"What is middle class?" is a simple question with a very complex answer. Obviously, it depends on where one lives - but in Manhattan, New York, with cost of living that are akin to skyscrapers compared to other places in the United States, the answer becomes much muddier:
In a city like New York, where everything is superlative, who exactly is middle class? What kind of salary are we talking about? Where does a middle-class person live? And could the relentless rise in real estate prices push the middle class to extinction?
“A lot of people are hanging on by the skin of their teeth,” said Cheryl King, an acting coach who lives and works in a combined apartment and performance space that she rents out for screenings, video shoots and workshops to help offset her own high rent.
“My niece just bought a home in Atlanta for $85,000,” she said. “I almost spend that on rent and utilities in a year. To them, making $250,000 a year is wealthy. To us, it’s maybe the upper edge of middle class.”
“It’s horrifying,” she added.
Amy O'Leary of The New York Times explains: Link
But from what I've heard about the prices, there's no way I'd want to live in New York City.
I asked alot of questions of these two women about what kind of income it took to live in Manhattan. Alot less than one might think. Housing is the biggest challenge, but if you're willing to live in some of the other burroughs, renting gets easier and cheaper. The second biggest challenge, I think, would be about mobility. You have to allow for more time to get from Point A to Point B, even more so if you have special needs.
But on the plus side, there were the stories... there was the story from a woman and her friend who told me about moving to NYC from Cuba to become dancers. The young man who read Sarte aloud to me, in French, while we shared a seat on the subway. The long conversation I had with the owner of a fusion restaurant about his mother's many uses for leftover bread. It is a city full of people from all over the globe, and their energy, dreams, stories, and talent. Unlike the West, it is a place steeped in the history of the people who lived there; the evidence is everywhere. If your looking for a global kind of conversation and you're interested in the stories, I can't think of many cities in the U.S. as rewarding as that one.
Head to Scandanavia. Clean cities. But people are generally happy and positive, so you might not fit in.