There is a notion I hear from time to time that earning (say) $100,000 while living in NYC makes one “middle class”. The logic being, NYC is expensive and $100K doesn’t go as far as it would in other places. Or, that many nearby people earn similar or higher incomes, putting one “in the middle”.

The facts are correct but the logic is exactly backwards. One lives in NYC because one has the means to do so. It is evidence that one is among a small number of people that can afford such things.

(A median household [50th percentile] in the US earns around $46K; making $100K is 80th percentile.)

I’ve come to think of NYC, economically, as a country club (especially so in Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn). It’s quite exclusive. And people who join do so because they want to be part of it.

Which is great! I am here to be part of something special, too.

But complaining about the expense of NYC is like complaining about country club dues. Yes, it’s expensive. But the expense, should one choose to pay it, does not imply that one middle class.

The best we can say, perhaps, is that we are average among a very privileged group.

discuss on the hacker news

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Update 30 May: A NYT story demonstrating exactly the above.