Upper middle class
Overview
 
The upper middle class is a sociological concept referring to the social group constituted by higher-status members of the middle class
Middle class
The middle class is any class of people in the middle of a societal hierarchy. In Weberian socio-economic terms, the middle class is the broad group of people in contemporary society who fall socio-economically between the working class and upper class....

. This is in contrast to the term "lower middle class
Lower middle class
In developed nations across the world, the lower middle class is a sub-division of the greater middle class. Universally the term refers to the group of middle class households or individuals who have not attained the status of the upper middle class associated with the higher realms of the middle...

", which is used for the group at the opposite end of the middle class stratum, and to the broader term "middle class
Middle class
The middle class is any class of people in the middle of a societal hierarchy. In Weberian socio-economic terms, the middle class is the broad group of people in contemporary society who fall socio-economically between the working class and upper class....

". There is considerable debate as to how the upper middle class might be defined. According to sociologist Max Weber
Max Weber
Karl Emil Maximilian "Max" Weber was a German sociologist and political economist who profoundly influenced social theory, social research, and the discipline of sociology itself...

 the upper middle class consists of well-educated professionals with graduate degrees and comfortable incomes.

The American upper middle class is defined similarly using income
Income in the United States
Income in the United States is measured by the United States Department of Commerce either by household or individual. The differences between household and personal income is considerable since 42% of households, the majority of those in the top two quintiles with incomes exceeding $57,658, now...

, education
Educational attainment in the United States
The educational attainment of the U.S. population is similar to that of many other industrialized countries with the vast majority of the population having completed secondary education and a rising number of college graduates that outnumber high school dropouts. As a whole, the population of the...

 and occupation as the predominant indicators.
Encyclopedia
The upper middle class is a sociological concept referring to the social group constituted by higher-status members of the middle class
Middle class
The middle class is any class of people in the middle of a societal hierarchy. In Weberian socio-economic terms, the middle class is the broad group of people in contemporary society who fall socio-economically between the working class and upper class....

. This is in contrast to the term "lower middle class
Lower middle class
In developed nations across the world, the lower middle class is a sub-division of the greater middle class. Universally the term refers to the group of middle class households or individuals who have not attained the status of the upper middle class associated with the higher realms of the middle...

", which is used for the group at the opposite end of the middle class stratum, and to the broader term "middle class
Middle class
The middle class is any class of people in the middle of a societal hierarchy. In Weberian socio-economic terms, the middle class is the broad group of people in contemporary society who fall socio-economically between the working class and upper class....

". There is considerable debate as to how the upper middle class might be defined. According to sociologist Max Weber
Max Weber
Karl Emil Maximilian "Max" Weber was a German sociologist and political economist who profoundly influenced social theory, social research, and the discipline of sociology itself...

 the upper middle class consists of well-educated professionals with graduate degrees and comfortable incomes.

The American upper middle class is defined similarly using income
Income in the United States
Income in the United States is measured by the United States Department of Commerce either by household or individual. The differences between household and personal income is considerable since 42% of households, the majority of those in the top two quintiles with incomes exceeding $57,658, now...

, education
Educational attainment in the United States
The educational attainment of the U.S. population is similar to that of many other industrialized countries with the vast majority of the population having completed secondary education and a rising number of college graduates that outnumber high school dropouts. As a whole, the population of the...

 and occupation as the predominant indicators. In the United States, the upper middle class is defined as consisting mostly of white collar
White-collar worker
The term white-collar worker refers to a person who performs professional, managerial, or administrative work, in contrast with a blue-collar worker, whose job requires manual labor...

 professionals who not only have above-average personal incomes
Personal income in the United States
Personal income is an individual’s total earnings from wages, investment interest, and other sources. In the United States the most widely cited personal income statistics are the Bureau of Economic Analysis’s personal income and the Census Bureau’s per capita money income...

 and advanced educational degrees
Educational attainment in the United States
The educational attainment of the U.S. population is similar to that of many other industrialized countries with the vast majority of the population having completed secondary education and a rising number of college graduates that outnumber high school dropouts. As a whole, the population of the...

 but also a higher degree of autonomy in their work. The main occupational tasks of upper middle class individuals tend to center on conceptualizing, consulting, and instruction.

American upper middle class

See American Professional/Managerial middle class for a complete overview of the American middle classes.

In the United States the term middle class
American middle class
The American middle class is a social class in the United States. While the concept is typically ambiguous in popular opinion and common language use, contemporary social scientists have put forward several, more or less congruent, theories on the American middle class...

 and its subdivisions are an extremely vague concept as neither economists nor sociologists have precisely defined the term. There are several perceptions of the upper middle class and what the term means. In academic models the term applies to highly educated salaried professionals whose work is largely self-directed. Many have graduate degrees with educational attainment serving as the main distinguishing feature of this class. Household incomes commonly may exceed $100,000, with some smaller one-income earners earning incomes in the high 5-figure range. Typical professions for this class include lawyer
Lawyer
A lawyer, according to Black's Law Dictionary, is "a person learned in the law; as an attorney, counsel or solicitor; a person who is practicing law." Law is the system of rules of conduct established by the sovereign government of a society to correct wrongs, maintain the stability of political...

s, physicians, dentists, engineer
Engineer
An engineer is a professional practitioner of engineering, concerned with applying scientific knowledge, mathematics and ingenuity to develop solutions for technical problems. Engineers design materials, structures, machines and systems while considering the limitations imposed by practicality,...

s, accountant
Accountant
An accountant is a practitioner of accountancy or accounting , which is the measurement, disclosure or provision of assurance about financial information that helps managers, investors, tax authorities and others make decisions about allocating resources.The Big Four auditors are the largest...

s, professors, architect
Architect
An architect is a person trained in the planning, design and oversight of the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to offer or render services in connection with the design and construction of a building, or group of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the...

s, economist
Economist
An economist is a professional in the social science discipline of economics. The individual may also study, develop, and apply theories and concepts from economics and write about economic policy...

s, political scientists
Political science
Political Science is a social science discipline concerned with the study of the state, government and politics. Aristotle defined it as the study of the state. It deals extensively with the theory and practice of politics, and the analysis of political systems and political behavior...

, pharmacists, school principals, civil service executives and civilian contractors.
In addition to having autonomy in their work, above-average incomes, and advanced educations, the upper middle class also tends to be influential, setting trends and largely shaping public opinion. Overall, members of this class are also secure from economic down-turns and, unlike their counterparts in the statistical middle class, do not need to fear downsizing, corporate cost-cutting, or outsourcing—an economic benefit largely attributable to their graduate degrees and comfortable incomes
Household income in the United States
Household income is a measure commonly used by the United States government and private institutions, that counts the income of all residents over the age of 18 in each household, including not only all wages and salaries, but such items as unemployment insurance, disability payments, child support...

, likely in the top income quintile or top third
Household income in the United States
Household income is a measure commonly used by the United States government and private institutions, that counts the income of all residents over the age of 18 in each household, including not only all wages and salaries, but such items as unemployment insurance, disability payments, child support...

.

Income

While many Americans cite income
Income in the United States
Income in the United States is measured by the United States Department of Commerce either by household or individual. The differences between household and personal income is considerable since 42% of households, the majority of those in the top two quintiles with incomes exceeding $57,658, now...

 as the prime determinant of class, occupational status, educational attainment
Educational attainment in the United States
The educational attainment of the U.S. population is similar to that of many other industrialized countries with the vast majority of the population having completed secondary education and a rising number of college graduates that outnumber high school dropouts. As a whole, the population of the...

, and value systems are equally important variables. Income is in part determined by the scarcity of certain skill sets. As a result an occupation that requires a scarce skill, the attainment of which is often achieved through an educational degree
Educational attainment in the United States
The educational attainment of the U.S. population is similar to that of many other industrialized countries with the vast majority of the population having completed secondary education and a rising number of college graduates that outnumber high school dropouts. As a whole, the population of the...

, and entrusts its occupant with a high degree of influence will usually offer high economic compensation. The high income
Income in the United States
Income in the United States is measured by the United States Department of Commerce either by household or individual. The differences between household and personal income is considerable since 42% of households, the majority of those in the top two quintiles with incomes exceeding $57,658, now...

 is meant to ensure that individuals obtain the necessary skills (e.g., by attending law, medical, or graduate school) and complete their tasks with the necessary valor. There are also differences between household
Household income in the United States
Household income is a measure commonly used by the United States government and private institutions, that counts the income of all residents over the age of 18 in each household, including not only all wages and salaries, but such items as unemployment insurance, disability payments, child support...

 and individual income
Personal income in the United States
Personal income is an individual’s total earnings from wages, investment interest, and other sources. In the United States the most widely cited personal income statistics are the Bureau of Economic Analysis’s personal income and the Census Bureau’s per capita money income...

. In 2005, 42% of US households (76% among the top quintile) had two or more income earner
Income earner
Income earner refers to an individual who through work, investments or a combination of both derives income, which has a fixed and very fixed value of his/her income...

s; as a result, 18% of households but only 5% of individuals had six figure incomes. To illustrate, two nurses each making $55,000 per year can out-earn, in a household sense, a single attorney who makes a median of $95,000 annually.

Sociologists Dennis Gilbert, Willam Thompson and Joseph Hickey estimate the upper middle class to constitute roughly 15% of the population. Using the 15% figure one may conclude that the American upper middle class consists, strictly in an income sense, of professionals with personal incomes
Personal income in the United States
Personal income is an individual’s total earnings from wages, investment interest, and other sources. In the United States the most widely cited personal income statistics are the Bureau of Economic Analysis’s personal income and the Census Bureau’s per capita money income...

 in excess of $62,500, who commonly reside in households with six figure incomes. The difference between personal and household income can be explained by considering that 76% of households with incomes exceeding $90,000 (the top 20%) had two or more income earners.
Income statistics
Data Top third Top quarter Top quintile Top 15% Top 10% Top 5%
Household income
Household income in the United States
Household income is a measure commonly used by the United States government and private institutions, that counts the income of all residents over the age of 18 in each household, including not only all wages and salaries, but such items as unemployment insurance, disability payments, child support...

Lower threshold (annual gross income) $65,000 $80,000 $91,705 $100,000 $118,200 $166,200
Exact Percentage of households 34.72% 25.60% 20.00% 17.80% 10.00% 5.00%
Personal income
Personal income in the United States
Personal income is an individual’s total earnings from wages, investment interest, and other sources. In the United States the most widely cited personal income statistics are the Bureau of Economic Analysis’s personal income and the Census Bureau’s per capita money income...

 (age 25+)
Lower threshold (annual gross income) $37,500 $47,500 $52,500 $62,500 $75,000 $100,000
Exact Percentage of individuals 33.55% 24.03% 19.74% 14.47% 10.29% 5.63%


Note that the above income thresholds may vary greatly based on region due to significant differences in average income based on region and urban, suburban, or rural development. In more expensive suburbs, the threshold for the top 15% of income earners may be much higher. For example, in 2006 the ten highest income counties
Highest-income counties in the United States
There are 3,141 counties in the United States. The source of the data is the U.S. Census Bureau and the data is current as of the indicated year. Independent cities are considered county-equivalent by the Census Bureau.-2011:...

 had median household incomes of $85,000 compared to a national average of about $50,000. The top 15% of all US income earners nationally tend to be more concentrated in these richer suburban counties where the cost of living is also higher. If middle class households earning between the 50th percentile ($46,000) and the 85th percentile ($62,500) tend to live in lower cost of living areas, then their difference in real income
Real income
Real income is the income of individuals or nations after adjusting for inflation. It is calculated by subtracting inflation from the nominal income...

may be smaller than what the differences in nominal income suggest.

Values

Those encompassing this station in life statistically espouse high regard for higher education, striving for themselves and their children to obtain undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Political ideology is not found to be co-related with social class, however, a statistical relationship is seen between the level of one's educational attainment and the likelihood of that person subscribing to a particular political ideology. In terms of income, liberals tend to be tied with pro-business conservatives. Most mass affluent
Mass affluent
Mass affluent and emerging affluent are marketing terms used to refer to the high end of the mass market. It is most commonly used by the financial services industry to refer to individuals with US$100,000 to US$1,000,000 of liquid financial assets, although the exact definition varies...

 households tend to be more right wing-leaning on fiscal issues but more left wing-leaning on social issues. The majority, between 50% and 60%, of households with incomes above $50,000 overall, not all of whom are upper middle class, supported the Republican Party
Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...

 in the 2000, 2004 and 2006 elections. Nevertheless, those with graduate degrees overall statistically favor the Democratic Party
Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...

.
In 2005, 72% of surveyed full-time faculty members at four-year institutions, the majority of whom would be considered upper middle class, identified themselves as liberal.

The upper middle class is often the group that shapes society and brings social movements to the forefront. Movements such as the Peace Movement
Peace movement
A peace movement is a social movement that seeks to achieve ideals such as the ending of a particular war , minimize inter-human violence in a particular place or type of situation, often linked to the goal of achieving world peace...

, The Anti-Nuclear
Anti-nuclear
The anti-nuclear movement is a social movement that opposes the use of nuclear technologies. Many direct action groups, environmental groups, and professional organisations have identified themselves with the movement at the local, national, and international level...

 Movement, Environmentalism
Environmentalism
Environmentalism is a broad philosophy, ideology and social movement regarding concerns for environmental conservation and improvement of the health of the environment, particularly as the measure for this health seeks to incorporate the concerns of non-human elements...

, the Anti-smoking movement
Anti-smoking movement
Tobacco control is a field of public health science, policy and practice dedicated to controlling the growth of tobacco use and thereby reducing the morbidity and mortality it causes...

, and even in the past with Blue law
Blue law
A blue law is a type of law, typically found in the United States and, formerly, in Canada, designed to enforce religious standards, particularly the observance of Sunday as a day of worship or rest, and a restriction on Sunday shopping...

s and the Temperance movement
Temperance movement
A temperance movement is a social movement urging reduced use of alcoholic beverages. Temperance movements may criticize excessive alcohol use, promote complete abstinence , or pressure the government to enact anti-alcohol legislation or complete prohibition of alcohol.-Temperance movement by...

 are all products of the upper middle class. Some claim this is because this is the largest class (and the lowest class) with any true political power for positive change, while others claim some of the more restrictive social movements (such as with smoking and drinking) are based upon "saving people from themselves."

British upper middle class

The Upper Middle class in Britain consists of the educated professionals who generally come from higher income backgrounds. This stratum, in England, traditionally uses Received Pronunciation
Received Pronunciation
Received Pronunciation , also called the Queen's English, Oxford English or BBC English, is the accent of Standard English in England, with a relationship to regional accents similar to the relationship in other European languages between their standard varieties and their regional forms...

 natively. Traditional careers would include academics, architects, barristers, diplomats, chartered engineers
Chartered Engineer (UK)
In the United Kingdom, a Chartered Engineer is an engineer registered with Engineering Council UK . Contemporary Chartered Engineers are master's degree-qualified and have gained professional competencies through training and experience...

, physicians, military officers, clergy
Clergy
Clergy is the generic term used to describe the formal religious leadership within a given religion. A clergyman, churchman or cleric is a member of the clergy, especially one who is a priest, preacher, pastor, or other religious professional....

, art dealers, senior civil servants, journalists, judges, artists, writers and those working in business and the City of London
City of London
The City of London is a small area within Greater London, England. It is the historic core of London around which the modern conurbation grew and has held city status since time immemorial. The City’s boundaries have remained almost unchanged since the Middle Ages, and it is now only a tiny part of...

 and the City of Manchester in high managerial, executive positions. A typical Mosaic geodemographic type for this group would be cultural leadership.

This social class is not easily defined and personal wealth is not a necessary criterion. Family background, connections are important. Understatement, in both behaviour and taste, is a defining characteristic of the British upper middle class. Traditionally this class is associated with certain professions (barristry, medicine, academia, finance, and the officers of the Royal Navy and Army). However, not all members of these professions are from this class and an upper-middle-class individual sometimes may not work in one of the traditional professions. Other distinctive lifestyle features are such things as taking more than one annual holiday travelling abroad. Ski holidays in France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 or New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

 in winter, Easter breaks in Barbados
Barbados
Barbados is an island country in the Lesser Antilles. It is in length and as much as in width, amounting to . It is situated in the western area of the North Atlantic and 100 kilometres east of the Windward Islands and the Caribbean Sea; therein, it is about east of the islands of Saint...

, and summers in Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 are typical examples. Luxury automobiles such as Mercedes
Mercedes
Mercedes is a girl's name of Spanish origin, referring to a title for the Virgin Mary, "Our Lady of Mercy". The word may also refer to:Automobile-related...

, BMW
BMW
Bayerische Motoren Werke AG is a German automobile, motorcycle and engine manufacturing company founded in 1916. It also owns and produces the Mini marque, and is the parent company of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. BMW produces motorcycles under BMW Motorrad and Husqvarna brands...

, Jaguar
Jaguar
The jaguar is a big cat, a feline in the Panthera genus, and is the only Panthera species found in the Americas. The jaguar is the third-largest feline after the tiger and the lion, and the largest in the Western Hemisphere. The jaguar's present range extends from Southern United States and Mexico...

 and Audi
Audi
Audi AG is a German automobile manufacturer, from supermini to crossover SUVs in various body styles and price ranges that are marketed under the Audi brand , positioned as the premium brand within the Volkswagen Group....

 are quite common, and most households would own more than two cars. Bespoke tailoring would also be quite common amongst the British upper middle-class. While every major urban conurbanation would have representatives of this group, London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 and the Home Counties
Home Counties
The home counties is a term which refers to the counties of South East England and the East of England which border London, but do not include the capital city itself...

 is where this class would be most visible and prominent. Tastefully furnished four-bedroom detached houses in the green-belt areas of leafy suburban Surrey
Surrey
Surrey is a county in the South East of England and is one of the Home Counties. The county borders Greater London, Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex, Hampshire and Berkshire. The historic county town is Guildford. Surrey County Council sits at Kingston upon Thames, although this has been part of...

, Berkshire
Berkshire
Berkshire is a historic county in the South of England. It is also often referred to as the Royal County of Berkshire because of the presence of the royal residence of Windsor Castle in the county; this usage, which dates to the 19th century at least, was recognised by the Queen in 1957, and...

, Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan home county in South East England. The county town is Aylesbury, the largest town in the ceremonial county is Milton Keynes and largest town in the non-metropolitan county is High Wycombe....

, and the western reaches of Kent
Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

 are especially well populated by this class. Much like their American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 counterpart, the British
British people
The British are citizens of the United Kingdom, of the Isle of Man, any of the Channel Islands, or of any of the British overseas territories, and their descendants...

 upper middle class can be subdivided in two, distinguishing a socially liberal but fiscally conservative professional subclass, and the more conservative leaning managerial, executive subclass. Politically this is also reflected in the professional wing often voting more along Liberal Democrat
Liberal Democrats
The Liberal Democrats are a social liberal political party in the United Kingdom which supports constitutional and electoral reform, progressive taxation, wealth taxation, human rights laws, cultural liberalism, banking reform and civil liberties .The party was formed in 1988 by a merger of the...

 lines and the managerial, executive set voting almost exclusively Conservative
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

.

Upper middle class families may also have ancestry that directly connects them to the upper classes. Armorial bearings in the form of an escutcheon may denote such past status. A lesser status historically directly relevant to the upper-middle class is that of squire
Squire
The English word squire is a shortened version of the word Esquire, from the Old French , itself derived from the Late Latin , in medieval or Old English a scutifer. The Classical Latin equivalent was , "arms bearer"...

 or lord of the manor
Lord of the Manor
The Lordship of a Manor is recognised today in England and Wales as a form of property and one of three elements of a manor that may exist separately or be combined and may be held in moieties...

, however, these property rights are no longer prevalent. Another distinguishing feature of this class is a noticeable prevalence of double-barrelled surnames.

See also

  • Bourgeois
  • Middle class
    Middle class
    The middle class is any class of people in the middle of a societal hierarchy. In Weberian socio-economic terms, the middle class is the broad group of people in contemporary society who fall socio-economically between the working class and upper class....

  • Great Burgher
    Great burgher
    Great Burgher is a specific title and legally defined "order of citizenship", a higher ranking type of citizen and social order, a formally defined social class of wealthy high status individuals and families in medieval German-speaking cities and towns under the Holy...

  • Bildungsbürgertum
    Bildungsbürgertum
    Bildungsbürgertum, a social class that initially emerged in mid 18th century Germany as an educated class of the bourgeoisie with an educational ideal based on idealistic values ​​and classical antiquity...

  • Social class
    Social class
    Social classes are economic or cultural arrangements of groups in society. Class is an essential object of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, economists, anthropologists and social historians. In the social sciences, social class is often discussed in terms of 'social stratification'...

  • Social structure of Britain
    Social structure of Britain
    The social structure of the United Kingdom has historically been highly influenced by the concept of social class, with the concept still affecting British society in the early-21st century. Although definitions of social class in the United Kingdom vary and are highly controversial, most are...

  • Upper middle class in the United States
    Upper middle class in the United States
    The upper middle class in the United States is a sociological concept referring to the social group constituted by higher-status members of the middle class. This is in contrast to the term lower middle class which refers to the group at the opposite end of the middle class scale. There is...

  • Upper Class
    Upper class
    In social science, the "upper class" is the group of people at the top of a social hierarchy. Members of an upper class may have great power over the allocation of resources and governmental policy in their area.- Historical meaning :...


External links

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