What is the middle class anyway?

What does it mean to be in the middle class? The definition isn't clear. Today a vast majority of people think of themselves as middle class but there are competing narratives about the state of the middle class. kaiyen


Many politicians insist the middle class is under attack. But who is actually in the middle class? It covers a vast range of income and includes competing interests. Still, the people in the middle class do share some hopes and doubts. We hear from some people who believe they're in the middle and wonder if they'll be able to stay there.

"Middle class Canadians are beginning to doubt our progress. They are worried about their retirement, about whether they're giving their children a real and fair change at success."

Justin Trudeau, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada

Politicians like to court the middle class. It's the class that's typically got money, energy, education and lots of votes. The middle class always seems to be in some kind of crisis, but it seems more than ever there are fears the middle class is stagnating. And it's all the more confusing since so many people believe they are middle class -- when they're manifestly not.

But determining who fits into the middle is surprisingly complicated. One simple way is to class those who fall in the middle third of income distribution. It's a broad category -- people who earn $35, 000 a year can have much different concerns than those who earn $90,000.

A report prepared for the federal employment department suggests these middle class wages are stagnating. But Statscan says net worth is rising. It all gives politicians more reasons to argue and accuse, but we wondered if we might be able to get some sense of what are middle class hopes -- and fears.

Today, we've assembled a panel of three people who see themselves as middle class:

  • Kathy Hansen is an elementary school teacher in Mississauga.

  • Michael Polowin is a lawyer and partner with Gowlings. He was in Ottawa.

  • Emily Wight has a public sector job. She was in Vancouver.

Let us know if you're in the middle class and what concerns you have about it...

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This segment was produced by The Current's Kristin Nelson, Sarah Grant and Leif Zapf-Gilje.

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