Further Defining Middle-Class America

July 29, 2008 — Leave a comment

Over half of Americans identify themselves as “middle-class.” But according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, this self-ascribed distinction has varying degrees of meaning.

In fact, this latest study breaks down the middle-class into four categories. And these four slices of America put a twist on the traditional socioeconomic label. The following categories demonstrate the different attitudes and outlook of the middle-class.

The Top of the Middle: This group is the largest segment of the middle-class. They do well financially, are educated, and are typically satisfied with life.

The Struggling Middle: This group is comprised of a disproportionately large amount of women and minorities. They struggle financially, and they have more in common with the lower-class than the middle-class.

The Satisfied Middle: Whereas the struggling middle has more women and minorities, this group has more of an age distinction. They are typically older or younger, with very few middle-agers. They have little in terms of monetary freedom, but they still maintain a bright outlook on the future.

The Anxious Middle: This group has money, like the top of the middle, but they maintain an outlook more similar to the struggling middle.

After reading this study, I realized that our church has a representation from all four categories. And each one requires a different approach in ministry. No label will ever match exactly, but socioeconomic distinctions can become significant hurdles in ministering to people. These class hurdles will probably never be as large as language barriers, but they still exist. And with this awareness, a church is better equipped to reach people where they are.


Sam Rainer

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Sam S. Rainer is the president of Rainer Research and the senior pastor of Stevens Street Baptist Church in Cookeville, TN.

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