A strong middle class is, for many people, central to the American idea. There are other core values too, of course—freedom, political representation, individualism, etc.—but an economy in which families can feel economic security, live comfortably, and build up wealth is definitely on the list.
But that’s not the economy America has today. The middle class is getting smaller by the year: According to Pew, the percent of adults in solidly middle-income households has fallen to 50 percent in 2015, from 61 percent in 1951. And belonging to the American middle class doesn’t guarantee financial security either: 44 percent of Americans making between $40,000 and $100,000 say they can’t come up with $400 in the event of an emergency without borrowing money. For black and Hispanic middle-class families, that figure is 58 percent, compared with 40 percent for whites.