The American middle class feels vulnerable.
A new survey that examines “what it means to be middle class in America today” finds a feeling of “pervasive, entrenched vulnerability—a sense that many financial milestones once assumed as cornerstones of middle-class life are now beyond reach for all but the rich,” as Ronald Brownstein writes in The Atlantic. Sponsored by Allstate, the poll is part of “The Next Economy” series—a joint project of The Atlantic and National Journal—and was conducted earlier this month.
Nearly 4 in 10 Americans are vulnerable to unexpected shocks, saying they lack the means to make it through a health emergency or job loss, and only about 2 in 10 feel it’s very realistic that they could do so. The findings are similar when it comes to saving enough for retirement; and among self-identified members of the middle class aged 40 to 59, fewer than 20 percent feel a comfortable retirement is “very realistic.” Almost half of Americans view the ability to pay for a college education—regarded as one of the most important enablers of social mobility—as a privilege restricted to the upper class, and 40 percent believe it’s not very realistic that they will be able to fund a child’s higher education. An annual vacation feels similarly out of reach for many.
For more on this topic, see “American Dream in the Balance,” a report we produced last year that explores attitudes toward socioeconomic mobility.