Man questions whether $50 an hour is the ‘new middle class’

@fmsmith319/TikTok Hyejin Kang/ShutterStock (Licensed)

‘That, in my opinion, is minimum wage’: Man questions whether $50 an hour is the ‘new middle class’

'$30 hr feel like Minimum wage now.'


Braden Bjella


Posted on Nov 3, 2023   Updated on Nov 6, 2023, 10:24 am CST

“Middle class” is a term that is difficult to define. Pew Research defines the middle class as “those earning between two-thirds and twice the median American household income,” according to NBC. This means that using data from 2021, “American households earning as little as $47,189 and up to $141,568 are technically in the middle class.”

However, given recent price increases, many earning wages they previously thought were comfortable are now struggling to pay for basic goods and services. This has led some, such as TikTok user Freddie Smith (@fmsmith319), to question how much one has to earn to be considered middle class— or to even survive.

“Is $50 an hour the new middle class?” Smith asks. “I know that sounds so outrageous to say, but I almost think it’s necessary for people to live with [this] cost of living.”


Is $50 an hour the new middle class?

♬ original sound – Freddie Smith

“What’s bizarre is that the hourlys are not matching up at all,” he continues. “There are people in fast food joints with no experience that can get started for $16 an hour, but yet there’s job postings where they want a bachelor’s or master’s degree starting you off at $17 an hour.”

This hourly rate, though more than double the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, represents what should be a new earnings standard, Smith says.

“That, in my opinion, is minimum wage,” he states of a $17 hourly rate. “That is $2,300 a month after taxes. Rent is two grand, groceries is a grand, childcare is, like, two grand. Not to mention everything else. Like, $2300, people cannot survive on, and that’s what they’re starting bachelor’s and master’s degree people on? What?”

Smith explains that he’s met people who have switched jobs due to poor earnings in previous roles. He gives an example of a bartender who says he made $50,000 as a schoolteacher but earns over $100,000 as a bartender.

He then returns to the topic of hourly wages.

“Even if you work your way up to $35 an hour, it’s still barely enough to get by, it’s still barely enough to get by,” Smith details. “You’re not going to be able to buy a house on $35 an hour. So, that’s what’s out of whack, even more than inflation.”

In the comments section, users shared their thoughts on the issue, with many largely agreeing with Smith’s assessment.

“$30 hr feel like Minimum wage now,” a user wrote.

“What’s wild is the push for $15 was so dragged out that $15 may as well be $7.25 still,” offered another.

“My sons teacher quit teaching to go work at dominoes. She made more $ making pizzas than teaching our youth,” claimed a third.

“‘Get a degree so you don’t have to work in fast food’ turned into ‘you’ll make the same either way & at least in fast food I won’t have student loans,’” shared a further TikToker.

The Daily Dot reached out to Smith via email.

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*First Published: Nov 3, 2023, 7:46 am CDT