NPR is running a series this week called Living In The Middle
Being middle class in America once meant feeling secure. You could count on having a decent home, a regular paycheck and food in the fridge.
Over the past three years, the Great Recession has eroded that sense of security for most middle-class workers. A recent survey done by the Pew Research Center found that 55 percent of Americans report taking one or more recession-related hits: a bout of unemployment, missed mortgage or rent payments, reduced paychecks or blown household budgets.
Even those who have hung on to their jobs and made all of their payments have felt the pinch of diminished home values and losses in retirement savings.
So far the series has profiled the following:
The Single Mom. A single mother in New Hampshire works as a case manager for the elderly. She has a daughter headed to college. Divorce has taken a financial strain. How will she pay for her daughter's college education?
The Borrower. Jada Irwin has only herself to care for, but still finds it tough making ends meet on America's median income. The young professional lives in an expensive area — just outside Washington, D.C. — and is saddled with more than $30,000 in student loan debt. She'd love to go out for "one decent meal a week" but feels that's a stretch she can't afford. Still, Irwin is grateful for a job in hard times, and optimistic that she can eventually move up the income ladder.
The Biologist. Darryl and Kristina Pendergrass can't get a step ahead. They're struggling to raise their two toddler sons on his $43,000 a year salary as a biologist with the Alabama Department of Public Health. He hasn't had a raise in five years and says his net income has actually declined because of higher health insurance costs. The family lives in the small town of Tallassee, Ala. They own their home but have no cell phones or other luxuries like cable or satellite TV. They have seen their retirement savings take a major hit in recent years.
Just thought I would through this out there...what does it mean to you to be "middle class?" Do you fall into your definition?