Here Are 6 Ways to Tell If You’re Middle Class or Upper Class

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Understanding one’s social class is more than just an exercise in self-awareness; it’s a crucial aspect of navigating and comprehending our society’s complex socio-economic landscape. In the United States, the terms “middle class” and “upper middle class” often come into play when discussing socioeconomic status. These terms, although somewhat fluid and subject to various interpretations, provide valuable insights into one’s lifestyle, opportunities, and societal role.

A Closer Look at Income-Based Socioeconomic Classes

Income is a primary determinant in classifying socioeconomic status. Let’s delve into the income guidelines that demarcate the different classes:

  1. Lower Class: This group forms the bottom 20% of earners, with household incomes not exceeding $28,007. Financial struggles and limited access to resources often characterize their lives.
  2. Lower Middle Class: Occupying the 20th to 40th percentile, these households earn between $28,008 and $55,000. They represent a step up from the lower class but still face significant financial challenges.
  3. Middle Class: This class, in the 40th to 60th percentile, sees household incomes ranging from $55,001 to $89,744. Members of the middle class enjoy a degree of financial security and stability.
  4. Upper Middle Class: Households in the 60th to 80th percentile, with incomes between $89,745 and $149,131, belong to this class. They experience greater financial comfort and access to resources.
  5. Upper Class: Representing the top 20% of earners, with incomes of $149,132 or more, this class enjoys significant wealth and privilege.

It’s important to consider the Area Median Income (AMI) for a more accurate picture of one’s socioeconomic status, as this takes into account regional cost-of-living differences.

Beyond Income: Other Class Indicators

Income is a crucial but not sole indicator of class. Other factors also play a significant role:

  • Education: Higher education levels, especially advanced degrees, are common in the middle and upper-middle classes, offering better job prospects and financial stability.
  • Homeownership: Owning real estate is a key indicator of middle or upper-middle-class status. It provides security, stability, and an opportunity to build wealth.
  • Healthcare Access: Quality healthcare and health insurance coverage are more accessible to the middle and upper-middle classes, reducing the risk of financial strain due to medical emergencies.
  • Social Capital: The middle and upper-middle classes often have stronger networks and connections, providing access to opportunities and resources that enhance their social standing.

Distinguishing Between Middle and Upper Middle Class

While both the middle and upper-middle classes share certain characteristics, there are distinguishing factors:

  1. Financial Stability: While the middle class is financially comfortable, the upper-middle class enjoys greater financial freedom, often reflected in lifestyle choices like vacations, high-end vehicles, and the ability to retire early.
  2. Educational Attainment: The upper-middle class is more likely to hold advanced degrees, leading to more lucrative and prestigious careers.
  3. Real Estate Ownership: The upper-middle class may own multiple properties, including investment and vacation homes.
  4. Healthcare and Medical Debt: Although both classes generally have health insurance, the middle class is more prone to medical debt.
  5. Social Networks: The upper-middle class often has access to exclusive social networks and clubs, enhancing their social capital.


Determining whether one is middle class or upper middle class involves assessing various aspects of their life, including income, education, property ownership, healthcare access, and social connections. These indicators not only define one’s economic status but also shape their opportunities and lifestyle. Understanding where you stand can help in making informed decisions about your life and future.