My immediate reaction to this is: get a grip. A two-adult, two-child household with an income of £50,000 a year is better off than 63% of the population. You can call this middle if you like, but I doubt if a fund manager who out-performs 63% of his peers would advertise his performance as middling.
Why, then, do we think of such people - and those earning significantly more - as “middle class”?
I have called it the middle England error. But I suspect that something else is going on as well. The reason we don’t describe people on relatively high incomes as upper-class is that they lack something a true upper-class has - power.
Many - most - people on around £50,000 a year lack control over their fate. They are vulnerable to the sack; they can’t choose how long they work (it’s a cliché that “middle class” women are frowned upon if they take time off to look after the kids); and presenteeism traps them into long commutes.
In these respects quite high earners have more in common with minimum wage workers than they do with (some? many?) bosses.
What we think of as the “middle class” is instead - to borrow Erik Olin Wright’s phrase - a contradictory class location. Such people score highly for incomes, but lowly for power.
This, though, raises questions. Why is there so little political demand among the “middle class” for greater empowerment at work? Why are such people so reluctant to identify themselves with others who also lack power?
The answer, of course, lies in ideology and cognitive biases. Not least of these, perhaps, is a wishful thinking which leads people to think that they can escape their lack of power by climbing the greasy pole.