Who is the 'middle class' anyway?

Why are so many people in the middle class struggling right now? Author Hedrick Smith discusses the events that hurt the middle class and what can be done to help it.

This week, President Obama is traveling around the country to talk about some "bold ideas" to help the middle class. But who  is in the "middle class?"

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2012 median hourly wage was $16.71. Loggers, truck drivers, jewelers, animal breeders, dental assistants, tax preparers and travel agents all make about that much.

Sewer pipe cleaners make a little less at $16.36 an hour. So do medical transcriptionists. Would you rather repair septic tanks or translate medical jargon?

Secretaries make a little more than the median at $16.99. And reporters come in at $17.25.

Managers, chief executives, family doctors, lawyers and judges all make some of the highest hourly earnings, of course. But information research scientists ($49.13) software developers ($47.59), mathematicians ($48.73), aerospace engineers ($49.87), physicists ($51.37), political scientists (49.04) pharmacists ($56.09) and prosthodontists ($81.31) do pretty well too.

Some of the lowest earners make $9.44 or less: cooks, waitresses, bartenders, dishwashers, maids and cashiers. Also low on the wage ladder: animal care workers ($9.60), gaming dealers ($8.96), manicurists ($9.24) and childcare workers ($9.38).

Then there are the median-wage jobs that most of us have never even heard of: roustabouts ($16.41), fallers ($16.95) and glaziers ($18.08).







About the author

Caitlin Esch is an Associate Producer on the Wealth & Poverty desk.

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