Roughly half of Americans are worried that the country may be moving in the wrong direction when it comes to the needs of the middle class, according to a new Harris Poll conducted exclusively for Fast Company. Forty-eight percent of respondents, regardless of social class, said they don’t see the definition of “middle class” as changing for the better, while more than half of low-income individuals have the same concern.
The aim of the survey was to better understand people’s perception surrounding the middle class and how it’s defined. The majority of respondents, 60%, described their households as being middle class. Although social stratification has taken its toll on the distribution of wealth in the United States, 84% of the respondents said they believe there’s a growing income gap, representing a broad consensus across social classes and income levels.
Of the individuals polled who believe there’s an income gap, 56% think it’s had negative impact on low-income citizens, 40% think it’s adversely affected the middle class, and 56% believe it’s had an unfavorable impact on the U.S. economy as a whole.
Within the American economy, hourly compensation and the productivity of workers have grown disproportionately. Between 1979-2019, the Economic Policy Institute found, employees have increased productivity by 72%, but their wages have only increased 17% in the last forty years. The top 10% of America’s wealthiest make more than nine times the amount of income the bottom 90% does, according to research done by University of California Berkeley. Even more astonishing, the top 0.1% staggeringly make 196 times more income than the bottom 90%.
The Harris Poll of 1,008 U.S. adults was conducted for Fast Company July 9 – July 12.