According to a new study, the German middle class is stable

DrThe German middle class is stable – more stable than is said. Regardless of the definition and data source you choose: the proportion of the population that can be counted as part of a population has not changed in more than ten years and certainly has not decreased. This is evidenced by a new study by the Institute of German Economics (IW) available at FAZ. According to subjective assessments, the number of citizens belonging to the middle and upper classes is now much greater than it was then.

In the time shortly before the Corona pandemic, the results can now be well documented statistically, the study showed. As far as can be expected so far, distribution researchers Judith Niehus and Maximilian Stockhausen write that “major changes in stratum structure should not be expected” as a result of the pandemic. It remains to be seen to what extent this can be translated into the consequences of the war in Ukraine. One of the biggest risks to the stability of the middle class is the persistently high unemployment rate.

However, development has been very positive so far, at least in part. This is especially true when you ask where citizens see themselves in social stratification. On a ten-point scale, nearly 80 percent of the population assigned themselves to the middle and upper classes in 2018, compared to just 56 percent in 2006, the IW shows with data from the General Population Survey for the Social Sciences. Half of the respondents saw themselves at level 7 or higher, only 25% in 2006.

This contrasts with the statements of a study published by the Bertelsmann Foundation in December. Under the slogan “The German middle class is collapsing,” she explained: “In 1995, 70 percent of the population was still middle-income, and in 2018 it was only 64 percent.” However, this publication also revealed that this “collapse” could in fact only be ascertained in the years prior to 2005. However, according to the foundation, the center “has not recovered” since then, despite the economic growth and decline The unemployment. However, these data do not reflect any subjective ratings: respondents state how high their income is, and therefore are assigned to social classes.

The IW also uses this income data for further analysis, but it breaks down the classes a little differently: it considers the primary middle class, which is 80 to 150 percent of median income in society; An extended center ranges from 60 to 250 percent around the average. This means that in 2018, single households with a disposable monthly income of 1,620 to 3,040 euros belonged to the basic middle class, while the extended middle class ranged between 1,220 and 5,060 euros. According to Bertelsmann’s definition, the extended median consists of 75 to 200 percent of the median.

immigration factor

However, the evolution over time is consistently the same: there is no downtrend for many years. According to the IW definition, 49 percent of the population belongs to the basic middle class. Soon after the reunification, it made up exactly half the population and then gradually grew to 54 percent. After the turn of the millennium, it temporarily shrank to 47 percent and increased again slightly recently. In addition, IW notes that migration can distort values ​​to some extent. In short: if more people seeking help come into the country, this statistically reduces the proportion of the middle class in the total population, even if nothing else changes for them.

However, there is an objection to that, despite the generally stable share of the middle class, it has decreased social mobility – and above all, it has become rare now out of the poverty zone relative. Also found IW evidence that: the group that achieved less than 60 per cent of the average income in 1994, 28 per cent rose to the lower middle by the year 1998. In the years from 2004 to 2008, succeeded 21 percent. From 2014 to 2018 was 23 percent.

However, this ignores the general pace of income growth. Recently it has been significantly higher, the IW study shows: from 1994 to 1998, the real income of the lowest group increased by an average of only 3.2%, but from 2014 to 2018 by 9.8%. The climb was also more difficult in that the 9.8 percent growth had to be surpassed.

In addition, the number of promotions depends not least on the age structure of society, as the study indicates: when young people start their careers after studying or training, it is almost always social progress. However, if there were fewer people who started their careers for demographic reasons, there would be fewer advancements in the middle class for this reason alone.

However, ideally, this suppression effect will be nullified by migration in the future. Because as ex-refugees gain a foothold in the job market, more people are moving from the lower-income category into the middle class.

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