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- More than 50% of Americans who grew up rich don’t think they’re wealthy today, according to a recent survey by INSIDER and Morning Consult.
- Many respondents who grew up as affluent, upper middle class, and middle class now identify as a lower class.
- The trend is a sign of a higher cost of living and a shrinking middle class.
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The survey asked respondents to identify their upbringing and define their current financial situation by selecting poor, working class, middle class, upper middle class, or affluent (or don’t know) for both questions.
Of those who responded, around 36% who said they grew up affluent think they’re still affluent today. Nearly 60% of those who grew up affluent now consider themselves to be in a lower class – about half of this group said they’re middle class or upper middle class, while the other half said they’re poor or working class.
But it’s not just those born into wealth who now identify with a lower class than their upbringing – a good chunk of respondents who grew up in middle class tiers do as well.
Nearly 60% of those with an upper middle class upbringing now identify with a lower class – half of this group think they’re middle class, while the remaining half think they’re poor or working class. Around 34% of those brought up upper middle class think their station has remained the same, while only roughly 4% think they’re now affluent.
And while half of those who grew up middle class think they’re still middle class today, more than one-third identify with a lower class – only around 12% think they’re now part of a higher class.
Identifying as a lower class signals a high cost of living and a shrinking middle class
The trend in respondents identifying with a lower class than the one they were raised in highlights the current state of the economy.
In particular, it shows that the value of a dollar may no longer be what it once was. Since 1970, wages have increased by 67%, but they haven’t kept up with the cost of living, according to research by Student Loan Hero. Things like housing, college tuition, rent, and healthcare have all increased exponentially.
And because of inflation, $2 million may be the new $1 million when it comes to the magic number for retirement.
Responses from those who grew up middle class also further indicate that America’s middle class is shrinking. According to the Pew Research Center, the size of middle-class America has decreased by nearly 10% from 1971 to 2016. And from 2010 to 2016, their wealth didn’t increase at the higher rate of the upper class, widening the income gap between the two groups.
But the middle class is pretty positive about their situation: According to the survey, only 18% of the middle class think they’re worse off than they had expected they’d be 10 years ago, while roughly 40% think they’re better off – more than any other class group. Nearly a quarter of those who said they’re working class think they’re better off, as well as around 20% of respondents who identified as upper middle class. The majority of those who think they’re worse off identify as poor or working class.
And while many of those who grew up middle class or above think they’re now in a lower class, most of those who grew up poor or working class now identify in a higher class.
Nearly half of those who grew up identifying as poor still think they’re poor, but more than half think they’re now working class. Likewise, nearly half of those who grew up identifying as working class still think they’re working class, but 36% now identify as middle class or upper middle class.
- Read more on wealth in America:
- The middle class is disappearing in countries around the world, and it means millennials won’t have the same opportunities their parents did
- More than one-third of millennials earning at least $100,000 a year consider themselves middle class
- America’s middle class is set apart from the rich by 2 distinct measures of wealth
- Most millennials and Gen Z define financial success the same way – and it has nothing to do with being rich