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The American dream of the middle class isn't what it used to be

VIDEO12:4712:47
Why the middle class feels so squeezed
Key Points
  • The assumptions and expectations that come with being middle class have shattered over the last 10 to 15 years.
  • Some middle-income households and experts believe a lack of supporting policies might be to blame.
  • "There is no help whatsoever," said Chantal Jacob, a middle-income parent from suburban Texas. "There's no policy in place to assist people."

The middle class was once a symbol of the American dream, representing financial security and opportunity for a better future. But that portrait of the American middle class is quite different today.

"It was at least a secure category," said Alissa Quart, author of 'Squeezed: Why Our Families Can't Afford America,' [but] there are certain kinds of assumptions around being a middle-class person" that have "shattered" over the past 10 to 15 years.

Some middle-income households and experts believe a lack of supporting policies might be to blame for the drastic changes.

"There is no help whatsoever," according to Chantal Jacob, a middle-income parent from suburban Texas. "There's no policy in place to assist people. And I feel like as soon as you get a job, as soon as you're working, they're just like, 'That's all you need, a job. You got it, go forth and have at it.' "

Lawrence Mishel, a distinguished fellow at the Economic Policy Institute, shares that sentiment. "It's not that the economy got worse, it was that there were policy decisions made so that the economic growth did not filter down to the vast majority."

The Biden administration has been pushing for several bills aimed at supporting middle-income households, including the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure legislation passed in November 2021 and the Build Back Better Act currently stalled in Congress. But observers say it might not be enough to save the middle class from economic hardship now and in the future.

"My friends that were struggling are still struggling," said Jacob. "I'm still budgeting down to every dollar trying to get things done. So I just feel like if the changes are happening, they're not trickling down fast enough for us to see the effects of it."

Watch the video to find out more about why the middle class is feeling squeezed in America today.

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