My parents are a great example of the American Dream. They were the first people in their families to attend college and to get post-grad degrees. They came from huge families (11 on Dad’s side, 13 on Mom’s) which guaranteed that they even with good jobs for their fathers they would be in dire economic straights.
They managed, with some help from programs like the G.I. bill and academic scholarships, to get the education they needed to go from working class to middle class. They were not alone in their achievements in the post WWII generation. The middle class blossomed and prosperity grew. Unfortunately for the kids of folks like my parents, holding on to middle class status is turning out to be nearly as hard as attaining it.
A new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts details how one third of people who grew up in a middle class household have now become ‘downwardly mobile’. For the purposes of the study the group from Pew defined the middle class as being between the 30th and 70th percentile in income.
The study sample was based on people who were between 14 and 17 in 1979 and lived in their parents house, in the income brackets described above. The study then looked at their income status between 2004 and 2006 and compared the numbers to the numbers in their parents generation.
Note that this was before our economic catastrophe and its ongoing affects. 1 in 3 of these children of the middle class had slipped below the 30th percentile in income. The study finds that the problems of those who did slip out the middle class were what you might expect. A lack of higher education is a strong signal, women who are divorced and, of course the numbers are much higher for minorities than for white citizens.
One of the big finding is the marriage makes a big difference in maintaining middle class status. This is hardly surprising since nearly every family these days is a two income family and losing that other income or never having it makes staying in the income bands twice as hard.
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