The Palo Alto Weekly in Silicon Valley asked more than 250 residents of that city "How do you define your social class?" From the survey results (PDF):
Seventy-five identified themselves as "upper middle class." Their self-reported incomes ranged from $50,000 to $400,000 or more (with one retiree reporting $35,000-$49,999)... Eighty-one people considered themselves "middle class." Their self-reported incomes ranged from $10,000 to $399,999....Seventeen considered themselves "lower middle class" or "working class." Their self-reported income ranged from $35,000 to $349,999. Four reported being in the "upper class," three of whom reported earning $400,000 a year or more (the fourth is retired).
Eighty-nine people declined to answer the question or wrote their own answers, including that they were "disenfranchised," "former middle class" and "survivors in an unjust capitalist society."
"The meaning of 'middle class'" (Palo Alto Weekly)
Anna Rosling Rönnlund, co-founder of the Gapminder Foundation, asked Swedish students where they thought they fell on the global income spectrum. They guessed somewhere in the middle; they were wrong. After having 264 homes photographed in 50 countries and collecting 30,000 photos, she made this tool to help everyone understand the world – and how they fit in – a little better.
Want to see how people at your income level live in other countries? Of course you do.
The hot new amenity that NYC developers are building into their plans for luxury apartment buildings is a porte-cochère, aka a fancy driveway. In fact, in Manhattan an opulent private drive may actually add more value to a new property than using that same real estate for additional living space. Then again, why choose! From Bloomberg:
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The trend towards motor courts has accelerated notably in the last two years, according to Kent Security’s Alon Alexander, who has seen a major uptick in inquiries from luxury developers on how best to incorporate the feature in an architectural brief. They’re driven, of course, by twin concerns: privacy and security.
There’s also a less concrete allure to motor courts: in a city where developers want to wring maximum value from every square foot, there’s an extravagance in leaving such a large space empty. It tacitly telegraphs a developer’s largesse and indulgence, at least according to Alon Alexander’s twin brother, Oren. He is a sales executive for 565 Broome. “A regular developer might squeeze a retail site, or extra amenities like a larger lobby, from that space but a driveway is the definition of luxury,” Oren says by cellphone, “It’s space where you don’t typically get it.” Jasmine Mir, CMO of Corcoran Sunshine, puts its more simply. “Buying a penthouse at the top of a building is one thing, but the sense of extravagance and luxury associated with having space at street level in a congested place like New York? It gives an amazing sense of wow!
A U.K. realtor valued the subterranean residence at £8.5m (~$14m), on the assumption that it is situated in Worcestershire, the county J.R.R. Tolkien supposedly had in mind when creating the homeland for his doughty, half-height, very well-to-do hero.
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.
If you've paid much attention to policy in general, you won't be too surprised by what I'm about to tell you about energy policy. Many of our well-meaning public programs use tax dollars for the near-exclusive benefit of the wealthy—the group of people who need those shared funds the least.
Today I spoke at "What Will Turn Us On in 2030?", a conference about the short-term future of energy in the United States. At the conference, I met Lisa Margonelli, director of the Energy Policy Initiative at the New America Foundation. Margonelli has spent the last year researching the effects of high gasoline prices on middle class and working class families. (I'll be posting some more about that project later.) Along the way, she noticed some serious problems with the way we're currently trying to change energy systems in the U.S.—problems that actually endanger our ability to make real, long-term change.
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The green policies put in place by the Bush and Obama administrations are not only not aimed at the middle class; they’re benefitting the wealthy at precisely the moment that high gas prices have slammed the lower middle class.
Consider the flashiest green support for consumers at the moment: tax credits for the purchase of electric cars and solar panels. Buy an electric car (more than $40,000) or a solar array (more than $20,000) and get a tax credit. But most American families making the median income (about $50,000) spend more per year on their old used cars and fuel ($7,900) than they do on taxes ($6,000).