It's often said that a civilized society depends for its' existence/persistence on a robust middle class who want to preserve their way of life.
As an Australian who spends a lot of time in the USA, I'm troubled by this trend. More troubled are my American friends who have to live in a society which is showing some early signs of arteriosclerosis - hardening of the arteries.
Whereas, 93% of Australians identify as middle class only 54% of Americans feel the same. Just 0.7% of Australians see themselves as wealthy and 6.4% as lower class. More recently, there are a growing number of US citizens who feel left behind. Those who think they are better off now than before has plunged from an all time high in 1996 of 57% to 51% in 2007 and down to 41% in 2008.
Perhaps there is a "hollowing out" of the US middle class underway.
So what are the key differences between these two very similar nations that might contribute to these dissimilar trends? Especially for two countries which see themselves as having an adventurous spirit, champion the freedom of the individual, sustain openly democratic institutions, encourage creativity and innovation and live life as if there was no tomorrow.
Here's a workshop to explore the issues:
1. Thinking about what you have learned through the media (film, TV, newspapers, books) and personal contact, what are the key features of AMERICAN (USA) culture, the way of life, core beliefs, how they do things, television, what they are good at, their weaknesses?
2. Thinking about what you have learned through the media (film, TV, newspapers, books) and person contact, what are the key features of AUSTRALIAN culture, the way of life, core beliefs, how they do things, television, what they are good at, their weaknesses?
3. What are some of the major differences between the two nations that might account for some of the difference in the percentage of people regarding themselves as middle class?
4. What other factor could account for these differences?
5. List 5 factors which you think could contribute to the differences in the percentage of people who regard themselves as middle class.
6. Choose one of these factors and suggest a strategy for reversing the trend in America or to sustain the trend in Australia.
* Inside the Middle Class: Bad Times Hit the Good Life, Pew Research Centre. ** State of the Middle Class. The Australia Institute.