Why Politicians Love The Middle Class

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Politicians of every stripe cozy up to the term - middle class. And for good reason: it can mean whatever you want it to and nearly everyone thinks they're part of the middle class - whether their income is 30 thousand, 50 thousand or 250. Promise to help the middle class and most everyone thinks you're talking about them.

But Ohio University sociologist Deborah Thorne says defining yourself as middle class is more about lifestyle than income.

THORNE: "It's the markers of economic success, modest economic success and economic stability."

Those markers include the ability to own a home with only modest debt, sends kids to college, afford healthcare and retirement. That means getting a raise now and then but wages aren't rising.

THORNE: "They've been pathetic since the mid 1970s and they haven't kept up with the varying increases in costs of living. So, the middle class, psychologically, we're very discouraged about it, correctly so."

If anyone needs further evidence, just go to bankruptcy court. Thorne says that's where nearly a million mostly middle-class Americans still end up annually, years after the official end of the great recession.

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