Pop Quiz: Who Is Living America's Middle-Class Dream?

The Middle Class

For a country that doesn't officially have an aristocracy, the U.S. spends a lot of time talking about its middle class -- and the warfare that supposedly rages between it and "The 1 Percent." In recent months, this sometimes-seething, sometimes-hidden conflict has tumbled out into the open as the two presidential candidates have fought for the votes of average Americans. But while the middle class gets a lot of attention, few pundits and politicians have been able convincingly explain what, precisely, middle class means. Is it merely a measure of how much money a family brings in, as some economists assume, or is class in America still a measure of where you work, where you live, and where you went to college?

If you've ever wondered what the middle class is -- and whether or not you're a member of it -- take a peek at our middle class quiz!

Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at bruce.watson@teamaol.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.

Pop Quiz: Who Is Living America's Middle-Class Dream?
See Gallery
Pop Quiz: Who Is Living America's Middle-Class Dream?

A. $30,000
B. $50,000
C. $65,000
D. $80,000

Answer: B. According to the Census Bureau, the middle 60% of households make between $20,263 and $101,582, and the middle quintile -- the "middlest" of the middle class -- makes $38,521-$62,434 per year. The median household brings home $50,020 per year.

A. $40,000
B. $50,000
C. $60,000
D. $70,000

Answer: D. According to a recent Pew poll, the median middle class response was that it takes $70,000 per year to fund a middle class family of four.

A. High School diploma
B. Associate degree
C. College degree
D. Graduate degree

Answer: B. Educational attainment is one of the fault lines between money-based and lifestyle-based definitions of the middle class. Most theorists claim that a college degree -- or even a graduate degree -- are necessary for membership in the group. The Census Bureau, on the other hand, notes that the median household headed by someone with an associate's degree makes $55,928 per year -- almost $6,000 more than the median household. As for households headed by college graduates, their median income is $83,985. In other words, according to the Census Bureau, it doesn't take a four-year college diploma to live the middle-class dream.

A. 4%
B. 15%
C. 21%
D. 34%

Answer: A -- or maybe B. The middle 20% of the country -- the core middle class -- holds 4% of the nation's wealth, which is defined as assets, minus debts. The middle 60%, which is a more expansive definition of the middle class, has just over 15%. The rest, 85%, is almost entirely held by the richest 20% of the country.

A. 3%
B. 7%
C. 10%
D. 15%

Answer: A. According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, the effective income tax rate -- basically, income tax after deductions and tax credits -- is 3.3% for the middle 20% of taxpayers. For the middle 60%, it ranges from -0.4% to 6.2%. In other words, a large part of the middle class fits into the 47% of citizens who don't pay any federal income tax.

A. 20%
B. 49%
C. 63%
D. 72%

Answer: B. For decades, the number of people who define themselves as middle class has remained fairly consistent, fluctuating between 45% and 49%. Surprisingly, this is also fairly consistent across races: In a recent study, 51% of white respondents described themselves as middle class, compared with 48% of blacks and 47% of Hispanics.

A. 18%
B. 37%
C. 41%
D. 58%

Answer: D. The middle 60% of Americans -- the full middle class -- receive 58% of all federal entitlements. The top 20% receive 10% of entitlements, and the bottom 20% -- the poorest people in the country -- receive 32%

Read Full Story
  • DJI25914.1065.230.25%
  • NIKKEI 22521565.35-19.15-0.09%
    Hang Seng29354.99-54.02-0.18%
  • USD (PER EUR)1.130.00080.07%
    USD (PER CHF)1.000.00060.06%
    JPY (PER USD)111.27-0.1590-0.14%
    GBP (PER USD)1.330.00270.20%

Can't get enough business news?

Sign up for Finance Report by AOL and get everything from retailer news to the latest IPOs delivered directly to your inbox daily!

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.