While most Americans consider themselves middle class, there’s one group that’s less likely to: single people.
According to a new report from Northwestern Mutual, 59% of single women and 57% of single men identify as middle class today, compared to 74% and 85% of married women and men, respectively. Further, over one-third of singles (both men and women) said they weren’t middle class five years ago. Instead, a majority (64%) thought they were low income.
For its latest study, Northwestern Mutual asked more than 2,000 US adults about their attitudes and beliefs about money and their financial decision making.
One explanation for singles’ tendency to deflate their economic status could be the absence of dual incomes. According to a 2016 report from Northwestern Mutual, singles are nearly twice as likely as married people to feel “not at all” financially secure. Getting married and combining bank accounts may feel to many like a boost to financial security.
However, that sense of financial security may be misplaced. According to the study, 70% of Americans consider themselves middle class, but as of 2015, only 50% actually are. The number of people in the middle class has been declining for four decades, according to Pew Research Center data.
Still, survey respondents who self-identify as part of the middle class — even if they aren’t — had more near and long term optimism about the US economy, the markets, and obtaining the American Dream.
“If identifying with the middle class is as much a state of mind as it is a state of finances, there are good signals in these findings that — as a group — these are people who see potential in the future and are taking good steps to plan for it,” said Rebekah Barsch, vice president of planning at Northwestern Mutual.