The Full Wiki

Upper middle class: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The upper middle class is a sociological concept referring to the social group constituted by higher-status members of the middle class. This is in contrast to the term lower middle class used for the group at the opposite end of the middle class stratum and the regular middle class. There is considerable debate as to how the upper middle class might be defined. According to sociologist Max Weber the upper middle class consists of well-educated professionals with graduate degrees and comfortable incomes.

The American upper middle class is defined similarly using income, education and occupation as main indicators.[1] In the United States, the upper middle class is defined as mostly consisting of white collar professionals who not only have above-average personal incomes and advanced educational degrees[1] but also a high degree of autonomy in their work, leading to higher job satisfaction. [2] The main occupational tasks of upper middle class individuals tend to center on conceptualizing, consulting, and instruction.[3 ]



Certain professions can be deemed as "upper middle class" in nature although any such measurement remains somewhat subjective because of differing perceptions of class. Most people in the upper-middle class strata are highly educated white collar professionals such as doctors (physicians US), lawyers, economists, accountants, university professors (lecturers UK), architects, city planners, consultants, scientists, engineers, dentists, non-corporate business owners, upper management civil servants and the intelligentsia. Generally, people in these professions have earned an advanced post-secondary education and a comfortable standard of living. In most cases household incomes can range from $150,000 to $250,000 a year or more. [1]


Those encompassing this station in life statistically espouse high regard for higher education, striving for themselves and their children to obtain undergraduate and graduate degrees.

In the U.S., the upper middle class is rather divided in terms of political ideology. Statistically, the higher a person's education level, the greater the chance that the person subscribes to liberal beliefs.(once they have reached the college level) [4] In terms of income, liberals tend to be tied with pro-business conservatives. [5] Most mass affluent households tend to be more right wing-leaning on fiscal issues but more left wing-leaning on social issues. [6] The majority, between 50% and 60%, of households with incomes above $50,000 overall, not all of whom are upper middle class,[7 ] supported the Republican Party in the 2000, 2004 and 2006 elections.[8 ][8 ][9 ] Nevertheless, those with graduate degrees overall favor the Democratic Party.[9 ][10][11 ] In 2005, 72% of surveyed full-time faculty members at four-year institutions, the majority of whom would be considered upper middle class,[1] identified themselves as liberal. [12]

Education plays a major role in determining tastes and ideologies in this class. A graduate degree, and often even higher education, is a prerequisite to work in one of the traditional "professions" and as a result this segment of the upper middle class is statistically more liberal in their political ideologies and more urbane in their tastes. Corporate members of the upper middle class, on the other hand, may have a less advanced higher education (they may have worked their way up to their current social station from an entry-level corporate position). It should be noted, however, that many business persons do have advanced post-secondary education, most notably those with MBAs. Furthermore, in some cases professionals such as chemists or economists may be employed by private businesses and have managerial duties aside from their professional research duties.

The upper middle class is often the group that shapes society and brings social movements to the forefront. Movements such as the Peace Movement, The Anti-Nuclear Movement, Environmentalism, the Anti-smoking movement, and even in the past with Blue laws and the Temperance movement are all products of the upper middle class. Some claim this is because this is the largest class (and the lowest class) with any true political power for positive change, while others claim some of the more restrictive social movements (such as with smoking and drinking) are based upon "saving people from themselves."[3 ]

American upper middle class

See American Professional/Managerial middle class for a complete overview of the American middle classes.
Advanced education is one of the most distinguishing features of the upper middle class.
The American upper middle class consists mostly of salaried white collar professionals.

In the United States the term middle class and its subdivisions are an extremely vague concept as neither economists nor sociologists have precisely defined the term. [13] There are several perceptions of the upper middle class and what the term means. In academic models the term applies to highly educated salaried professionals whose work is largely self-directed. Many have graduate degrees with educational attainment serving as the main distinguishing feature of this class. Household incomes commonly may exceed $100,000, with some smaller one-income earners earning incomes in the high 5-figure range.[1][7 ]

"The upper middle class has grown...and its composition has changed. Increasingly salaried managers and professionals have replaced individual business owners and independent professionals. The key to the success of the upper middle class is the growing importance of educational certification...its lifestyles and opinions are becoming increasingly normative for the whole society. It is in fact a porous class, open to people...who earn the right credentials. "- Dennis Gilbert, The American Class Structure, 1998.[7 ]

In addition to having autonomy in their work, above-average incomes, and advanced educations, the upper middle class also tends to be influential, setting trends and largely shaping public opinion.[3 ][7 ] Overall, members of this class are also secure from economic down-turns and, unlike their counterparts in the statistical middle class, do not need to fear downsizing, corporate cost-cutting, or outsourcing -- an economic benefit largely attributable to their graduate degrees and comfortable incomes, likely in the top income quintile or top third.[1] Typical professions for this class include professors, accountants, architects, attorneys, urban planners, engineers, economists, physicians, political scientists, pharmacists and civilian contractors.[3 ] [14]



While many Americans cite income as the prime determinant of class, occupational status, educational attainment, and value systems are equally important variables. Income is in part determined by the scarcity of certain skill sets.[1] As a result an occupation that requires a scarce skill, the attainment of which is often achieved through an educational degree, and entrusts its occupant with a high degree of influence will usually offer high economic compensation. The high income is meant to ensure that individuals obtain the necessary skills (e.g. medical or graduate school) and complete their tasks with the necessary valor.[15 ] There are also differences between household and individual income. In 2005, 42% of US households (76% among the top quintile) had two or more income earners; as a result, 18% of households but only 5% of individuals had six figure incomes. [16] To illustrate, two nurses each making $55,000 per year can out-earn, in a household sense, a single attorney who makes a median of $95,000 annually. [17] [18]

Sociologists Dennis Gilbert, Willam Thompson and Joseph Hickey estimate the upper middle class to constitute roughly 15% of the population. Using the 15% figure one may conclude that the American upper middle class consists, strictly in an income sense, of professionals with personal incomes in excess of $62,500, who commonly reside in households with six figure incomes.[1][7 ] [16] [19] The difference between personal and household income can be explained by considering that 76% of households with incomes exceeding $90,000 (the top 20%) had two or more income earners. [16]

Data Top third Top quarter Top quintile Top 15% Top 10% Top 5%
Household income [20]
Lower threshold (annual gross income) $65,000 $80,000 $91,705 $100,000 $118,200 $166,200
Exact Percentage of households 34.72% 25.60% 20.00% 17.80% 10.00% 5.00%
Personal income (age 25+) [21]
Lower threshold (annual gross income) $37,500 $47,500 $52,500 $62,500 $75,000 $100,000
Exact Percentage of individuals 33.55% 24.03% 19.74% 14.47% 10.29% 5.63%

SOURCE: US Census Bureau, 2006 [20] [21]

Note that the above income thresholds may vary greatly based on region due to significant differences in average income based on region and urban, suburban, or rural development. In more expensive suburbs, the threshold for the top 15% of income earners may be much higher. For example, in 2006 the ten highest income counties had median household incomes of $85,000 compared to a national average of about $50,000. The top 15% of all US income earners nationally tend to be more concentrated in these richer suburban counties where the cost of living is also higher. If middle class households earning between the 50th percentile ($46,000) and the 85th percentile ($62,500) tend to live in lower cost of living areas, then their difference in real income may be smaller than what the differences in nominal income suggest.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Thompson, William; Joseph Hickey (2005). Society in Focus. Boston, MA: Pearson. ISBN 0-205-41365-X.  
  2. ^ Eichar, Douglas (1989). Occupation and Class Consciousness in America. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-26111-3.  
  3. ^ a b c d Ehrenreich, Barbara (1989). Fear of Falling, The inner Life of the Middle Class. New York, NY: Harper Collins. ISBN 0-06-0973331.  
  4. ^ "O'Bannon, B. R. (27 August, 2003). In Defense of the 'Liberal' Professor. Indianapolis Star.". Retrieved 2007-07-02.  
  5. ^ "Pew Research Center. (10 May, 2005). Beyond Red vs. Blue.". Retrieved 2007-07-12.  
  6. ^ ", R. & Saad, L. (9 December, 2004). Marketing to the Mass Affluent. Gallup Management Journal.". Retrieved 2007-07-19.  
  7. ^ a b c d e Gilbert, Dennis (1998). The American Class Structure. New York: Wadsworth Publishing. ISBN 0-534-50520-1.  
  8. ^ a b "CNN. (2000). Exit Poll.". Retrieved 2008-05-27.  
  9. ^ a b "CNN. (2004). Exit Poll.". Retrieved 2008-05-27.  
  10. ^ [1] "Exit polls"
  11. ^ "CNN. (2006). Exit Poll.". Retrieved 2007-07-11.  
  12. ^ "Kurtz, H. (29 March, 2005). College Faculties A Most Liberal Lot, Study Finds. The Washington Post.". Retrieved 2007-07-02.  
  13. ^ "Middle class according to The Drum Major Institute for public policy". Retrieved 2006-07-25.  
  14. ^ "Professional Occupations according to the US Department of Labor". Retrieved 2006-07-26.  
  15. ^ Levine, Rhonda (1998). Social Class and Stratification. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 0-8476-8543-8.  
  16. ^ a b c "US Census Bureau, income quintile and top 5% household income distribution and demographic characteristics, 2006". Retrieved 2006-12-28.  
  17. ^ "US Department of Labor, median income of registered nurses". Retrieved 2007-01-02.  
  18. ^ "Bureau of Labor statistics data published by, 20 highest paying jobs". Retrieved 2006-12-27.  
  19. ^ "US Census Bureau, distribution of personal income, 2006". Retrieved 2006-12-09.  
  20. ^ a b "US Census Bureau, overall household income distribution, 2006". Retrieved 2006-12-28.  
  21. ^ a b "US Census Bureau, personal income distribution, age 25+, 2006". Retrieved 2006-12-28.  

External links


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address