Middle class is an 'imaginary category,' says economics author

Economics author Alissa Quart debunked the quintessential concept of the American middle class, calling it an “imaginary category.”

Quart, who is the executive editor at the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, said that being middle class is often times aspirational than economical. 

Quart is the author of the recently-published book "Squeezed: Why our Families Can't Afford America" in which she argues that those traditionally defined as middle class workers are increasingly struggling financially, having to take second jobs such as driving for Uber.

“The working definition is 42,000 to 125,000 earning a year, but I think of it as an imaginary category,” Quart told Hill.TV host Krystal Ball during an interview that aired on Friday over what defines the middle class.

“It comes a long with education, and a set of aspirations and certain kinds of professional managerial classes that we thought, ‘oh these jobs are safe’ like being a lawyer or being an accountant,” she said.

“Some of it’s like fantasy space for the American dream as well.”

The economics author also added that it’s important to protect those professions long considered middle class, especially teachers.

“We need to support these jobs, this is what it means to be an American is to kind of have these support jobs, these municipal jobs – the librarians, the teachers. They keep this country going,” Quart said.

“We should make it possible for them to support us.”

Earlier this year, thousands of teachers across America staged protests in demand of better wages.

West Virginia teachers led the charge. Together, they shut down schools in all 55 counties in West Virginia for nine straight school days as part of a statewide strike. 

Gov. Jim Justice ended the strike after signing a bill hiking pay for teachers by 5 percent, and launched a task force to help address other issues such as strained school budgets.

During that same period, a poll found that more than half of Americans approved raising teachers' raises – even if it meant raising taxes. 

The average salary for a public school teacher is $58,950, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. But this is much lower in some states like West Virginia, where salaries can average less than $50,000 a year. 

— Tess Bonn