Are you middle class? If you’re like most Americans, you’d probably say yes. Fifty-eight percent of people Gallup surveyed in late 2016 identified themselves as middle or upper-middle class. Thirty-eight percent said they were either working class or lower class, while just 3% admitted to being upper class.
Those survey results don’t tell the whole story though. As Gallup put it, “Americans’ self-identified social class does not necessarily reflect their actual socioeconomic status.” In the Gallup survey, 36% of people earning less than $30,000 a year — well below the median income in the United States — identified themselves as middle class. Another survey conducted by CNBC found 88% of millionaires said they were either middle or upper-middle class; only 4% said they were upper class.
In other words, someone could make a lot of money — or very little money — and see themselves as middle class. And they might be right. Any sociologist could tell you class is about more than just the size of your paycheck or the numbers in your bank account.
Though Americans (and our politicians) love to talk about the middle class, there’s no simple, straightforward definition of what it means to be in this group. Your earnings definitely play a role, but they’re not the only factor. The following 10 criteria have all been used to define the middle class. Check them out, and see whether you really qualify as an average American.