America’s middle class: An endangered species?

BOSTON — Meet Mr. and Ms. Median America.

Or perhaps you already know them.

His name is likely to be Michael. Hers, Jennifer. They’re 37 years old, and live in a detached home, worth about $188,000 — 60 percent of which, on average, still belongs to the bank. A child or two run around on the lawn out back.

Jennifer and Michael have completed high school, but like 70 percent of Americans, they lack a Bachelor’s degree.

Family time is tight. They sleep 7.6 hours each night, work 8.6 hours, commute 25 minutes each way, and take little more than 20 minutes for each meal. Their paychecks are signed by the state or local government — which over the past decade surpassed manufacturing as America’s biggest employer. There’s a one-in-three chance that they work on the weekend, and they are more likely than couples elsewhere in the developed world to have dual incomes — a necessity these days, to cobble together their $50,000 annual household earnings.

Compared to the middle class in the developing world, Jennifer and Michael are living large. They own two cars and three TVs. She drinks wine; he prefers beer. They’re both somewhat overweight — he’s 5 foot 8, and weighs 196 pounds, she’s 5 foot 3 and weighs 164; there’s a one-in-three chance that they’re obese. Exhausted by the demands of labor and family care, they spend their average 2.6 hours of daily leisure time unwinding with “American Idol” and “Dancing with the Stars.”


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