MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — If you’ve been listening to the political ads over the past few weeks, you’ve heard the term “middle class” mentioned over and over.

This had Barbara from Mound wondering: Who’s in the middle class?

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Pew Research says 44 percent of people identify as solidly middle class. That’s down from 53 percent back in 2008.

Joe Peschek teaches political science at Hamline University.

“The middle class doesn’t have an exact definition. We know what the poverty level is ($23,850 for a family of four), we know what the median household income is ($59,126), but the middle class is something that people define in different ways for political purposes,” Peschek said.

The Minnesota Department of Revenue estimates in 2015 that the middle 60 percent of Minnesota’s households will make between $18,317 dollars and $101,616 annually.

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For the top five percent of households, it’s $202,407. And it’s $510,006 a year for the top one percent.

“One thing about the middle class today is given the economic circumstances, the middle class feels that it’s being challenged,” Peschek said. “It’s not the guarantee of the good life as we knew it in post-World War II America.”

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, “Middle class families are defined by their aspirations more than their income.”

Eighty-five percent of self-described middle classers say it’s harder to maintain their standard of living than it was 10 years ago.

About 1/3 of self-described middle classers say they’re Democrats, and 1/4 say they’re Republicans.

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The rest say they’re independent or have no preference.

Heather Brown