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A subaltern middle class: The case of the missing “Black bourgeoisie” in America
Contemporary Economic Policy  (IF0.943),  Pub Date : 2020-05-04, DOI: 10.1111/coep.12476
William Darity, Fenaba R. Addo, Imari Z. Smith

A convention, particularly in economics and sociology, for empirical identification of the “middle class” has been to mark off a segment of the population above a lower bound with respect to income, occupational status, and/or educational attainment. Instead, we argue here that wealth constitutes a superior standard for demarcation of the middle class. Wealth is an especially useful standard for identification of the middle class from subaltern communities, communities that have a generally marginalized status. We illustrate the value of the wealth criteria by examining the specific case of America's Black middle class. This alternative approach enables us to demonstrate that the Black middle class is proportionately much smaller than the White middle class and to demonstrate the limitations of several proposals recently advanced to close the racial wealth gap.