Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 6th 2014 Contents Eco-friendly
Air conditioning and water
heating are the largest
Here are a few simple ways
to reduce your energy usage:
• Turn off air-conditioning
and lights in empty rooms
• Wash clothes in cold
water and wash only full
• Take cool showers on
• Solar heated Jacuzzis
• Salt water pools
• Organic fruit & vegetable garden
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CHRISTOPHER S RUGABER,
AP Economics Writer
One of the issues that the Sun-
day BG intends to concentrate
on is how members of the T&T
middle class can construct their
lives so that they can achieve all
of their material dreams---such
as a house of their own, annual
vacation to a desirable location,
the education of their children
and enough money for their
Below, in this AP story, the
news agency addresses the US
TON (AP) ---
A sense of
pies a cherished place in America. It
conjures images of self-sufficient people
with stable jobs and pleasant homes
working toward prosperity.
Yet nearly five years after the Great
Recession ended, more people are com-
ing to the painful realisation that they re
no longer part of it.
They are former professionals now
stocking shelves at grocery stores,
retirees struggling with rising costs and
people working part-time jobs but des-
perate for full-time pay. Such setbacks
have emerged in economic statistics for
several years. Now they re affecting how
Americans think of themselves.
Since 2008, the number of Americans
who call themselves middle class has
fallen by nearly a fifth, according to a
survey in January by the Pew Research
Center, from 53 per cent to 44 per cent.
Forty per cent now identify as either
lower-middle or lower class compared
with just 25 percent in February 2008.
According to Gallup, the percentage
of Americans who say they re middle
or upper-middle class fell 8 points
between 2008 and 2012, to 55 per cent.
And the most recent General Social
Survey, conducted by NORC at the
University of Chicago, found that the
vast proportion of Americans who call
themselves middle or working class,
though still high at 88 per cent, is the
lowest in the survey s 40-year history.
It s fallen four percentage points since
the recession began in 2007.
The trend reflects a widening gap
between the richest Americans and
everyone else, one that s emerged grad-
ually over decades and accelerated with
the Great Recession. The difference
between the income earned by the
wealthiest 5 per cent of Americans and
by a median-income household has
risen 24 per cent in 30 years, according
to the Census Bureau.
Whether or not people see them-
selves as middle class, there s no agreed-
upon definition of the term. In part,
it s a state of mind. Incomes or lifestyles
that feel middle class in Kansas can
feel far different in Connecticut. People
with substantial incomes often identify
as middle class if they live in urban
centres with costly food, housing and
In any case, individuals and families
who feel they ve slipped from the mid-
dle class are likely to spend and borrow
less. Such a pullback, in turn, squeezes
the economy, which is fueled mainly
by consumer spending.
"How they think is reflected in how
they act," said Richard Morin, a senior
editor at the Pew Research Center.
People are generally slow to
acknowledge downward mobility.
Many regard themselves as middle
class even if their incomes fall well
above or below the average. Experts
say the rise in Americans who feel
they ve slipped below the middle class
suggests something deeply rooted.
More people now think "it s harder
to achieve" the American dream than
thought so several decades ago, said
Mark Rank, a sociology professor at
Washington University in St. Louis.
Three years ago, Kristina Feldotte,
47, and her husband earned a com-
bined US$80,000. She considered
herself solidly middle class. The couple
and their four children regularly vaca-
tioned at a lake near their home in
But in August 2012, Feldotte was
laid off from her job as a special edu-
cation teacher. She s since managed
to find only part-time teaching work.
Though her husband still works as a
truck salesman, their income has sunk
by more than half to US$36,000.
"Now we re on the upper end of
lower class," Feldotte said.
Americans self-perception coin-
cides with data documenting a shrink-
ing middle class: The percentage of
households with income within 50
per cent of the median---one way to
define a broad middle class---fell from
50 per cent in 1970 to 42 per cent in
The Pew survey didn t ask respon-
dents to specify their income. Still,
Pew has found in the past that people
who call themselves middle class gen-
erally fit the broad definitions that
Roughly 8.4 per cent of respondents
to the General Social Survey, last con-
ducted in 2012, said they consider
themselves lower class. That s the sur-
vey s highest percentage ever, up from
5.4 per cent in 2006. NORC is a social
science research organisation at the
University of Chicago.
Tom Smith, director of the survey,
said even slight shifts are significant.
FILE - In this September 5, 2012, file photo, delegates watch as former President Bill Clinton addresses the
Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. Since 2008, the number of people who call
themselves middle class has fallen by a fifth, according to a survey in January 2014 by the Pew Research
Centre, from 53 per cent to 44 per cent. AP
Class self-identification "is tra-
ditionally one of the most stable
measures" in the survey, he said.
By contrast to the most recent
recession, the severe 1981-82 down-
turn had little effect on class self-
identification in Smith s survey.
Why do so many no longer
regard themselves as middle
A key reason is that the reces-
sion eliminated 8.7 million jobs.
A disproportionate number were
middle-income positions. Those
losses left what economists
describe as a "hollowed out"
workforce, with more higher- and
lower-paying and fewer middle-
Rob McGahen, 30, hasn t yet
found a job that paid as well as
the purchasing agent position at
Boeing s defense division that he
left in 2011. Nervous about the
sustainability of that job because
of government defense cuts,
McGahen quit after buying a bar
near his St. Louis home.
The bar eventually went bank-
rupt and cost him his house. He
and his wife moved to Pensacola,
Florida, where he s had little luck
finding work in defense contract-
Now, he works in the produce
section of a supermarket. His wife
earns the bulk of their income as
a speech pathologist. Their house-
hold income has been cut in half,
from US$110,000 to US$55,000,
and he and his wife have put off
"It s definitely been a step back,"
Now living in an apartment, he
misses the couple s three-bed-
room house on a quiet cul-de-
sac in a St Louis suburb.
Home ownership is among fac-
tors economists cite as markers
of middle-class status. Others
include being able to vacation,
help children pay for college and
save for a secure retirement.
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SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt APRIL 2014 • WEEK ONE
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