Publication Date

March 2007


[Excerpt] There is no consensus definition of "middle class," neither is there an official government definition. What constitutes the middle class is relative, subjective, and not easily defined. The mid-point in the distribution is the median and in 2005 median household income was $46,326. How far above and below that amount the middle stretches remains the question. The Census Bureau publishes figures breaking the income distribution into quintiles, or fifths. The narrowest view of who might be considered middle class would include those in the middle quintile, those households with income between $36,000 and $57,660. A more generous definition might be based on the three middle quintiles, those households with incomes between $19,178 and $91,705. Surveys suggest that 1% to 3.3% of the population consider themselves to be upper class. Comparing those figures with the income distribution would put the dividing line between middle and upper class close to if not above $250,000. Similarly, survey responses suggest that the lower end of the middle class might be close to $40,000.


Suggested Citation
Cashell, B. W. (2007). Who are the “middle class”? (RS22627). Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service.