August 14, 2006


Apparently, East St. Louis is in such bad shape that even its Wikipedia page is fucked up.

In East St. Louis, the median household income is $21,324 and 35.1% of the population live below the poverty line.

While I techinically grew up in unincorporated St. Louis County, Creve Coeur is the municipality that bordered my subdivision and housed my high school. Only 20 miles from East St. Louis, Creve Coeur boasts a median household income of $75,032 and less than 3% of the population live beneath the poverty line.

It's interesting to me because I think most people I grew up with would consider themselves middle class. But statistically, the median household income places Creve Coeur close to the top 20% (lower limit for the top quintile in 2005 was $88,030).

Basically, everyone in America wants to believe that they are middle class.


jason said...

"Basically, everyone in America wants to believe that they are middle class."

I don't think that's true.

The poor have no illusions about class. They know they're poor.

A variety of social issues convince the middle class they don't want to be there... that they need more. This is visible in a number of outward expressions of a status they don't really have (think expensive cloths but a busted old house).

I'll agree that the upper middle class tend to view themselves as middle class. While, paradoxically, engaging in the same sorts of higher status expressions (think of the ornate architectural details on homes in new suburban developments that are really just cheap imitations made from plaster and plywood).

Which isn't that surprising. Upper middle class is a very in between position. Forcing connections above and below seems like a natural thing to do.

I'd also wager there's a bit of guilt involved. Although a far more complicated, and probably not as negative, guilt than what is typically thrown on those of higher status by liberal crowds.

Miele said...

Agreed; we're wealthier than we actually admit we are... I posted How Rich Are You a while ago that links to an interesting site where you compare your annual salary to the rest of the world. I was living paycheck to paycheck, paying off student loans and old debt, and yet I came out in the top 0.77% richest people in the world. I lived in a 150 square foot apt in NYC (not a typo). So, I quit my job in 2004 and have been traveling ever since. I see you're about to collect a few adventures for yourself. Best of luck doing nothing while roaming the world and congratulations!

P.S. If Vietnam is on your radar, my aunts have an incredible resort there. And, I think we're just two or three degrees of separation from one another.

goldman said...

Thanks for the perspective and the advice!

middleson said...

Savage Inequalities by Kozol looks in depth at East St. Louis and also at the idea that most people think they are middle class. Interesting stuff!

Anonymous said...


Sus said...

Well, at least Illinois doesn't have a license plate that reads, "Illinois, USA." Here in New Mexico all new license plates in the past 10 years or so now say at the bottom, "New Mexico, USA" because apparently this state really does have to convince the rest of this country that it is a part of the union!

Going along with what Lupo's Big Sister has to say, I highly recommend "Material World: A Global Family Portrait" by Peter Menzel.

Coco LaRue said...

"Basically, everyone in America wants to believe that they are middle class."

There is a lot of truth in this. While in college, I have met people on public assistance who have described themselves as middle class, as well as folks in multimillion dollar homes.

But hey, isn't middle class the all-American way to be? The media would certainly have us believe that.