How much is enough. And what is the middle class?

Middle class home in India

Friends who have lived in third world countries tell me the U.S. doesn’t really know what poverty is. Even the poorest here almost always have running water, heating and a/c, and cell phones. By contrast, 1 out of 3 worldwide do not have access to a toilet. Our definition of middle class is way on the high end worldwide. There are probably a few billion people who would think living in a 1,500 sq ft house with amenities would be unbelievably luxurious. Yet we want more.

I know families where three or four people live in a five bedroom house with a two car garage and a swimming pool. Yet they feel oppressed by the fact that they don’t have enough space. The kitchen needs to be remodeled. The bathrooms are outdated”¦ We all get distracted from real needs and confuse them with superficial desires.

I grew up in a 3,000 sq ft home outside Hartford CT in the 50s-60s. People then rarely if ever remodeled their homes. The whole ‘we must have granite counter tops’ (or whatever is trendy this year) just didn’t exist. What changed?

It sometimes helps to see the world from an entirely different perspective. What does the actual global middle class looks like?

The real middle looks like this. A family of four living in two rooms totaling about 200 square feet. The house is comfortable, spotlessly clean, very well organized, and provides everything the family needs – including a few luxuries like a nice TV, cell phones, a fridge, and a gas cooktop.

Outside in the courtyard is a sink, toilet, and bathing room which they share with the family next door. There are two or three billion people on the planet who would consider such things magnificent improvements over their current circumstances.

But y’know, the bathrooms in our home haven’t been updated in ten years and it’s just embarrassing to let people in them.

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