Upper middle class in the United States


Upper middle class in the United States

The upper middle class is a sociological concept referring to the social group constituted by higher-status members of the middle class. This is in contrast to the term lower middle class used for the group at the other end of the middle class scale and regular middle class. There is considerable debate as to how the upper middle class might be defined. According to Max Weber the upper middle class consists of well-educated professionals with graduate degrees and comfortable incomes.

The American upper middle class is defined similarly using income, education and occupation as main indicators.cite book | last = Thompson | first = William | authorlink = | coauthors = Joseph Hickey | year = 2005 | title = Society in Focus | publisher = Pearson | location = Boston, MA| id = 0-205-41365-X] In the United States, the upper middle class is defined as mostly consisting of white-collar professionals who have not only above-average personal incomes and advanced educational degreescite book | last = Thompson | first = William | authorlink = | coauthors = Joseph Hickey | year = 2005 | title = Society in Focus | publisher = Pearson | location = Boston, MA| id = 0-205-41365-X] but also a high degree of autonomy in their work, leading to higher job satisfaction.cite book | last = Eichar | first = Douglas | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = 1989 | title = Occupation and Class Consciousness in America | publisher = Greenwood Press | location = Westport, Connecticut | id = 0-313-26111-3] The main occupational tasks of upper middle class individuals tend to center on conceptualizing, consulting, and instruction.cite book | last = Ehrenreich | first = Barbara | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = 1989 | title = Fear of Falling, The Inner Life of the Middle Class
publisher = Harper Collins | location = New York, NY | id = 0-06-0973331
]

Professions

Certain professions can be judged as "upper middle class" though any such measurement remains somewhat subjective because of people's differing perception of class. Most people in the upper-middle class strata are highly educated white collar professionals such as physicians, lawyers, economists, planners, university professors, teachers, architects, psychologists, scientists, engineers, optometrists, dentists, pharmacists, high-level civil servants and the intelligentsia. Other common professions include corporate executive and business owner. Generally, people in these professions have an advanced post-secondary education and a comfortable standard of living.cite book | last = Thompson | first = William | authorlink = | coauthors = Joseph Hickey | year = 2005 | title = Society in Focus | publisher = Pearson | location = Boston, MA| id = 0-205-41365-X]

Values

Most people encompassing this station in life have a high regard for higher education, and probably more than any other socio-economic class strive for their children and themselves to obtain graduate or at least four-year undergraduate degrees.

Additionally, they place a high value on foreign travel, the arts, and high culture in general. This value also binds into the emphasis placed on education as foreign travel increases one's understanding of other cultures and helps create a global perspective.

In the U.S. the upper middle class is rather divided in terms of political ideology. Modern liberalism as well as fiscal conservatism are among the most prominent ideologies. Education commonly increases the chance of a person's subscribing to liberal beliefs,cite web|url=http://www.collegenews.org/x2782.xml|title=O'Bannon, B. R. (27 August, 2003). In Defense of the 'Liberal' Professor. "Indianapolis Star".|accessdate=2007-07-02] making liberals the best educated ideological demographic. In terms of income, liberals tend to be tied with pro-business conservatives.cite web|url=http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?PageID=945|title=Pew Reasearch Center. (10 May, 2005). Beyond Red vs. Blue.|accessdate=2007-07-12] Most mass affluent households and college-educated professionals tend to be either centrist or center-right on fiscal issues but liberal to left-wing on social issues.cite web|url=http://gmj.gallup.com/content/default.aspx?ci=14293|title=, R. & Saad, L. (9 December, 2004). Marketing to the Mass Affluent. "Gallup Management Journal".|accessdate=2007-07-19] A slight majority of college-educated professionals, who compose 15% of the population and 20% of the electorate, favor the Democratic Party.cite web|url=http://dir.salon.com/story/news/feature/2003/07/11/dean/index.html|title=Judis, B. J. (11 July, 2003). The trouble with Howard Dean. "Salon.com".|accessdate=2007-07-19] Among those with six figure households incomes, not all of whom are necessarily upper middle class,cite book | last = Gilbert | first = Dennis | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = 1998 | title = The American Class Structure | publisher = Wadsworth Publishing | location = New York | id = 0-534-50520-1] a slight majority favor the Republican Party. Academia and those with graduate degrees overall favor the Democratic Party.cite web|url=http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2004/pages/results/states/US/P/00/epolls.0.html|title=CNN. (2004). Exit Poll.|accessdate=2007-07-11] cite web|url=http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2006/pages/results/states/US/H/00/epolls.0.html|title=CNN. (2006). Exit Poll.|accessdate=2007-07-11] In 2005, 72% of full-time faculty members at four-year institutions, the majority of whom are upper middle class,cite book | last = Thompson | first = William | authorlink = | coauthors = Joseph Hickey | year = 2005 | title = Society in Focus
publisher = Pearson | location = Boston, MA | id = 0-205-41365-X
] identified as liberal.cite web|url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A8427-2005Mar28.html|title=Kurtz, H. (29 March, 2005). College Faculties A Most Liberal Lot, Study Finds. "The Washington Post".|accessdate=2007-07-02]

Education plays a major role in determining tastes and ideologies in this class. A graduate degree, and often even more higher education, is a prerequisite to work in one of the traditional "professions" and as a result this segment of the upper middle class is generally more liberal in their political ideologies and more urbane in their tastes. Corporate members of the upper middle class, on the other hand, may have a less advanced higher education (they may have worked their way up to their current social station from an entry-level corporate position). It should be noted, however, that some business persons do have advanced post-secondary education, most notably those with MBAs. Furthermore, in some cases professionals such as chemists or economists may be employed by private businesses and have managerial duties aside from their professional research duties.

The upper middle class is often the group that shapes society and brings social movements to the forefront. Movements such as the Peace Movement, The Anti-Nuclear Movement, Environmentalism, the Anti-Smoking movement, and even in the past with Blue laws and the Temperance movement are all products of the upper middle class. Some claim this is because this is the largest class (and the lowest class) with any true political power for positive change, while others claim some of the more restrictive social movements (such as with smoking and drinking) are based upon "saving people from themselves."cite book | last = Ehrenreich | first = Barbara | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = 1989 | title = Fear of Falling, The Inner Life of the Middle Class
publisher = Harper Collins | location = New York, NY | id = 0-06-0973331
]

American upper middle class

:"See American Professional/Managerial middle class for a complete overview of the American middle classes."
In the United States the term middle class and its subdivisions are an extremely vague concept as neither economists nor sociologists have precisely defined the term.cite web|url=http://www.pbs.org/now/politics/middleclassoverview.html|title=Middle class according to The Drum Major Institute for public policy|accessdate=2006-07-25] There are several perceptions of the upper middle class and what the term means. In academic models the term applies to highly educated salaried professionals whose work is largely self-directed. Many have graduate degrees with educational attainment serving as the main distinguishing feature of this class. Household incomes commonly may exceed $100,000, with some smaller one-income earners household having incomes in the high 5-figure range.cite book | last = Thompson | first = William | authorlink = | coauthors = Joseph Hickey | year = 2005 | title = Society in Focus
publisher = Pearson | location = Boston, MA | id = 0-205-41365-X
] cite book | last = Gilbert | first = Dennis | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = 1998 | title = The American Class Structure | publisher = Wadsworth Publishing | location = New York | id = 0-534-50520-1]

cquote
"The upper middle class has grown...and its composition has changed. Increasingly salaried managers and professionals have replaced individual business owners and independent professionals. The key to the success of the upper middle class is the growing importance of educational certification...its lifestyles and opinions are becoming increasingly normative for the whole society. It is in fact a porous class, open to people...who earn the right credentials. "- Dennis Gilbert, The American Class Structure, 1998.cite book | last = Gilbert | first = Dennis | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = 1998 | title = The American Class Structure | publisher = Wadsworth Publishing | location = New York | id = 0-534-50520-1]

In addition to having autonomy in their work, above-average incomes, and advanced educations, the upper middle class also tends to be influential, setting trends and largely shaping public opinion.cite book | last = Gilbert | first = Dennis | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = 1998 | title = The American Class Structure | publisher = Wadsworth Publishing | location = New York | id = 0-534-50520-1] cite book | last = Ehrenreich | first = Barbara | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = 1989 | title = Fear of Falling, The Inner Life of the Middle Class | publisher = Harper Collins | location = New York, NY | id = 0-06-0973331] Overall, members of this class are also secure from economic down-turns and, unlike their counterparts in the statistical middle class, do not need to fear downsizing, corporate cost-cutting, or outsourcing -- an economic benefit largely attributable to their graduate degrees and comfortable incomes, likely in the top income quintile or top third.cite book | last = Thompson | first = William | authorlink = | coauthors = Joseph Hickey | year = 2005 | title = Society in Focus | publisher = Pearson | location = Boston, MA| id = 0-205-41365-X] Typical professions for this class include professors, accountants, architects, urban planners, engineers, economists, pharmacists, political scientists, physicians and lawyers.cite book | last = Ehrenreich | first = Barbara | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = 1989 | title = Fear of Falling, The Inner Life of the Middle Class | publisher = Harper Collins | location = New York, NY | id = 0-06-0973331] cite web|url=http://www.bls.gov/oco/oco1002.htm|title=Professional Occupations according to the US Department of Labor|accessdate=2006-07-26]

Income

While many Americans see income as the prime determinant of class, occupational status, educational attainment, and value systems are equally important. Income is in part determined by the scarcity of certain skill sets.cite book | last = Thompson | first = William | authorlink = | coauthors = Joseph Hickey | year = 2005 | title = Society in Focus As a result an occupation that requires a scarce skill, the attainment of which is often achieved through an educational degree, and entrusts its occupant with a high degree of influence will usually offer high economic compensation. The high income is meant to ensure that individuals obtain the necessary skills (e.g. medical or graduate school) and complete their tasks with the necessary valor.cite book | last = Levine | first = Rhonda | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = 1998 | title = Social Class and Stratification
publisher = Rowman & Littlefield | location = Lanham, MD | id = 0-8476-8543-8
] There are also differences between household and individual income. In 2005, 42% of US households (76% among the top quintile) had two or more income earners; as a result, 18% of households but only 5% of individuals had six figure incomes.cite web|url=http://pubdb3.census.gov/macro/032006/hhinc/new05_000.htm|title=US Census Bureau, income quintile and top 5% household income distribution and demographic characteristics, 2006|accessdate=2006-12-28] To illustrate, two nurses each making $55,000 per year can out-earn, in a household sense, a single attorney who makes a median of $95,000 annually.cite web|url=http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos083.htm#earnings|title=US Department of Labor, median income of registered nurses|accessdate=2007-01-02] cite web|url=http://content.salary.monster.com/articles/salary/highestpay/|title=Bureau of Labor statistics data published by Monster.com, 20 highest paying jobs|accessdate=2006-12-27]

Sociologists Dennis Gilbert, Willam Thompson and Joseph Hickey estimate the upper middle class to constitute roughly 15% of the population. Using the 15% figure one may conclude that the American upper middle class consists, strictly in an income sense, of professionals with personal incomes in excess of $62,500, who commonly reside in households with six figure incomes.cite web|url=http://pubdb3.census.gov/macro/032006/hhinc/new05_000.htm|title=US Census Bureau, income quintile and top 5% household income distribution and demographic characteristics, 2006|accessdate=2006-12-28] cite web|url=http://pubdb3.census.gov/macro/032006/perinc/new01_001.htm|title=US Census Bureau, distribution of personal income, 2006|accessdate=2006-12-09] cite book | last = Thompson | first = William | authorlink = | coauthors = Joseph Hickey | year = 2005 | title = Society in Focus | publisher = Pearson | location = Boston, MA| id = 0-205-41365-X] cite book | last = Gilbert | first = Dennis | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = 1998 | title = The American Class Structure | publisher = Wadsworth Publishing | location = New York | id = 0-534-50520-1] The difference between personal and household income can be explained by considering that 76% of households with incomes exceeding $90,000 (the top 20%) had two or more income earners.cite web|url=http://pubdb3.census.gov/macro/032006/hhinc/new05_000.htm|title=US Census Bureau, income quintile and top 5% household income distribution and demographic characteristics, 2006|accessdate=2006-12-28]

SOURCE: US Census Bureau, 2006cite web|url=http://pubdb3.census.gov/macro/032006/perinc/new03_001.htm|title=US Census Bureau, personal income distribution, age 25+, 2006|accessdate=2006-12-28] cite web|url=http://pubdb3.census.gov/macro/032006/hhinc/new06_000.htm|title=US Census Bureau, overall household income distribution, 2006|accessdate=2006-12-28]

ee also

*Middle class
*Social class
*Bourgeois personality

US-specific

*Affluence in the United States
*American middle class
*Educational attainment in the United States
*Household income in the United States
*Personal income in the United States
*Social structure of the United States

References

* [http://countrystudies.us/colombia/40.htm Definition of Middle Class stratification]
* [http://www.expandglobal.com/General_info/education_and_income.htm Relationship between income and education]


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