August 9, 2013

Having a secure job replaces homeownership as the key to being middle-class

86%

Nearly nine-in-ten Americans now say having a secure job is essential to being in the middle-class; in 1991, it was homeownership.

In recent weeks, President Obama has been on the road citing the need for programs that bolster the middle-class. But having weathered a recession that staggered the economy, a 2012 survey shows Americans have changed their views on what it takes to be part of the middle-class.

Nearly nine-in-ten adults (86%) say a person needs a secure job to be considered part of the middle class, while just 45% say the same about owning a home, 37% about a college education and 28% about financial investments.

Of the five items tested in the survey question, the only other one seen as essential to a middle-class lifestyle by a majority of the public is health insurance—which many Americans receive through their work. Two-thirds of adults say it’s an essential requirement of a middle-class lifestyle.

The public’s view about what it takes to be in the middle class appears to have changed dramatically over the past two decades. In a 1991 nationwide Time/CNN/Yankelovich survey, seven-in-ten respondents said homeownership was essential to being in the middle class, while just one-third said the same about having “a white collar job.”

Some of the sharp differences between the public’s responses in 2012 and 1991 are likely the result of wording differences between the two surveys: “a white collar job” (the wording used in the 1991 survey) is arguably a narrower and less compelling choice than “a secure job.” But some of the variance may also reflect the persistently high unemployment rates of the past few years as well as a longer-term decline in the share of the working-age public that is employed.

Category: Daily Number

Topics: Homeownership, Socioeconomic Class, Work and Employment

  1. Photo of Bruce Drake

    is a Senior Editor at the Pew Research Center.

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3 Comments

  1. jayla12 months ago

    Secure job??? What’s that?

    Reply
  2. Airandee12 months ago

    Years ago having a second home was a status symbol… Now having a second job is a symbol of the new America.

    FORWARD to the Detroitification of America!

    Reply
  3. Joey Tabaco12 months ago

    Having a “secure job” is quite a feat these days with all the downsizing and sequestration going on. Many folks who think their job is secure don’t realize how delusional that is until they are downsized (either laid off or reduced in pay) or sequestered (forced to take unpaid vacation). This useless Congress doesn’t realize how much damage they are doing to our economy and country. They more than anyone else need to be downsized and sequestered if not incarcerated for failure to do their duties!…

    Reply