A Question of Class: What We Really Think of Our Financial Status

A Question of Class: What We Really Think of Our Financial Status

The term "lower class" is a descriptor that many people have avoided in past years, but new research shows that more Americans are self-identifying as lower class—in fact, the number of people doing so is at a record high.

The Los Angeles Times reports that 8.4% of Americans called themselves lower class in response to a question issued by the General Social Survey, conducted by the University of Chicago's independent research organization Norc. It may not seem like a large percentage, but it's the highest since Norc started asking the question 40 years ago.

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The likely reason for this shift in perception isn't exactly surprising: As the recovery trudges along, the vast majority of the wealth goes to the 1%, while more than 4 million Americans have been jobless for half a year or longer. That group of would-be workers is the most likely to call themselves lower class—as one man who spoke to the Times said, it's hard to consider yourself working class when you aren't working.

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What's more: Less than 55% of Americans surveyed by the General Social Survey think that they have a good chance at improving their standard of living, and between 2002 and 2012, the number of college attendees (not necessarily graduates) identifying as lower class doubled.

So, if record numbers of Americans both identify as lower class and see little room for improvement in their financial standing, what does that mean for the hard-work-gets-you-everywhere sentiment so popular in the American rhetoric?

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