A small, but growing number of Americans are identifying as “lower class,” reminding some experts that no, we’re not quite out of our sluggish economy woes just yet.
According to poll data collected by the Los Angeles Times, 8.4 percent of Americans consider themselves lower-class, a record high since the poll started four decades ago. Most Americans have long considered themselves “middle” or “working” class, even during periods of economic downturn.
It’s not just unemployed people who identify that way, either. Part-time workers and some college graduates feel that they’re lower-class as well.
In another record low, less than 55 percent of respondents agreed that “people like me and my family have a good chance of improving our standard of living,” but that doesn’t so much show hope and optimism, but defeatism in the face of harsh economic realities.
Newser points out that the gap between rich and poor has broadened as well. The wealthiest 10 percent of Americans had more than half of the country’s earnings last year. They theorize that due to the Occupy movement and the 2012 election, more people than ever are aware of this gap, which is why they’re inclined to identify as “lower class.”
Is it a matter of perspective? Partly. America saw equally high poverty numbers in 1993 and 1983. It just seems that Americans have lost some faith in the possibility of improvement.
Researchers and activist groups didn’t seem terribly surprised by the poll results, and seemed to regard it as a pretty accurate temperature reading of the American workforce.
“It’s not surprising if the American worker is thinking, ‘I’m working harder than I’ve ever worked, yet I’m being paid less — and I’m working two or maybe three jobs,'” said Lola Smallwood Cuevas, project director of the Los Angeles Black Worker Center.
“It creates a feeling that you’re trapped.”
Do you identify as “lower-class?”