Is the “middle class” passing into oblivion? Research from Northwestern Mutual indicates that many Americans think so, and others are skeptical about its future.
According to the newest findings from Northwestern Mutual’s 2018 Planning & Progress Study, 45% of Americans said the middle class was shrinking, while only 21% thought it was expanding. Moreover, 32% saw a time when the middle class disappeared completely. Twenty-four percent were uncertain of its future.
Sixty-eight percent of Americans in this year’s study classified themselves as middle class, down from 70% who said the same thing in 2017.
“The middle class is a cornerstone of our nation’s culture and identity,” Emily Holbrook, director of planning at Northwestern Mutual, said in a statement. “Clearly people are losing optimism in its longevity.”
These findings come from the 2018 study, an annual research project commissioned by Northwestern Mutual that explores Americans’ attitudes and behaviors toward money, financial decision making and broader issues affecting people’s long-term financial security.
The Harris Poll conducted an online survey in March among 2,003 Americans aged 18 or older in the general population. An oversample of 601 interviews with U.S. millennials was combined with the general population of those 18 to 34 when this age group was featured separately from the general population.
Why are Americans skeptical about the future of the middle class?
The new data show that 60% of survey respondents believe that movement into or out of the middle class is possible, but more expect that mobility to trend downward rather than up.
Thirty-nine percent of respondents said middle class to wealthy was the least likely type of mobility, and 33% said least likely was wealthy to middle class.