The Rich and Everyone Else

Andrew Hacker in the New York Review of Books:

In their own ways, three of the books under review—Class Matters, Inequality Matters, and The Chosen—warn that social barriers in the US are higher and economic inequality is more pronounced than at any time in recent memory. All three books also frame this issue by asserting or implying that lines between classes are hardening. While the term is widely used, class has always resisted clear definition. We may talk of the rich and poor, of people in the middle, of blue- and white-collar workers, of haves and have-nots, yet attempts to place most people in an appropriate class have never been successful. There is no clear agreement on the number of classes, and how they should be defined. Indeed, attempts at precision inevitably create problems. For example, a 2004 study by the Annenberg Center at the University of Pennsylvania defined the middle class as everyone with incomes between $25,000 and $75,000.[1] They make up half of all households, and include all families on both sides of the median family income of approximately $50,000. But has a family making, say, $28,000 really reached the middle class? One with $95,000 might be called upper middle class; but that would still seem to locate it in the middle. Any attempt to set a floor or ceiling is bound to raise questions like these.

More here.