America’s Middle Class is No Longer the Wealthiest in the World

June 4, 2014

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. middle class [MID-l-KLAS, -KLAHS] (n.) – a social class that is between the upper and lower class
Example: America’s middle class is richer than the lower class.

2.  fall behind  [fawl bih-HAHYND] (v. phrase) – to fail in keeping the pace or progress
ExampleThe country’s economy has fallen behind the flourishing economy of its neighbors.

3. per annum [per AN-uh m] (adv.) – every year; yearly
ExampleAn ordinary worker in the Philippines earns Php144,000 ($3,600) per annum.

4. stagnate [STAG-neyt] (v.) – to stop improving or changing
ExampleThe country’s economy stagnated after foreign investments dropped.

5. narrow [NAR-oh] (v.) – to become smaller in amount or level
Example: The government aims to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor.


Read the text below.
A recent report by the New York Times revealed that America’s middle class is no longer the richest in the world.

For several decades since 1960, middle-income Americans have been considered to be the richest in the world. Harvard Economist Lawrence Katz says that America’s middle class was massively richer than any other country's in the 1960s all through 1990s. However, this is no longer the case, as America’s middle class had fallen behind that of Canada’s.

The New York Times analyzed data from a survey conducted 35 years ago. The analysis found that despite having an equal, if not, stronger economic growth as other countries, only the wealthiest Americans become richer.

During the 1980s, a middle class family of four in the US earned around $74,000 per annum, minus all the taxes. According to the New York Times, this figure has increased by 20% between 1980 and 2000 but has stagnated since then. Fortunately for Canada, the median income of a middle class family increased by 20% from 2000 to 2010.

Despite falling behind Canada, America’s middle class are still wealthier than Europe’s middle class. However, the difference has greatly narrowed in the last ten years. Also, the poor in the US is significantly in a worse condition than the poor in Europe and Canada. The situation was totally different 35 years ago, when the poor in the US were in a far better position.

The New York Times’ analysis also revealed the reasons why America’s middle class is falling behind. Among the reasons are the unchanging education attainment of people, higher payment for executives, and lower minimum wage.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         How do you think the results of the analysis would affect the US? Explain.
·         How can America’s middle class reclaim the position of being the wealthiest? Explain.

Discussion B

·         Is there a big gap between the rich and the poor in your country? Why is that so?
·         How do you think the gap between the rich and the poor can be reduced?

June 4, 2014