The American Middle Class
An Economic Encyclopedia of Progress and Poverty [2 volumes]
by Robert S. Rycroft, Editor
May 2017, 1053pp, 7x10
2 volumes, Greenwood

Hardcover: 978-1-61069-757-6
$229, £177, 200€, A314
eBook Available: 978-1-61069-758-3
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

What does the shrinking of the middle class indicate about inequality and distribution of wealth in American society?

What is the 'American Dream'? This book's author argues that contrary to what many believe, it is not achieving the wealth necessary to enter the top one percent but rather becoming members of the great middle class by dint of hard work and self-discipline.

Americans of all classes consider themselves to be “middle class.” There are Americans who by any objective standard should be considered poor who would insist they are middle class, just as other Americans who should be considered wealthy also insist they are middle class. Thinking of yourself and being thought of by others as middle class is the “American Dream” for tens of millions of people. But an enduring problem of the American middle class is the worry that the “Dream” is coming apart—that forces are lurking in the shadows waiting to steal their progress and throw them back into “poverty.”

This thought-provoking reference explores a disparate multitude of issues associated with being middle class in America. It addresses a range of questions and subtopics, including the meaning of the term “middle class”; how middle class status is expressed by both the majority and the various minorities that make up the American mosaic; what economic pressures are bearing down on the middle class; and how economists and others attempt to make sense of the economic issues of the day. Readers will also better understand how political institutions and public policies are shaping the way the middle class views the world; how labor, housing, education, and crime-related issues have influenced the development and growth of the middle class; the norms of the middle class versus those of other classes in society; and the role of culture and media in shaping how members of the middle class view themselves—and how they are viewed by others.

This two-volume set provides a comprehensive look at the American middle class that supports student research in economics, social studies, cultural studies, and political history. The content supports teachers in their development of lesson plans and assignments that directly align with the Common Core State Standards and the recommendations of the National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies (NCSS) with respect to all ten NCSS themes.


  • Includes content related to all the themes of the National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies and the Common Core requirements for primary documents and critical thinking exercises
  • Focuses on the intersections of middle class society to current issues of interest and policy debates, including diversity, gender, taxation, race, minimum wage, unions, student loan interest rates, school closings, and labor issues
  • Documents the perspectives of the major economists of each era on the middle class
Robert S. Rycroft, PhD, is professor of economics at the University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, VA. His research interests include economic inequality, poverty, mobility, and discrimination. His published work includes Praeger's The Economics of Inequality, Poverty, and Discrimination in the 21st Century. Rycroft received a bachelor's degree in economics from the College of William and Mary and a doctorate in economics from the University of Maryland–College Park.


2018 IPPY Award Bronze Medal in Reference category—Independent Publisher, April 12, 2018


"This is an excellent resource for high school, public, and academic libraries. Anyone doing research in the social sciences will find this detailed portrait of contemporary American society very useful."—Booklist, Starred Review, August 1, 2017

"Well written, thoughtfully organized, and timely, this set would be a good addition to most reference collections. It would be especially useful for community college libraries and those supporting a large proportion of first-generation college students, as the topics covered will be particularly relevant. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All libraries. All levels."—Choice, October 1, 2017

"The pieces are well written . . . VERDICT Of interest to high school and college students."—Library Journal, December 1, 2017
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.
Accept All Cookies | Decline.