Middle Class and Upper Class: Economic and cultural conditions within any society determine its division into classes. Social classes can be determined by various factors such as ownership, relationships, and legal status; cultural characteristics also play an important role. Middle and Upper-Class people typically occupy two of the most popular social categories within any given society, middle-class people have adequate economic circumstances but may encounter challenges related to money, housing, or amenities while upper-class members live an exceptional life with more amenities and greater happiness compared to their counterparts in middle-class environments.
What Is the Middle Class?
The middle class refers to individuals and households that fall between the lower and upper classes in social hierarchies. Within Western culture, middle-class members tend to be better educated than working-class people and enjoy greater wealth for consumption and property ownership. They may work as managers, professionals, or public servants.
What Is the Upper Class?
Interieur Upper class refers to those individuals or groups in society that occupy the highest standing and status. They represent society’s wealthiest individuals, as they occupy positions above middle- and working-class members in terms of wealth accumulation. Members of this elite have higher incomes and control of natural resources compared with those belonging to lower-income classes; although relatively few, this elite control a large share of wealth.
Difference between Middle Class and Upper Class
Various factors distinguish the middle class from upper-class individuals and families. Income levels alone do not always define middle-class status; a class can also be determined by an individual’s job, lifestyle, and economic circumstances. The discussion will center around the differences between the two classes in society.
The upper class typically has more money to spend than its middle-class counterpart; their living standards differ based on factors like income, location, and lifestyle choices. Middle-class travelers may only be able to afford trips to Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand while those from upper-class backgrounds typically choose more extravagant vacation spots like the US, Germany Italy England Spain, and Australia for their trips.
Education levels also differ between classes; middle-class individuals tend to pursue Elementary and Secondary Education in countries more accessible to them while those from the upper classes prefer studying in countries with more rigorous standards of education. Middle-class individuals can enjoy all of the same amenities enjoyed by those from the upper class but will need to save up more often while those belonging to the latter can use all available facilities at any time due to a better economic situation.
|Definition (Oxford Dictionaries)
|The social group between the upper and working classes, including professional and business people and their families.
|The social group that has the highest status in society, especially the aristocracy.
|Often live comfortable lives; may not live in luxury but often don’t lack in necessities.
|Most money among the three. Can be old money, i.e. inherited, or can be new money, made through a start-up or venture.
|Commonly have at least college. May or may not have post-graduation or higher.
|Commonly higher level of education such as college or post-graduation.
|Often white-collar office jobs with salaries.
|More often than not management level jobs in big companies, or in their own/family companies.
- Middle-class families tend to own their home (even with a mortgage), own a car (even if leased or financed), send their kids to college with loans or scholarships, save for retirement, and can still afford vacations and dining out.
- Karl Marx popularized the term bourgeoisie to describe small business owners of middle-class origin who owned multiple properties. Marx called these owners, or petite bourgeoisie, in contrast with workers referred to by him as the proletariat.
- Over time, the meaning of “middle class” has evolved significantly. Once used to refer to people who could rival nobles for power and wealth, today it refers to those belonging to an upper-end working class.
- Recent discussions about a “disappearing Middle Class” have focused on its disappearance in today’s society, due to income inequality which tends to “hollow out” the middle classes while benefitting those at the top (e.g. 1%). Now this term refers to both upper middle and lower middle classes to illustrate increasing stratification and stratification in society.
Understanding Upper Class
- Bottom Class and Upper Class are used as socioeconomic terms to refer to individuals at the very top of society, above the working and middle classes. These individuals tend to be amongst the wealthiest people and wield immense political, economic, and financial power – as well as wealth.
- Historically, this class was dominated by landowners and aristocrats who did not require work but instead lived off of investments or inheritance funds. This group consisted primarily of wealthy large families; anyone not fitting within its ranks was forbidden from calling themselves upper class.
- Over time, the definition of this term has expanded to encompass a broader group of individuals; including celebrities, politicians, and investors. In the United States, those who hold leadership positions within society are considered upper class; this status can even be passed from generation to generation.
- A 2018 Pew Research Center study discovered that 19% of American adults lived in upper-class households as of 2016, bringing in a median household income of $187.872. This compares with 52% middle-class and 29% lower-class households respectively.
- Wealthy individuals tend to enjoy higher income and power compared to people from other classes.
- The working and middle classes are responsible for most economic production and consumption. With their greater numbers than that of the upper class, the working and middle classes command the most economic production and consumption.
What Constitutes the Middle Class
- The development of the middle class has often been associated with federal funding and assistance through programs like the G.I. Bill. This bill provided funds for veterans’ education as well as business creation opportunities.
- Combining incentives with salary increases has elevated working-class citizens into the newly established middle class.
- Income parameters that define the middle class differ based on both inflation rates and ongoing evolution. Salary-based measures may be affected by regional disparities in incomes and costs of living. Middle-class income can range anywhere from $50,000 to $150,000 or $42,000 to $125.000, although some measures set an upper-income limit at $250,000.
- Middle-class society can be defined as an umbrella term encompassing those earning enough money to support themselves financially in suburban or similar neighborhoods – whether urban or rural – while having enough discretionary income for entertainment and flexible expenses like travel or dining out. Although it’s often assumed that middle-class households earn enough to cover standard expenses and retirement savings plans, more and more middle-class Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck.
- Middle-class people often believe they can increase their income by progressing in their career and increasing salary, however as time has progressed their pace of upward mobility has decreased as goods and services costs outstripped salary increases.
The Upper Class vs. Other Classes
- Income and power are key defining characteristics of upper-class societies, while power distinguishes middle classes from others. The middle-class term refers to households that reside between upper and lower classes – it’s a fluid concept and its meaning can depend on factors like location. Professionals, civil servants, and property owners typically fall within this class.
- Lower or working-class individuals comprise the lowest social group. They generally perform low-paying blue-collar work that requires physical labor with limited skills, often earning much less than upper-class or middle-class individuals who wield much greater power and earn much higher wages.
- Frontier or emerging economies typically feature two classes, the working class/poor and the upper/elite. As economies develop and new jobs/infrastructure create wealth, an expanding middle class often forms. As its income increases, so too will its spending power contribute to furthering economic development.
- Eventually, the middle class will split into two distinct groups. On one end of the spectrum are those who possess significant disposable income but aren’t yet wealthy – the so-called upper-middle-class people; on the other are people from within this group that are resourceful and have higher education levels than others in their middle-class groups – today these may include doctors or lawyers; whilst they might not make as much as Bill Gates do they still make more than teachers!
People belonging to the upper middle class typically enjoy higher personal incomes than those in lower middle-class categories. Upper middle classes tend to be better educated than their counterparts in lower middle classes.