Some 52% of American adults identify as either “upper-middle” or “middle class,” as opposed to 46% who identify as “working class” or “lower class,” according to a survey from Gallup. These figures have remained relatively steady over the past decade, though about 20 years ago middle-class identification was higher.
Between 2002 and 2005 at least 6 in 10 adults identified as being either “upper-middle class” or “middle class,” but middle class identification then trended downward until 2012, when there was near-parity between middle class and working- or lower-class identification. As recently as 2018 the gap widened, but has since narrowed again.
The biggest changes in social class identification between the 2002-2008 period and the 2012-2022 period have been for adults with lower levels of education, who have moved in greater numbers from middle- to working- or lower-class identification. By party identification, Republicans have been much more likely than Democrats to transition to working- or lower-class identification, with these two groups more on par now in terms of social class identification than in the past.
Among age groups, that migration in social class identification has been most evident for people ages 35-54, and least so for people ages 55 and older. That’s interesting in light of recent data from the Federal Reserve, which found that Gen Xers’ share of US household wealth is rising. As of Q4 2021 Gen Xers controlled about 30% of US household wealth, up from 21% in Q4 2017.
Meanwhile, 2% of US adults surveyed by Gallup identify as “upper class,” a figure that has remained relatively constant over the past 20 years, at 1-2% in these particular surveys.
For more data, check out the survey results here.
About the Data: The results are based on an April survey of 1,018 US adults (18+).