Gallup: Middle-Class Identification in US at Pre-Recession Levels

Gallup summary: 

  • 62% identify as upper-middle or middle class, similar to 2008
  • Just 2% of Americans identify as upper class
  • Older adults much more likely than young adults to identify as middle class

The breakdown of social class identification in the U.S. has returned to pre-recession levels, with 2% saying they belong to the upper class, 62% to the upper-middle or middle classes, and 36% to the working or lower classes.

Americans’ identification as upper-middle or middle class was lower in 2012 and 2015, but rose across three surveys taken last fall, and has edged up slightly more in Gallup’s June 7-11 poll.

Gallup’s class identification question asks Americans to put themselves in one of five categories: upper, upper-middle, middle, working or lower class. This subjective classification differs from objective calculations of social class based on quantifiable measures like income, education, net worth, location of residence, family background or other variables.

Middle class is the most common label, used by 44% of Americans, followed by working class at 28% and upper-middle class at 18%. Relatively few consider themselves to be lower class or upper class, at 8% and 2%, respectively.

Gallup did not ask this social class question between 2009 and 2011, and therefore it is possible the 2012-2015 dip in middle-class identification was evident earlier, following the 2008 financial meltdown and its aftermath. Overall, the three 2016 surveys and the current June 7-11 survey demonstrate that subjective social class identification has stabilized close to the prevailing pattern observed before 2009.