04/09/2008 - Elizabeth Frostick's family of five gets by on less than $30,000 a year. They rent a three-bedroom apartment in Evanston, dress their children in used Gap clothing and get free dental care at a neighborhood clinic.
Kristin Paulin makes more than twice as much as the Frosticks but supports only herself. The Arlington Heights research analyst has doubled her salary to $60,000 in recent years, paid off her Volkswagen Jetta and makes brunch dates with friends.
And a couple in Geneva, earning $350,000, drives expensive cars, travels widely and has no fear of debt.
They're people with vastly different economic fortunes, but one thing in common: They all consider themselves middle class.
A new report by the Pew Research Center finds that this fiscal paradox is common in America. Most people, no matter where they fall on the economic spectrum, believe they're in some way part of the middle class.
"Being middle class is not only a state of income and assets, it's a state of mind," said Paul Taylor, the center's project director. "It's something to which a lot of Americans have always aspired. It's the emblem of a good life."
That good life, most self-described middle-class people agree, is in danger.
Read the full article Earners High, Low Think They Belong to Middle Class on the Chicago Tribune's Web site.
Read the report Inside the Middle Class: Bad Times Hit the Good Life on the Pew Research Center's Web site.