Home > Research > Trend Analysis Reports >
Class in America: The Majority are Working Class
It is an old term that you may not have heard recently, because it has become popular to ignore or deny the existence of social class in America, but 62% of the employed and job-seeking adults in the U.S. are "working class." That is defined as skilled and unskilled workers who have little or no control over the pace or content of their work and do not supervise anyone.

This is the surprising finding of a new analysis of the reality of jobs published by the Cornell University Press, "The Working Class Majority: America's Best Kept Secret" by Michael Zweig, an economist at the State University of New York (SUNY-Stony Brook). It differs significantly from the data from the 1990 Census, now ten years old. It is also true that census data are the self-reporting perceptions of individuals.

The middle class consists of only 36% of American adults. This includes "upper middle class" professionals and proprietors of small businesses, the "middle middle" such as technicians and nurses, and the "lower middle" such as factory foremen.

Only 2% of the work force makes up the management of those businesses with more than 500 employees each. It may surprise you to find out that only 16,000 of the companies in the U.S. fall into this category, or less than 1% of the total. About 70% of the businesses in America have no employees, only the owner or owners and sometimes called "micro enterprise." The other 29% of businesses have one to 500 employees, what is called "small business."

Why have you not heard these facts before? Almost every aspect of popular culture, politics and the media reinforces the idea that "middle class" is the typical and usual status of Americans. Three other elements also maintain this myth: (1) the idea that "there is no class" in America, (2) upward mobility as part of the American dream, and (3) consumerism.

A number of surveys of Adventist Church members over the past 20 years show that the majority fall into the third of America that is middle class. A largely unreached frontier of mission is among the almost two-thirds of Americans who are working class.

Source: The Working Class Majority: America's Best Kept Secret by Michael Zweig, published by the Cornell University Press.