When the Well Educated Middle Class Joins the Working Poor
We may consider airline pilots to be esteemed, highly skilled professionals, but in the fastest growing sector of the industry — regional airlines — starting pay is as low as $22,400 per year, or $10.75 per hour, according to the Airlines Pilots Association. They make as much as a fry chef at a fast-food joint, but, culturally speaking, they still belong to the middle class.
With a sluggish economy, growing inequality and dwindling union clout, millions of people who work traditionally middle class jobs have joined the working poor. They still enjoy the same perceived social status, but their incomes aren’t sufficient to live a middle class lifestyle.
Nowhere is that trend more pronounced than in higher education. Today, around three-quarters of all US college professors are classified as “contingent faculty” — those who aren’t on a tenure track — and about half are technically “part-time,” even though many of them teach a full-time load of classes. They may be highly educated professionals, but most adjuncts struggle to make ends meet with low pay, limited benefits and zero job security.