I looked for a breakdown of the U.S. labor force by kinds of work. What I wanted was a simple bar or pie graph, which I did not find, except for 1994. At that point, 27% of the labor force was professional or managerial.
The occupations not listed as professional or managerial were technicians, sales people, administrative support, service workers, farmers, loggers and fishers, precision production workers, machine operators, material movers and 'handlers.'
If middle class has meaning, I would apply it to the managerial and professional workers. I do not think it applies to most of the occupations listed in the paragraph directly above.
There is a problem with Census figures, especially if you are looking at broad groupings. The categories mix people who make different kinds of money, because they are doing more or less similar kinds of work. Sales must include super salesmen on commission, who make real money, along with miserable retail clerks.
At some point I will have to go over the Census job report line by line and see if I can separate jobs that pay pretty well from the rest.
I then looked for income, which is easier to find in summary form. 55% of households make under $50,000 a year. 16% of households make over $100,000 a year. Households with higher incomes tend to have two workers. You can be above the household median with two workers making $25,000 each.
The median income for union members is $44,876. The median income for non-union workers is $34,476. I was told years ago that a union electrician can easily make $100,000 a year, which is more than I have ever made on any job.
Remember, when you look at these income figures, the cost of health care in the U.S., the lack of affordable housing, the rising cost of a college education and decreasing number of companies that have pensions for their employees. Is $50,000 for a family enough, given all this?
I've been reading essays that focus on cultural and educational differences among social groups. I think money matters a lot.
This partly because I grew up around artists, people who were creating high culture -- the stuff that is put in museums -- and being badly paid. A few ended up hitting it big in the art market. Most did not.
As an adult my community has been science fiction writers, creators of what might be called low or popular culture, who tend to be highly educated and badly paid.
Education is great, but I have never seen it as a way to make a lot of money. And while it is not absolutely true to say there is no money in art, it is mostly true.
If culture is so important, why do the people who make
it do so badly?