40 Years on the Status Treadmill
By Bryan Caplan
The General Social Survey has spent four decades asking Americans about their self-perceived status:
If you were asked to use one of four names for your social
class, which would you say you belong in: the lower class (=1), the
working class (=2), the middle class (=3), or the upper class (=4)?
During this period, Americans experienced substantial absolute gains in income and education. Yet average status actually has a slight downward trend. Here’s what you get if you regress status on year. (yeara=year/1000)
Is this all obvious? To me, yes. But lately several economists I know have challenged me when I claimed that status is basically a zero-sum game. For America during my lifetime, they seem to be wrong – and I’m here to collect a little of their status. 🙂