Tag Archives: the modern American middle class

A Short History of America’s Middle Class – Part 2/3

Another way to trace the rise of the modern-day-middle class may be through life expectancy (see Part One), education, and the shift in population from rural to urban settings.

In 1870, only 2% of teens (age 16 – 18) graduated from high school, but as the country’s population continued to move from rural to urban settings, that changed. In 1850, average life expectancy was 39.

By 1900, six-point-four percent (6.4%) graduated from high school.

In 1940, before World War II, 50.8% graduated.

By 1970, that number climbed to 77.1%.

It is projected that in 2011-12, three-point-two (3.2) million will graduate from high school.

In 1800, there were ten permanent colleges and universities in the US. By 1850, that number reached 131.Today, there are 4,495 colleges, universities and junior colleges in the US.

In 1869 – 70, nine-thousand-three-hundred-seventy-one (9,371) college degrees were awarded.

By 1900, that number reached 28,681.

In 1969 – 70, the number of college graduates reached 839,730.

During the 2012–13 school year, colleges and universities are expected to award 937,000 associate’s degrees; 1.8 million bachelor’s degrees; 756,000 master’s degrees; and 174,700 doctor’s degrees. For the educated, the average life expectancy is age 82.

Most college graduates attended the public schools alongside students that dropped out of high school or only earned a high school degree. To learn is a choice influenced by the family and environment a child grows up in—not so-called incompetent teachers.

Continued on September 28, 2012 in A Short History of America’s Middle Class – Part 3  or return to Part 1


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga.

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A Short History of America’s Middle Class – Part 1/3

There are many ways to prove that America’s public education system is not a failure and is an INCREDIBLE success. This time, I will offer the rise of the modern American middle class as an example:


Today, the definition of the middle class in America is complex. In 1951, sociologist C. Wright Mills studied and wrote about the formation of a new middle class of white-collar workers—does not refer to Caucasians but to the type of work—described as mostly highly (college) educated, salaried professionals and managers (roughly 15 – 20% of households today). Then there is the lower middle class consisting mostly of semi-professionals, skilled craftsmen and lower-level management (roughly one third of households).

Another way to measure the size of the middle class in the US would be subtract Americans that live in poverty in addition to the top five percent. In 2010, fifteen-point-one percent (15.1%) of all persons in the US lived in poverty. That adds up to 47.4 million people.

Then annual-household earnings of $100,000 or more puts those Americans above the middle class. In 2005, an economic survey revealed that 5% of individuals in the US earned six-figure incomes exceeding $100,000 annually—that is 15.7 million people leaving 250.9 million Americans in the Middle Class.

A simple definitions says, “The middle-class commonly has a comfortable standard of living, and significant economic security.”

For a better idea of how many Americans enjoy significant economic security, we may want to take a glance at the Great Depression.

During the Great Depression (1929 – 1942), the highest unemployment rate reached almost 25% in 1933, then started to improve.  Unemployment at its worst, means more than 75% of working adults in America were still employed (possibly defining significant economic security). It took thirteen years for unemployment to recover to the level of 1929. In 1940, unemployment was 15%. In 1941, unemployment was 10%. By 1942, thanks to World War II putting Americans in the military or back to work manufacturing weapons, unemployment dropped to 5%.

However, life in America was not always the way it is today and working to gain an education, with an emphasis on work, has mostly been the big game changer.

For example, before 1860, America had few cities and they were mostly small.  The vast majority of people lived on farms and small rural towns. In fact, in 1800, ninety-four percent (94%) of Americans lived on farms or in small towns near farms.

Then by 2000, seventy-nine percent (79%) lived in urban population centers (cities and the suburbs of cities).

In 1850, the average age of death in years was 39.

By 1900, that average was age 49.

In 1970s, it was age 70, and life expectancy in 2010 reached age 78.3.

Life expectancy has also been linked to education. Those with more than 12 years of education—more than a high school diploma—can expect to live to age 82; for those with 12 or fewer years of education, life expectancy is age 75.

Continued on September 27, 2012 in A Short History of America’s Middle Class – Part 2


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”


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