Only 24% call themselves working class now (67% claimed it in 1988). 70% now call themselves "middle". Those calling themselves "middle" stretch from euphemisms for the highly privileged – the 7% with children in private schools – all the way to families struggling on the edge to pay a half-mortgage on an ex-council house.
Yet birth determines destiny more certainly than 50 years ago. When the income gap is wide, few cross the class divide. Only 21% of children from families in the lowest fifth of incomes get five good GCSEs, against 75% from the richest fifth.
GDP has doubled since 1978, but only the top 10% have seen incomes grow at or above that rate, twice as fast as the median and four times faster than the bottom 10%.
The Independent reports that executive pay is set to continue rising more quickly than the salaries earned by the majority of workers over the next 12 months. Pricewaterhouse Coopers reveals that four-fifths of pay consultants specialising in executive pay expect the rewards offered to the executives of FTSE 350 companies to increase next year, with base pay set to rise between 2-4 per cent, ahead of the average salary increases expected for workers as a whole. The average director of a British company now earning 69 times as much as his typical employee.
Yet in another development advertising authorities have deemed the "middle class" itself (roughly 60 percent of us, depending on where you draw the income line) to be unworthy consumers. We're too poor to matter, they say.
Even though America's workaday majority has produced a phenomenal rise in wealth during the past decade, that majority's income has shrunk — and there's no improvement in sight. Where did the gains go? Practically all of the new wealth flowed straight up to the richest 10 percent of America's people, who own more than 80 percent of all stocks and bonds. Instead of deploring this widening disparity, major hawkers of consumer products are choosing to embrace it. Advertising Age, the marketing industry's top publication, has curtly declared that "mass affluence is over." Nearly half of consumer spending today is done by the richest 10 percent of households, and the richest of these richies are deemed to be the most desirable of consumers.
"Simply put," says Ad Age, "a small plutocracy of wealthy elites drives a larger and larger share of total consumer spending and has outsized purchasing influence."The magazine goes on to inform us that households with less than $200,000 in annual income hold little interest for advertisers and sure enough, corporate executives in such diverse businesses as airlines, movie theaters, banks, and health care are focusing more and more on platinum-level customers.
Could this mean we're all working class at last?! Bring on the "middle class" revolution!