America’s middle class making a major comeback under Donald Trump

America’s middle class making a major comeback under Donald Trump, by Robert Samuelson.

On this Labor Day, the American middle class survives. Indeed, it’s expanding. That’s not the conclusion of some arcane scholarly study. It’s the judgment of Americans themselves, though it hasn’t received much attention from politicians or the media. … The middle-class comeback may be the year’s most underreported story.

Public opinion polls depict the change. In its surveys, Gallup regularly asks people to report their social class. They are given five choices: upper class; upper middle; middle; working; and lower class. In 2006, before the recession, 60 percent of Americans identified themselves as either middle or upper middle class, while 38 percent chose working class and lower class. Only 1 percent put themselves in the upper class.

The 2008-09 financial crisis and the Great Recession demolished these long-standing class patterns. The middle class shrunk dramatically amid high unemployment, home foreclosures and heavy debts. As late as 2015, the country was almost evenly split between those in the middle and upper middle classes (51 percent) and those in the working and lower classes (48 percent), according to Gallup.

No more. In its latest poll on class identity, done in June, Gallup found that 62 percent put themselves in the broadly defined middle class, while only 36 percent classified themselves as working class or lower class. The shifts, said Gallup, began in 2016 and demonstrated “that subjective social class identification has stabilized close to the prevailing pattern observed before 2009.”

This is no fluke. … Consider trends from three polls:

  1. Jobs are more plentiful. …
  2. More people feel they’re getting ahead.  …
  3. Most workers do not believe their jobs will be outsourced abroad, contrary to much commentary. …

Middle-class values of order, predictability and personal responsibility have not entirely vanished. …

A successful America requires a large — and largely successful — middle class. The middle-class revival is evidence of optimism.