What Is Considered Upper Middle Class?

What Is Considered Upper Middle Class?

The upper middle class is a socioeconomic group that sits between the middle class and the upper class. While there is no single, universally accepted definition of this group, it is generally characterized by higher income levels, advanced education, professional occupations, and values and lifestyles that distinguish it from other classes.

In this article, we will explore the key aspects that define the upper middle class.

Income Range: Defining the Upper Middle Class by Earnings

Income is one of the primary indicators used to define the upper middle class. According to the Pew Research Center, the middle class includes households earning between two-thirds and double the median US household income of $65,000 in 2021.

The income range for the upper middle class is almost 50% higher than the middle class. A 2024 report by the Census Bureau’s Income in the United States: 2022, cited by Yahoo Finance, suggests that the upper middle class includes households with incomes ranging from $94,001 to $153,000. These figures highlight income’s significant role in determining upper-middle-class status.

Education and Occupation: The Role of Higher Education and White-Collar Jobs

Education and occupation are closely linked to upper-middle-class status. Members of this group often have post-secondary and graduate degrees, which contribute to their ability to secure high-paying, white-collar professional jobs that offer autonomy and job satisfaction.

Common professions within the upper middle class include lawyers, physicians, engineers, professors, and corporate executives. Pursuing higher education is a critical factor in attaining these prestigious positions and achieving upper-middle-class status.

Lifestyle and Values: Distinguishing Characteristics of the Upper Middle Class

The upper middle class is distinguished not only by their income and education but also by their lifestyle and values. This group tends to place a high value on advanced education for themselves and their children, often encouraging the pursuit of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.

Thanks to their economic stability and social capital, they are influential in setting trends and shaping public opinion. Unlike their counterparts in the middle class, the upper middle class is generally more secure from economic downturns, allowing them to maintain their lifestyle even during challenging times.

Geographic Variation: How Cost of Living Affects Upper Middle-Class Status

When defining the upper middle class, it is crucial to consider the impact of geographic variation. The cost of living can significantly affect income thresholds, meaning that the upper middle class in one area of the country may not hold the same standard in another.

For example, a household earning $100,000 per year in a low-cost rural area might be considered upper middle class, while the same income in a high-cost urban center like New York City or San Francisco might be perceived as middle class. This variation highlights the importance of considering local economic factors when assessing upper-middle-class status.

Putting It All Together: A Comprehensive Definition of the Upper Middle Class

In summary, the upper middle class is a multifaceted socioeconomic group defined by income, education, occupation, lifestyle, values, and geographic factors.

While there is no single, universally accepted definition, we can identify the upper middle class as households earning incomes on the higher end of the middle-class range or above, with members who hold post-secondary and graduate degrees and work in high-paying, white-collar professions.

This group is characterized by their emphasis on education, influential role in shaping trends and public opinion, and relative economic stability. However, it is essential to consider the impact of geographic variation and cost of living when assessing upper-middle-class status, as these factors can significantly influence the perception of what constitutes this socioeconomic group.

The Role of the Upper Middle Class in Society

The upper middle class plays a significant role in shaping and influencing various aspects of society. From an economic perspective, this group contributes substantially to the nation’s financial well-being through their high-paying jobs and robust consumer spending habits.

Their disposable income and purchasing power help drive economic growth and support various industries, from real estate and automotive to technology and luxury goods.

Beyond their economic impact, the upper middle class also greatly influences political discourse and policy-making. Their advanced education, professional expertise, and social capital allow them to effectively engage in informed discussions and advocate for their interests.

Many members of this group hold leadership positions in their communities, serving on boards, participating in local government, or supporting political campaigns. As a result, their perspectives and priorities often shape the direction of public policy and decision-making at various levels.

The upper middle class also plays a crucial role in shaping cultural norms, trends, and values. Their lifestyle choices, consumption patterns, and social behaviors often set the standard for what society considers desirable or aspirational.

From fashion and entertainment to education and career paths, the upper middle class’s preferences and decisions have a ripple effect on the broader population. They are often trendsetters and early adopters, influencing how others perceive and engage with the world around them.

The upper middle class is known for its philanthropy, community leadership, and involvement in social activism. Many group members use their resources and influence to drive positive change in their communities and beyond.

They may serve on the boards of non-profit organizations, volunteer their time and expertise, or make significant financial contributions to causes they support. By leveraging their privileged position, the upper middle class can help address social inequalities, promote education and the arts, and foster a more inclusive and equitable society.

Finally, the upper middle class has the potential to serve as a bridge between the wealthy and lower classes, fostering social mobility and economic opportunity. This group can help create pathways for individuals from less privileged backgrounds to move up the socioeconomic ladder by advocating for policies and initiatives that support education, job training, and entrepreneurship.

Their success stories and mentorship can inspire and guide others, demonstrating that with hard work, determination, and access to resources, it’s possible to achieve upward mobility and attain a higher standard of living.

Key Takeaways

  • The upper middle class is defined by high income, advanced education, and professional occupations.
  • Lifestyle, values, and influence on trends and public opinion set this group apart.
  • Geographic location and cost of living significantly impact the perception of upper-middle-class status.
  • While no universal definition exists, the upper middle class is characterized by economic stability and a focus on higher education.


Determining what constitutes the upper middle class involves examining various socioeconomic factors. By assessing income levels, educational attainment, occupational prestige, and the influence of geographic location, we can better understand this segment of society.

Ultimately, the upper middle class is distinguished by their financial security, commitment to academic achievement, and ability to shape cultural norms.

Despite the absence of a single, all-encompassing definition, recognizing the critical characteristics of this group provides valuable insights into the complex nature of social stratification and what is considered upper middle class.