it, or will other criteria take the place of higher learning?
What do you feel on the differences of the surveys? Are you middle class according to the public’s opinions of what middle class is now?
And most importantly, do you feel middle class?
Statistics from Pew Research Center
Image via Flickr
Megan is busy enjoying her air conditioning and her son spending time at preschool. You can find her writing about music and life at Sunshine Wonderland