While the politicians are catering to the middle class for votes, others have proclaimed the middle class dead; that it has been squeezed beyond financial recognition. But The New York Times has reported on a new study that says two in three Americans actually achieve a middle-class lifestyle by middle age.
According to The Times, “The study breaks life down into stages (for instance, adolescence) and gives benchmarks for each of those stages (in that case, graduation from high school with a grade-point average above 2.5, no criminal convictions and no involvement in a teenage pregnancy).” Next, the children were studied over time, seeing if they met those benchmarks and projecting whether they would make it to the middle class by the age of 40.
“The researchers found that …a child who meets all the criteria from birth to adulthood has an 81 percent chance of being middle class. A child who meets none has only a 24 percent chance,” says the article.
Of course, there were other factors that determine who makes it into the middle-class. The Brookings Institution also looked into why some children grow up and make it into middle class and others don’t. The researchers — Isabel V. Sawhill, Scott Winship and Kerry Searle Grannis — examined how race, gender and family income were factors.
The study found that—what a surprise—“children born to rich families have a 75 percent chance of being middle income or better by the time they reach their 40s. For children born to poor families, the chance is just 40 percent.”
According to the study, only about two in five black adolescents met the benchmark of graduating from high school with a decent grade point average, no children and no criminal record by the age of 19. (You can read this story about disconnected black youth for more info on that.) Compare this to white teens — two in three white adolescents met those benchmarks.