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Princeton, NJ
Informing and Connecting Engaged Citizens
USA
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April 10, 2015
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Middle Class, but Feeling Economically Insecure

“Middle income is not necessarily the same thing as middle class,” said Rakesh Kochhar, a senior research associate at Pew. Even as the proportion of households in the middle-income brackets has narrowed, people’s identification with the middle class remains broad.

That’s because the middle-class label is as much about aspirations among Americans as it is about economics. But a perspective that was once characterized by comfort and optimism has increasingly been overlaid with stress and anxiety.

Part of the reason has to do with lost jobs and stagnating incomes. At the same time, the psychological frame — how Americans feel about their security and prospects — and the sociological — how they stack up in relation to their parents, friends, neighbors and colleagues — are just as important as purely economic criteria. And on both these counts, middle-class Americans say they are feeling increasingly vulnerable.

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