According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the U.S. job market is projected to increase by seven percent over the next ten years, adding about ten million jobs by the year 2024. On the surface this seems like good news. But the BLS statistical sample actually reflects an alarming decrease in the number of middle class jobs. A combination of outsourcing and technological developments has rapidly been hollowing out the population that historically considered itself America’s special social and economic club.
It turns out this disturbing trend has been with us for a while. According to the Pew Research Center, upper-income households laid claim to forty-nine percent of U.S. aggregate income, up sharply from just twenty-nine percent from 1970. But the share of that income that went to middle-income households: only forty-three percent, down considerably from the reassuring sixty-two percent share the middle class enjoyed in 1970.
So if you thought you were the only one struggling, you’re not. If you remember the past as being a more comfortable time, it was – because many of us, and our parents, had much better-paying jobs.
Then again, you may not even be who, or what, you think you are anymore. According to Margaret King, director of the Center for Cultural Studies & Analysis, “Although over 90% of Americans identify as middle class, their income positions vary widely, from poverty level to wealthy.” So while your head and heart may be middle class, your wallet may not qualify anymore.
It seems Americans are starting to catch on. In a recent CNNMoney/E*Trade survey of Americans with a minimum of ten thousand dollars in an online trading account, fifty-two percent assigned a grade of “C” to the economy. Another fifteen percent gave it a grade of “D” or “F.”
According to one study, this anxiety is caused by increasing financial challenges that particularly came to the fore in the wake of the Great Recession, including reduced savings and declining household income. As of this past January, at least thirty-five percent of all income levels claimed they’ve been encountering financial challenges within the last six months.
This depressing social transformation may be less clear to us because we’re living smack in the middle of it. We have to check our bank balances and IRA accounts to jolt us back to reality.
Now, consider the perspective of Britain’s Guardian newspaper:
“Middle class, in the US, means what working class means in Britain. Except that, while nobody – even in [Labour Party Leader Jeremy] Corbyn’s Labour party – goes around saying they represent ‘working-class values’, all politicians in America claim to represent the values of this middle class.”
There you have it. We’re living an economic fantasy actively perpetuated by our politicians. As we move further and further into the twenty-first century, our children and grandchildren will hopefully have a stronger grip on their economic reality. They’ll absolutely know whether they’re rich or poor, and in which of our resources true wealth resides. Will they remember us as the generation that preserved a legacy for them or the ones who dropped the ball?