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Are You Middle Class? - Outside View by Anisa Virji

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Are You Middle Class?
Feb 3, 2017

Anisa Virji

I've been recently caught going around randomly asking people this question...

Would you say you are middle class?

And I am surprised - and still unclear - about some of the answers.

Some people vigorously nod their heads. Yes, yes that's me.

Others shrug. Yeah, I guess.

Still others glared at me as though I said a bad word.

Some say, 'Hmmm, maybe upper-middle class. Can I say that?' (Yes, you can say whatever you like.)

A few - very few surprisingly - simply said, 'I'm definitely not.'

All these answers are expected of course. Nothing new there.

The odd thing, though, were the people answering these questions.

It seemed that whether people said yes or no or none of the above had nothing to do with their salaries. Or net worths.

Some of those who said they were middle class, I know for a fact were making much more or had significantly greater net worths than others who said they weren't middle class or 'shall we say upper middle'.

It made me wonder: How much money do you actually need to make to 'break out of the middle-class mindset'?

And the fact is, it is a mindset.

Often the 'no' came from people who had been raised a certain way. Went to certain types of schools...or lived in certain neighbourhoods.

If you're from South Mumbai or South Delhi, for example, even if you are barely making ends meet for yourself, you're definitely not going to say, 'Yes, okay, middle class. It is what it is.'

Many act like it's a privilege to add the 'upper' to the middle class. It's like a club you're born into. Or one that you feel you need an invitation to enter.

And once you do enter that club - maybe you have crossed a certain net worth, whatever that breaking point in your mind is, or you've moved to a certain prestigious neighbourhood or apartment complex, or send your child to an international school...whatever be your criteria (because there certainly is no real number) - then you definitely don't want to go back, even if your bank account is empty.

Others wear 'middle class' like a badge of honour. It doesn't matter how much I make; I am a simple man, an ordinary Indian, and I identify with the vast majority of my brothers and sisters.

So, of course, I started researching to see what others were saying. And I discovered a survey by the Lok Foundation (and others) that asked more than 69,000 people across the country whether they considered their family to be a 'middle class' family.

And the survey categorised respondents into five income categories, and found that not only did half the respondents in the lowest income bracket consider themselves middle class (45%), but almost half in the highest income bracket also self-identified as middle class (48%).

It makes sense - that is the nature of the middle class of course. But what's striking, the survey noted, is this...

  • Self-identification of class status is important because it suggests the possibility that Indians may behave in ways that are actually at odds with material realities.

Some of the sales staff at my family business used to tell stories about the simply dressed people who came into our stores. This was especially true in our shops in south India - Chennai, Coimbatore, etc...

  • They'd come in wearing simple white dhoti-kurtas. And they'd leave with bags of our most exclusive merchandise. They had taste. They had money. But you just couldn't tell. Then they'd go into the jewelry store next door and buy bags of gold jewelry.

I wonder what the people in white dhoti-kurtas would have said if I'd asked them, 'Would you say you're middle class?'

Perhaps a coin toss would provide a better answer.

So, today, I ask you, dear reader...

Are you middle class?

And if yes, how do you define middle class? And if no, I still want to know how you define middle class.

Regardless of how you identify, please tell me how you see this great behemoth that is the 'middle class'. Either way, leave a note below.

Anisa Virji is the Managing Editor for Common Sense Living, and the Wealth Builders Club India, a Club where you will find all you need to generate a fortune outside of the traditional financial markets.


The views mentioned above are of the author only. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Equitymaster do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendation on any course of action to be followed by the reader. Please read the detailed Terms of Use of the web site.

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11 Responses to "Are You Middle Class?"


Feb 15, 2017

I am of a a lower middle class group.In my opinion,a middle class person is one who has a house of his own, but not in a posh area.He has enough income, for food and for all basic living expenses.But he cannot afford costly vacations, cannot afford to go to 5 star hotels frequently or other luxuries of life.



Feb 14, 2017

To survive in the society , doing all sorts of exercises in their limited means, posing comfortable is middle classs.


v.m.satish kumar

Feb 13, 2017

those who can afford to own a villa in a posh area , they do frequent 5-Star partying,clubs,high social contacts ,abroad holidaying frequently are classified as rich ,others those who struggle for keeping their family and personal needs expenses meet and eagerly waiting for salaries or business payments can be classified as middle class,



Feb 5, 2017

I think the term middle class is not to do with the amount of money one has in bank , real estate ,stocks etc. but by his/her lifestyle.If one is not going frequently on costly vacations is not dining in five star hotels frequently, is not changing his household furniture every three years , is not buying more than four-five pair of shoes etc etc. then he/she is middle class.



Feb 5, 2017

Frankly truly speaking can't say !!!! How does one know till there is economics yardstick behind it??


G Dhanaraj

Feb 5, 2017

If one works for money, for food, for basic living expenses, then he is a middle class. Or if one depends on active income, then he is a middle class. By this definition i belong to middle class.

Like (4)


Feb 5, 2017

Very good question but nowhere it is defined as who is in middle class.The logical way according to me should be the disposable income that I get in one year.Then u say that those with such income less than say 2 lakh is lower,with 2_5 lakh is middle and those above 5 lach are upper class.Like WO is srcitizen_ anyone above 60 yrs of age sr.citizen.

Like (4)

sambhu charan sannyasi

Feb 5, 2017

This movement for saving middle class appears to me as ridiculous also misnomer. Class is a mental condition, defined primarily on finance which is pretty controversial.

Like (4)

anwar naha

Feb 5, 2017

My point, classing people in terms of Money won't help the purpose of classifying them.
instead, classification simple denote their standard of living which in turn justifying
the classification as it for scaling economic activities and social reforms.

Like (1)

chandan nahata

Feb 5, 2017

9772901126 a middle class is the person,it is combined of 3 catogories
1) economic: he has to earn his bread,either with salaries or own establishment
2) social:who cares about his clan,social circle/neighbours
3)area: weather you are rich/poor/ or middle . if you are living in a area which are
classified middle class locality.Some area is clasified execlustve area,as South bombay area.

Like (1)
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