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Updated: Apr 13, 2023

Are You Middle Or Working Class? 10 Ways to Assess Your Class Standing


The recession has caused individuals and families from every class to reevaluate their spending habits. The many lifestyle changes make it more difficult to gauge your class status. Based on numbers provided in a U.S. News and World Report survey, we've compiled a list of 10 things you can use as an indicator of your class standing.

1. Income

To ask a person their salary is impolite, but it is the best way to measure where you stand. Six years ago, the median household income was $44,489. In 2008, the median was reported to be $81,000. 50 percent of families in the middle class had household incomes ranging from $51,000 to $123,000. These figures have most likely fallen by 5% to 7% since 2008.

2. Hours Worked

The number of hours you work goes hand in hand with income. It often indicates being paid more, but does not necessarily mean you make more per hour. America has seen a 5% increase in the amount of hours worked by parents since 1990. In a calendar year, the average amount of hours worked in a two-parent family is 3,747.

3. Medical Expenses

Becoming an adult comes with more responsibility — and often additional aches and pains. Health care currently is a hot-button issue and costs seemingly are always increasing. A median two-parent family spends $5,100 per year on health insurance and non-covered expenses. Medical expenses have risen more than any of the other costs on this list since 1990.

4. Housing Costs

The housing market is in rough shape right now, but improvement could be on the way. A typical two-parent family owns a home worth $231,000 and pays an average of $17,600 per year in mortgage and other costs.

5. Cars

A car can show a lot about a person: Whether they are rich or poor, messy or not, a good driver or a bad driver. But these are all assumptions. Due to the high price of gas and better awareness of the environmental ramifications of driving, car sales have dipped 40%. A typical family spends $45,000 on a new car.

6. Debt

It often is difficult to cap how much money you're spending. Cars, homes and kids all cost a lot, and often times Americans have difficulty keeping up with bills. At the beginning of 2008, personal debt peaked at 18.9% of peoples' incomes. Since then debt levels have steadily fallen.

7. College Savings

A solid education is as important as ever — and as expensive as ever. Many parents are saving in preparation for college expenses. The typical two-child family puts aside $4,100 in college funds expected to go toward a state university education.

8. Retirement Savings

These figures are dependent on the individuals managing family finances. If a median-income family decides to save for retirement at 3.2%, its average yearly savings would be $2,600. Not all people choose to save a certain percentage of their income for retirement.

9. Everyday Spending

With the current trend of strategic shopping, these figures are dropping each year. Families are more conscious of the amount of money spent on clothing, food and entertainment. Living expenses such as these add up to $14,200 per year for a median-income family.

10. Vacations

Not all families have the luxury of being able to afford a vacation or the flexibility of taking time off of work, but most middle-income families find time every year to squeeze in some quality bonding time. Vacations, perhaps the most fun item on this list, run about $3,000 a week on average for a family of four.

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