Author Topic: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?  (Read 17452 times)

c

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What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« on: January 22, 2013, 10:04:21 PM »
An interesting read. I'm not sure it's that "Antimustachian", but this seemed the best place for it.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/20/realestate/what-is-middle-class-in-manhattan.html?pagewanted=1

To be honest I've never really understood the definition of Middle Class in America. As the article points out, everyone here seems to define themselves as middle class unless they feel they have enough money not to. It's been my experience that when someone here (US) asks "what do you do?", what they're really asking is "how much do you earn?". It's my view that "Middle Class" here is something of a hold over from the settler/colonial days, it was aspirational. Settlers tended to be those who didn't have anything to lose, took risks and the thing that raised them above the others in the new world was money. Money was able to buy them entry into a society that their birth circumstances wouldn't allow in their home country and it's still used as the class benchmark today. I also think it's why there's such a backlash against new immigrants - a threat by those who have nothing to lose and are prepared to fight a little harder to climb the ladder.

"I'm here to steal your jobs and your women and your middle class complacency is making it all the more easy" (I did not put that on my Green Card application, but it was implied).

Here are some quotes from the article

“My niece just bought a home in Atlanta for $85,000,” she said. “I almost spend that on rent and utilities in a year. To them, making $250,000 a year is wealthy. To us, it’s maybe the upper edge of middle class.”

vs

“Middle class, to me, is having a pretty good job, enough money to pay bills and rent, and then a little extra,” said Desiree Gaitan, 29, a manager of social media for Shairporter, a tech start-up that arranges shared taxi rides to New York airports. She says she feels middle class even though she makes about $40,000 a year (equivalent to about $17,900 a year in a more typical part of the country).

marty998

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2013, 11:49:35 PM »
Sounds like Sydney. Over here we actually had people on $150k a year who demanded the Prime Minister reinstate their family tax benefits because they are "battlers struggling with the cost of living".

Housing is shocking here, but not so bad that it requires benefits to supplement a $150k income

bo_knows

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2013, 06:55:16 AM »
I recently had an argument on facebook with someone who said "you can barely get by in NYC with $120k".

noob515

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2013, 08:12:53 AM »
I recently had an argument on facebook with someone who said "you can barely get by in NYC with $120k".

Same here - my facebook friend argued about the cost of living, daycare expenses, yadda yadda.  My point was that YES, living in that area is ridiculously expensive, but everyone knows that, so you just have to plan accordingly.

My step-mother lived in NYC after grad school, by herself, on less than $120k, and obviously didn't die of starvation or end up homeless.  She had a tiny 8th floor walk-up apartment.  But she got to live in a great neighborhood in a city that offered gobs of job opportunities.  I suppose to some, that's barely getting by...

bo_knows

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2013, 08:43:15 AM »
The main problem I see with people that make that argument about NYC is that they try to compare their lifestyle to "middle class" everywhere else in the US.  They expect to be able to have 1500-2000sqft living space (owned, not rented), drive a car, and still have fun money.  That's just not the reality of a place so densely populated.

chucklesmcgee

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2013, 04:59:05 PM »
The main problem I see with people that make that argument about NYC is that they try to compare their lifestyle to "middle class" everywhere else in the US.  They expect to be able to have 1500-2000sqft living space (owned, not rented), drive a car, and still have fun money.  That's just not the reality of a place so densely populated.

Middle class can be defined a number of ways, but if we define it by people who share a similar standard of living, then the comparison between NYC and other locations is valid. If a dollar earned in Manhattan buys less of everything and is taxed more, one's purchasing power and real income are effectively reduced. A salary earned in Manhattan dollars, more or less, translates to a different standard of living and hence a different class than people in other areas making the same nominal income.

bo_knows

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #6 on: January 24, 2013, 06:07:27 AM »
The main problem I see with people that make that argument about NYC is that they try to compare their lifestyle to "middle class" everywhere else in the US.  They expect to be able to have 1500-2000sqft living space (owned, not rented), drive a car, and still have fun money.  That's just not the reality of a place so densely populated.

Middle class can be defined a number of ways, but if we define it by people who share a similar standard of living, then the comparison between NYC and other locations is valid. If a dollar earned in Manhattan buys less of everything and is taxed more, one's purchasing power and real income are effectively reduced. A salary earned in Manhattan dollars, more or less, translates to a different standard of living and hence a different class than people in other areas making the same nominal income.

This is hard to quantify if you ask me.  I don't think it's a different "standard" of living, to say that if you live in a highly dense city, that you're not going to be able to have a house with 2500sqft and a finished basement. It's just not possible due to space constraints.  Who's to say that living in a rented 900sqft apartment is a better/worse quality of life than a 2500sqft house in the suburbs?

Obviously salaries in a place like NYC will be adjusted, somewhat, for "cost of living".  I just find it hard to swallow when someone says they can't "scrape by" on 3x the national average salary.


Mannerheim

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2013, 11:42:27 AM »
The main problem I see with people that make that argument about NYC is that they try to compare their lifestyle to "middle class" everywhere else in the US.  They expect to be able to have 1500-2000sqft living space (owned, not rented), drive a car, and still have fun money.  That's just not the reality of a place so densely populated.

This is the key point. Also bear in mind that NYC (especially Manhattan) is a luxury brand. People will pay top dollar for the privilege of being able to say they live in "The City" and thereby look down on the poor hicks in flyover country. A crappy apartment in a glamorous locale can easily be much more costly than a swank apartment in, say, Des Moines, just as a pair of $400 designer skinny jeans might be lower quality and less comfortable than $30 Levis. People are quick to complain that their job requires that they live in NYC, but I suspect many of those cases really boil down to "my entire self-worth is invested in being a NYC resident, I refuse to go live amongst the common folk".

Jamesqf

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2013, 11:58:09 AM »
People will pay top dollar for the privilege of being able to say they live in "The City" and thereby look down on the poor hicks in flyover country.

While remaining utterly oblivious to the fact that most of us out here regard them with pity, mixed with no small degree of derision, and a bit of contempt :-)
« Last Edit: January 24, 2013, 04:41:37 PM by Jamesqf »

mustachecat

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #9 on: January 24, 2013, 12:19:35 PM »
People will pay top dollar for the privilege of being able to say they live in "The City" and thereby look down on the poor hicks in flyover country.

While remaining utterly oblivious to the fact that most of us out here regard them with pity, mixed with no small degree of derision, and a bit of contempt :-)


Hey now, fellas, we can all be friends!




sheepstache

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #10 on: January 28, 2013, 10:24:10 AM »
Related:
http://gawker.com/5979036/the-10-most-absurd-quotes-from-a-story-about-rich-new-yorkers-whose-homes-are-too-big-in-ascending-order-of-rage+inducement

People will pay top dollar for the privilege of being able to say they live in "The City" and thereby look down on the poor hicks in flyover country.

While remaining utterly oblivious to the fact that most of us out here regard them with pity, mixed with no small degree of derision, and a bit of contempt :-)

Actually I don't think either group thinks enough about the other to merit mention.

NYC Stach

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #11 on: January 28, 2013, 01:37:21 PM »
The wife and I make a combined $120k in take-home pay and still manage a 55% savings rate while living in midtown Manhattan (yes, I see room for improvement in that number).  Anyone who says it can't be done just has different priorities than the typical Mustachian.  Some examples include; taking a cab vs walking or the subway, eating out or having meals delivered vs. cooking at home, paying outrageous gym fees vs. running/biking in Central Park, the list goes on but you all get the point.  All of these things are done by my co-workers without thinking twice because thats "just what New Yorkers do".  The looks of shock/pity/amazement we get when someone finds out we haven't had takeout/delivery in the last year are quite comical (or maybe just sad).  I can just imagine what they would think/say if they found out we will be FI in 6-7 years?

twinge

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #12 on: January 29, 2013, 08:14:43 AM »
I think one of the issues is that people want the middle class trappings that would apply elsewhere but not when you live in Manhattan (or other high COL area--I feel like I've lived in them all and didn't find Manhattan exceptionally more expensive than the others, only a lot more fun!).  What you get for a reasonably high salary in Manhattan is to live in Manhattan. That's it.  That's your upper middle class trappings.  And it's a lot.  You get one of the most lively, dense, culturally interesting cities in the world as your backyard (if that's your thing)--with a bazillion fun free, inexpensive and expensive things to do there. That's wealthy.

But if living in Manhattan isn't worth that much too you, you move to a part of Queens or (less so these days) Brooklyn where you can get more traditionally middle class trappings--albeit still urban and expensive-ish--for your salary.  Or you move to lower COL area where you get less dense and diverse cultural experiences, but more personal goods/space/access to nature (or for mustachians earlier FI).  I think what happens in Manhattan (or other high COL places) is that the luxury of choosing that particular location--and all its concomitant costs--stops feeling like a luxurious choice and more like a baseline view of reality. And what's leftover doesn't seem like all that much.  I think it's at that point it's time to reassess where you want to live--not complain that your income which is in the top 1% isn't all that high.

sheepstache

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #13 on: January 31, 2013, 12:19:51 PM »
Very well put, Twinge!

SpendyMcSpend

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #14 on: February 03, 2013, 01:37:48 PM »
Sorry but I disagree.  Even Queens is really pricy and with that you get a 50+ minute commute to work. 

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/money/n-y-costly-earn-figures-middle-class-article-1.389003

You need to make $123,000 in NYC to live an equivalent standard of living as someone making $50k in Houston.  It's much easier if you are living with your SO because your rent is cut in half though.

twinge

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #15 on: February 03, 2013, 04:42:07 PM »
Quote
You need to make $123,000 in NYC to live an equivalent standard of living as someone making $50k in Houston.  It's much easier if you are living with your SO because your rent is cut in half though

The point I was making though that if you choose to live in NYC you've already decided that living in NYC is central to your standard of living.  The city itself is the luxury-- not what would count as an equivalent middle class trappings to get an equivalent standard of living.  If you love NYC, no salary in Houston is going to give you an equivalent standard of living as even a tiny shared studio in NYC.  And if you don't love NYC that much, you leave for greener pastures.

I lived in NYC (Manhattan and Park Slope) when prices were just as high or higher as they are now.  I was able to use my mustachian imagination to forge a reasonable life on a woefully middle class (even would be middle class for Indiana :) ) income. Yes I lived in tiny tiny awkward apartments.  And I have many friends scattered throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens who continue to do the same.  Sure, a calculator comparing cost of living will tell you otherwise, and yes, it is more expensive to live in NYC than many other places, but if you want to live there you figure out a way and you don't expect the middle class accoutrements that come with being middle class out in Texas, Indiana or wherever because you have the world class accoutrements of a fucking amazing city at your doorstep.  (If, of course, that's your taste).

And to be honest -- there are many metro areas that are nearly as expensive with a lot less reward.
I live in one now (and am angling to leave).



« Last Edit: February 03, 2013, 04:53:02 PM by twinge »

SpendyMcSpend

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #16 on: February 03, 2013, 08:54:22 PM »
Actually I don't like living here but my entire family is here, along with my boyfriend who is a city employee with 12 years left till his amazing pension at 45 years old.  I would move but I don't know anyone anywhere else and not adventurous and I like family. 

twinge

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #17 on: February 04, 2013, 05:44:26 AM »
Quote
Actually I don't like living here but my entire family is here, along with my boyfriend who is a city employee with 12 years left till his amazing pension at 45 years old.  I would move but I don't know anyone anywhere else and not adventurous and I like family. 

This is where it's a bummer: when the reasons you want to stay in a place are the same as the reasons people all over want to stay in a particular place (e.g.,family) but yours happen to be in one where the costs are run up so high because it's a luxury brand city.  But an amazing pension at 45 years old and being with family in a place you feel comfortable and used to are also luxuries you can also try to enjoy.  If you really do decide more middle class trappings mean more to you than than staying in NYC, maybe a good way to start your explorations is to take day trips out into the more upstate New York area.  There are quite a few lovely inexpensive places that if you've been mustachian enough to live on the pension and your savings in 12 years you could set up a fine life on a lot less cost and still be relatively close to family.

Jamesqf

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #18 on: February 04, 2013, 11:40:53 AM »
The point I was making though that if you choose to live in NYC you've already decided that living in NYC is central to your standard of living.  The city itself is the luxury...

I'd really be surprised if that were actually all that many people who really like living in NYC.  There are a lot of people - ranging from Wall Street types to the people waiting tables to survive while waiting for their big break in acting/modeling/art/whatever - who move there for the money/career opportunities, and then try to convince themselves that they love living there by telling everyone else how great it is.  And meanwhile everyone else in the same position is telling them how great it is to live in the city.  So you wind up with one of those Emperor's New Clothes situations, where the few people naive enough to point out the obvious - you're all living a pretty miserable existence, despite the money - are ostracized.

SpendyMcSpend

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #19 on: February 04, 2013, 10:18:19 PM »
Exactly.  And even if you do make 3 times as much as the person living in Iowa, it goes to rents that are 4 times as high.  No you can't scrounge and find a place to live that is cheaper.  I have gone bottom of the barrel and still spent so much in rent and all kinds of other crap.  You don't have a washing machine, you have a tiny freezer so you can't do bulk meals.  Things add up.  I hate when people get boggle eyed at your salary but don't realize that 50% off the bat goes to rent 50 minutes away from work.

madgeylou

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #20 on: February 05, 2013, 04:22:40 AM »

I'd really be surprised if that were actually all that many people who really like living in NYC. 

Having lived there myself, and having loved it, I feel the need to point out applying one person's opinion to all people is a schoolboy error of logic and reason. I lived in NYC because I love it, and most of my friends in NYC live there because they love it, just like you live in the sticks because you love it. It is possible to prefer living an urban lifestyle, though you seem to think we are just deluding ourselves/don't know any better.

twinge

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #21 on: February 05, 2013, 06:48:58 AM »
Quote
I'd really be surprised if that were actually all that many people who really like living in NYC.  There are a lot of people - ranging from Wall Street types to the people waiting tables to survive while waiting for their big break in acting/modeling/art/whatever - who move there for the money/career opportunities, and then try to convince themselves that they love living there by telling everyone else how great it is.

I loved living in New York--and I didn't go there for a "big break" nor did anyone I know--that seems to be more of a "movie myth" about New York than reality.  I just liked the energy of the city.  I loved living without a car and never minding it or needing it.  I loved that my neighborhood vegetable and fruit seller knew me and would set especially nice things aside for me.  I spent less on groceries there and ate healthier in NYC than anywhere because I'd buy a big bag of brown rice and fresh tofu in Chinatown and just load up on fresh produce in season from the corner store.  I found my daily quality of life higher because I had a small place that was easy to clean, I didn't drive ever.  I got my exercise in daily life activities without having to make specific time for it because I would walk everywhere.  I loved that there was always something interesting to see in any direction I walked--and I loved being able to choose from at least 50 free cultural events that interested me at any moment.  I left as opportunities showed up in other places, and I like change, but it was my favorite  city I have ever lived in.  I derived a lot of my own energy from the vitality and energy of the city around me.

That said, I also loved my time living alone in the woods where I got to know my "natural neighborhood" and loved the calm and derived a lot of my energy from the vitality of the natural world.  I think I have found I prefer extremes--rural areas and dense, dense walkable cities.   I am less happy in dense cities/suburbs where you have to drive a lot and you don't get the "neighborhood" experience that you get when you live in NYC where most of what you need is a walk away and you establish relationships with shopowners etc. 

I currently live in a place I don't like because of work that I love.  The schools are good for my kids etc.  But my daily life costs a lot more than New York.  We moved to needing 2 cars from having none. Owning and driving cars adds so much expense.  I have a house which costs about the same as my apartment did --though I have a lot more space (that I don't particularly enjoy now that I have it) and am building equity.  The environment here just feels a lot less connected and energetic for me than New York or in the country, though I figure out ways to be happy it's in spite of my location rather than supported by it.

kmm

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #22 on: February 05, 2013, 09:00:40 AM »
I agree with the previous two posters. I've also lived in New York (as a much younger person who didn't mind being broke!) and now live in another expensive northeastern city. Plenty of people think the tradeoffs I make are crazy - I don't have parking or a yard, for example. I have a much smaller home than I could afford in a neighboring suburb. But for me it's worth it, I live very happily in an urban environment and still manage to meet my savings and investment goals.

I think it's condescending to paint all big-city dwellers as unhappy, clueless strivers who don't know what they're missing. Some of us just have different priorities, and make the tradeoffs necessary to meet them.

dragoncar

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #23 on: February 05, 2013, 11:04:41 AM »
I keep wanting to comment, but Twinge keeps saying exactly what I would say.  So I'll just throw another vote of support to Twinge and more anecdotal evidence that NYC people really do "love" NYC.  Not everyone, but the people I know who live there do.  Otherwise, they move.

Jamesqf

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #24 on: February 05, 2013, 12:46:39 PM »
I'd really be surprised if that were actually all that many people who really like living in NYC. 

Having lived there myself, and having loved it, I feel the need to point out applying one person's opinion to all people is a schoolboy error of logic and reason.

May I point out a certain lack of reading comprehension there?  What I wrote - "all that many people" - is not at all the same as "all people".  There may indeed be people who like living in NYC (or whatever city you care to name), but I would bet that number is far from 100% of the population of NYC.

twinge

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #25 on: February 05, 2013, 01:27:27 PM »
Quote
May I point out a certain lack of reading comprehension there?  What I wrote - "all that many people" - is not at all the same as "all people".  There may indeed be people who like living in NYC (or whatever city you care to name), but I would bet that number is far from 100% of the population of NYC.

Well you also said that the naive person would point out the obvious:
Quote
where the few people naive enough to point out the obvious - you're all living a pretty miserable existence, despite the money - are ostracized.
which makes a claim that the miserable existence of "all" is "obvious."

To be honest, I just took your stance as curmudgeonly hyperbole rather than an honest claim about what you thought New Yorkers thought. But even on that level it didn't really strike a "true" chord to me in my honest experiences with NYC or any of my many friends or colleagues.   It would be like me saying that I wouldn't be surprised if all that many residents of rural areas in the US are still clinging on to an idealized vision of small town/rural America that they can't bear to lose, not  noticing that these places  have become a miserable existence as they have either merged into an a vast ex-urban sprawl or are crystal meth production havens. That claim fits a certain stereotype--and might be true for a few residents in a few places-- but likely wouldn't resonate with the majority of people who choose to live in rural areas

dragoncar

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #26 on: February 05, 2013, 06:12:32 PM »
More likely than not, I wouldn't be surprised if all that many people didn't have an idea whether they could care less about what the hell I'm talking about.

Jamesqf

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #27 on: February 05, 2013, 11:34:48 PM »
Well you also said that the naive person would point out the obvious:
Quote
where the few people naive enough to point out the obvious - you're all living a pretty miserable existence, despite the money - are ostracized.
which makes a claim that the miserable existence of "all" is "obvious."

And you, among others, have not here been elaborating on the details of that misery, such as the "tiny tiny awkward apartments" at what most of us think are absurd rents?  Without, apparently, being able to describe the putative benefits except in vague words like "vitality", "energy", and "cultural events".  I imagine the Emperor's courtiers gave similarly vague but glowing descriptions of his garments :-)

dragoncar

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #28 on: February 05, 2013, 11:44:38 PM »

And you, among others, have not here been elaborating on the details of that misery, such as the "tiny tiny awkward apartments" at what most of us think are absurd rents?  Without, apparently, being able to describe the putative benefits except in vague words like "vitality", "energy", and "cultural events".  I imagine the Emperor's courtiers gave similarly vague but glowing descriptions of his garments :-)

Good thing  nobody here likes tiny houses (http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&source=hp&q=tiny+house+site%3Amrmoneymustache.com)

You think the term "cultural event" is vague?  Did you also scoff at Obama's role as a "community organizer?"

Concretely, in many urban areas, but even more so NYC, there is always something happening.  Even at 3 am.  You can easily walk there.  You can easily meet people of all backgrounds.  You can experience "high" culture and low.

I've never lived in NYC, but if the cost of living was the same as farmland in Ohio, I'd live there in a second.   I am not alone.  If it was twice as expensive as the farm, I'd still probably go.  The question isn't whether people, on average, prefer NYC.  They clearly do.  At this point, we are merely quibbling about the price worth paying to live there.

mustachecat

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #29 on: February 06, 2013, 06:54:50 AM »
Living in New York has lowered the bar for happiness for me in some ways and raised it in others.


For instance, I truly love and think of our 650-square-foot apartment as luxurious. I mean, we have a living room and an office and an eat-in kitchen (contain your laughter, regular house-dwellers). Is being happy with less than others a miserable existence or kidding myself? I don't think so--and I think it's a very Mustachian trait and one I want to develop in other areas of my life.


On the other hand, living in the city has made it very hard for me to consider moving to anywhere less racially diverse. I'm one half of an interracial couple, a fact I pretty much forget here because it's such a nonevent. I'm not saying that every time we leave the city, we get spit on or anything, but the atmosphere is often markedly different in less urban areas.


Back to the article, you know, I'm not really sure if this is really that controversial. Doesn't MMM characterize a $110K income by one person as "high middle class" (http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/10/08/how-to-go-from-middle-class-to-kickass)? To me, like c, that just indicates that "middle class" is just a lazy and vague descriptor.

twinge

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #30 on: February 06, 2013, 10:03:20 AM »
Quote
Without, apparently, being able to describe the putative benefits except in vague words like "vitality", "energy", and "cultural events".  I imagine the Emperor's courtiers gave similarly vague but glowing descriptions of his garments :-)

I think I described quite a few specific  benefits:  real walkability--not needing or even mildly missing a car EVER in 5 years--with its financial, psychological and health benefits, a sense of a neighborhood with daily relationships with the people I bought my food etc. from, easy access to good inexpensive food,  the fact that it was easy to clean my tiny tiny awkward apartment (400-500 sq ft--which came to feel just right sized for our family of 2 and then 3)  and I don't enjoy living in a larger spaces now that I have them outside of NY (my 1300 sq ft plus a basement feels much too big for our family of four).

As for cultural events in NY, there's too many to detail--and many I focused on may be idiosyncratic to my taste. But I'll list what appealed to me and comprised much of my daily life outside of my 38-40 hour a week job. About the only cultural event I paid for regularly was $70 a year MOMA museum pass which I used to see about 20 film noir/classic films each year (I'm a film fan) projected in a museum-quality theater and I could also just pop in and look at any piece of art that interested me during my lunch break or before or after work any day I felt the urge (and I probably did that maybe 75 times in a year--I milked the worth out of that pass, in addition to feeling like it was a donation to an institution I value). There were 3  bookshops (including an amazing used book store) that were within a few blocks of my work or home where I went to author's readings a few times each month.   I spent many weekend nights going to  gallery openings where I could eat free food and wandered around looking at art--going from place to place until I found a show that caught my interest or people we knew to socialize with.  I probably saw 30-50 live band shows during my time in NYC for  no cost because of connections I made with friends in bands or at venues (which must have been very easy to do given that I'm not particularly a social butterfly and wasn't in a band).  Walking around I would often happen on a festival on any weekend that had music, dancing, etc. And then there were dozens of these little odd places-- like a retired computer science professor a couple blocks away who had an amazing collection of old computers from the 50s through the 80s who would open up his collection to the public (it was in a room under his apartment) and talk to anyone who was interested about how various aspects of history influenced different technology developments.  I talked to him a lot because I am interested in math, technology, cognitive science, history etc. and conversations with him informed my later graduate work.  I went to free lectures at universities regularly that also helped me figure out my interests and options.  I had access to a community garden on my block corner and learned a lot of what I now know about intensive organic gardening there (and had a lovely garden bench surrounded by lush plants to relax in many mornings while I drank my coffee).  There was this shop that collected and restored antique hardware and furniture where a woman that worked that taught me how to repair the upholstery on a chair I found and let me use all her tools.  We had little desire to own anything because there was such richness of experience to be had so easily-- so it really was a fairly low cost time period of life for us.  Rent was the only thing that was expensive--and  not needing a car made up for that cost. Childcare could be shared among multiple people and ended up being cheaper than other places I lived. I was able to afford my life on a fairly low income and got some good career opportunities and connections though I hadn't particularly been seeking them, and have made lifelong friends.

Ok, I'm officially done with my NYC soapbox. I got a location-specific fellowship that motivated me to leave, and my current work is tied to a different  location too.  No need to wax nostalgic anymore on a place I loved to live and now only visit.  Thanks, Jamesqf for "forcing" me to detail out what I value.

capital

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #31 on: February 07, 2013, 07:48:58 PM »
The point I was making though that if you choose to live in NYC you've already decided that living in NYC is central to your standard of living.  The city itself is the luxury...

I'd really be surprised if that were actually all that many people who really like living in NYC.
I don't enjoy the rent checks, but I enjoy living in NYC a lot more than I enjoyed living 3 blocks from the beach in California. And Manhattan real estate prices aren't insanely high by magic-- they're so high because there are a lot of very rich people, who could live anywhere in the world, that choose to live there. A lot of it is that you can't really get bored here-- you have access to just any kind of food or cultural event available anywhere in the world.

And the only thing that needs to be expensive in NYC is rent, and not living in a super-central neighborhood reduces that to a more reasonable level. Beyond that, since there are so many rich people here, it's easy to buy stupid-expensive versions of just about everything, but there's also a ton of competition in every market, and usually a good bargain option to be found for just about any good or service. Salaries are very high in most professional fields, too, so if you're in a stage of life when you don't need a lot of housing, the whole package isn't a bad deal.

Unlike in California, not being a car owner doesn't make you a giant weirdo, either.

Jamesqf

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #32 on: February 07, 2013, 08:52:26 PM »
There were 3  bookshops (including an amazing used book store) that were within a few blocks of my work or home where I went to author's readings a few times each month. 

Not to get you back on your soapbox, but I can't help but wonder just why anyone would want to listen to an author read their works.  (Or why any self-respecting author would read their work in public.)  I'll grant that there's a place for audio books, but fundamentally books are meant to be read.  A lot just don't work when spoken, just as most plays lose a great deal when you just read the script.

As for most of the rest, I have a great deal of trouble understanding why anyone would positively want to do those things.

KingCoin

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #33 on: February 07, 2013, 11:12:28 PM »
As for most of the rest, I have a great deal of trouble understanding why anyone would positively want to do those things.

This is just trolling, right?

dragoncar

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #34 on: February 08, 2013, 12:56:53 AM »
As for most of the rest, I have a great deal of trouble understanding why anyone would positively want to do those things.

This is just trolling, right?

Some people think that just because something doesn't appeal to them, it can't possibly appeal to anyone else.  I feel the same way about bananas.

Jamesqf

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #35 on: February 08, 2013, 11:49:14 AM »
Some people think that just because something doesn't appeal to them, it can't possibly appeal to anyone else.  I feel the same way about bananas.

Nope, 'cause the world's full of things that I can see other people enjoying, but which I wouldn't really care to do myself, like for instance skydiving, line dancing, amateur theatricals, knitting...  Then there's the third class, where I just don't understand why anyone would a) enjoy them, and b) hold them up as a rationale for putting up with the manifold unpleasantnesses of urban life. 

Sylly

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #36 on: February 08, 2013, 12:14:27 PM »
Nope, 'cause the world's full of things that I can see other people enjoying, but which I wouldn't really care to do myself, like for instance skydiving, line dancing, amateur theatricals, knitting...  Then there's the third class, where I just don't understand why anyone would a) enjoy them, and b) hold them up as a rationale for putting up with the manifold unpleasantnesses of urban life.

And you place (from twinge's posts)
- looking at art
- watching film (for a fan of film)
- going to free concerts and festivals
as those things in the the third class?

I'm curious, what's the difference between these types of activities and ones where you can understand other people enjoying?

twinge

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #37 on: February 08, 2013, 02:21:36 PM »
Quote
I can't help but wonder just why anyone would want to listen to an author read their works

I actually think this is a somewhat reasonable question.  I mainly went to poetry (which has an important oral tradition and gives importance to the sound of things ) and non-fiction, where the stuff that couldn't go in the book --the sidelines or stuff they couldn't quite make a case about but wondered gets "added in" in the discussion.  You get more insight into how and why they constructed their argument--what they went in thinking would be true, how their thinking changed, and then hear what they actually wrote.
So while I said "readings" often times it is just as much a mini-read plus discussion of background, other work etc.  I also have a somewhat idiosyncratic interest in the thought processes and contexts in which a book was written work, and that's usually discussed somewhat.

But I also do value even the reading aloud of novels, though I didn't seek it out as much-- I read a lot of books and tend to read very fast.  Sometimes hearing written works  read aloud makes me process language in a slower more attentive way than my usual fast skimming over the words.  It feels intimate to me--I like words and the sound of words and hearing language that was composed carefully when written rather than our usual off-the-cuff speaking (or writing like I do on forums :) ).  It seems to put me in a different thought space.  I also like seeing what parts authors select to read and why.   

dragoncar

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #38 on: February 08, 2013, 04:06:41 PM »
Nope, 'cause the world's full of things that I can see other people enjoying, but which I wouldn't really care to do myself, like for instance skydiving, line dancing, amateur theatricals, knitting...  Then there's the third class, where I just don't understand why anyone would a) enjoy them, and b) hold them up as a rationale for putting up with the manifold unpleasantnesses of urban life.

And you place (from twinge's posts)
- looking at art
- watching film (for a fan of film)
- going to free concerts and festivals
as those things in the the third class?

I'm curious, what's the difference between these types of activities and ones where you can understand other people enjoying?

These things all fall into the "vague" category of "cultural events" and are therefore inexplicable to Jamesqf

sheepstache

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #39 on: February 20, 2013, 10:29:36 AM »
As for most of the rest, I have a great deal of trouble understanding why anyone would positively want to do those things.

This is just trolling, right?

Some people think that just because something doesn't appeal to them, it can't possibly appeal to anyone else.  I feel the same way about bananas.

But then, you wouldn't find threads about bananas and make multiple posts about how terrible they are.

dragoncar

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #40 on: February 20, 2013, 02:57:06 PM »
But then, you wouldn't find threads about bananas and make multiple posts about how terrible they are.

Bananas are terrible.  Discuss.

Jamesqf

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #41 on: February 20, 2013, 04:51:40 PM »
And you place (from twinge's posts)
- looking at art
- watching film (for a fan of film)
- going to free concerts and festivals
as those things in the the third class?

I'm curious, what's the difference between these types of activities and ones where you can understand other people enjoying?
These things all fall into the "vague" category of "cultural events" and are therefore inexplicable to Jamesqf

Not entirely.  I do have trouble understanding "art" of the $12 Million Stuffed Shark variety http://www.amazon.com/Million-Stuffed-Shark-Economics-Contemporary/dp/0230620590 but I think any sane person does.  What I don't understand is how one gets pleasure from going to look at art in a crowded museum or gallery, where you'd better take a pair of binoculars if you want a good view. 

Likewise, if you enjoy film (I mostly don't, for a variety of reasons) then AFAIK Netflix will deliver just about anywhere.  Likewise just about any music can be purchased and listened to at your own convenience, without the numerous distractions of a crowd.

dragoncar

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #42 on: February 20, 2013, 05:59:04 PM »

Not entirely.  I do have trouble understanding "art" of the $12 Million Stuffed Shark variety http://www.amazon.com/Million-Stuffed-Shark-Economics-Contemporary/dp/0230620590 but I think any sane person does.  What I don't understand is how one gets pleasure from going to look at art in a crowded museum or gallery, where you'd better take a pair of binoculars if you want a good view. 

Likewise, if you enjoy film (I mostly don't, for a variety of reasons) then AFAIK Netflix will deliver just about anywhere.  Likewise just about any music can be purchased and listened to at your own convenience, without the numerous distractions of a crowd.

You've made a few posts about not "understanding" how someone could enjoy or want X.  I interpret that to mean you can't empathize with their desire.  But surely you can agree that some people do want or enjoy X?  Or do you really think that every single person who claims to like going to museums is just deluding themselves?

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #43 on: February 20, 2013, 09:22:12 PM »
But surely you can agree that some people do want or enjoy X?  Or do you really think that every single person who claims to like going to museums is just deluding themselves?

To be honest, I don't know.  Do people really like those things, or have they just been told over and over that they ought to like them, and have never experienced anything different?  I've experienced something of the sort myself: In my younger days, I could never understand why most popular music just left me cold (or would drive me out of bars & parties because of the volume), when my contemporaries would rave about how great it was.  Then in my mid-20s, I discovered Bach, and that led me to a whole new world (or maybe I should say an old world) of music.  So I wonder if the urbanites who claim to enjoy the culture might not experience similar ear-opening reactions if they ever got shaken out of their ruts.

I do make an exception for the modern "art" world.  That's nothing more than an Emperor's New Clothes type of fraud, with everyone telling each other how cool, perceptive, and hip they are because only they can see the merits of such ground-breaking work...

nolajo

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #44 on: February 20, 2013, 09:56:06 PM »
But surely you can agree that some people do want or enjoy X?  Or do you really think that every single person who claims to like going to museums is just deluding themselves?

To be honest, I don't know.  Do people really like those things, or have they just been told over and over that they ought to like them, and have never experienced anything different?  I've experienced something of the sort myself: In my younger days, I could never understand why most popular music just left me cold (or would drive me out of bars & parties because of the volume), when my contemporaries would rave about how great it was.  Then in my mid-20s, I discovered Bach, and that led me to a whole new world (or maybe I should say an old world) of music.  So I wonder if the urbanites who claim to enjoy the culture might not experience similar ear-opening reactions if they ever got shaken out of their ruts.

I do make an exception for the modern "art" world.  That's nothing more than an Emperor's New Clothes type of fraud, with everyone telling each other how cool, perceptive, and hip they are because only they can see the merits of such ground-breaking work...

The wonderful thing (potentially) about cities for you then could be live music. Even here in New Orleans, where we have a very definite bent toward jazz, funk, and hip-hop, there are some seriously good classical music events more nights than not and you could probably find one or two a week for free. Once you find that first group or event, it's amazing how it snowballs into as many as you want.

Now, none of this is going to help if you're as introverted as you seem to be. (I won't be surprised if your rebuttal to this point is that you would rather listen to the music in your own home rather than go out for it.) For me, as a moderate introvert, living in a city on the scale of NYC (Paris, for the record), was overwhelming and draining. Even with all the good, and there was a lot, my mood was noticeably better after a week in a more rural area with some room to breathe and the ability to take a walk without tripping over people. That's part of why NOLA is such a good fit for me. Like Twinge, I find that the suburbs typically combine everything I dislike about rural and urban environments, but unlike Twinge, I'm not a big-city kind of girl.

On a side note, when I lived in Paris I had a pass to the Lourve and I definitely spent a lot of time there. When you're able to go whenever, you can better avoid the weekend throngs and if it is that crowded, you can leave and come back another day. Galleries, on the other hand, often leave me cold. In cities there's usually enough choice that you can pretty easily satisfy those, and other, seemingly contradictory preferences.

dragoncar

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #45 on: February 20, 2013, 10:01:18 PM »
But surely you can agree that some people do want or enjoy X?  Or do you really think that every single person who claims to like going to museums is just deluding themselves?

To be honest, I don't know.  Do people really like those things, or have they just been told over and over that they ought to like them, and have never experienced anything different?

Sounds like an existential crisis.  To be honest, I'm not even sure you actually exist outside of my mind.  But for practicality sake, I'll assume you do exist and you do actually like the things you proclaim to like.

sheepstache

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #46 on: February 21, 2013, 07:36:09 AM »
But surely you can agree that some people do want or enjoy X?  Or do you really think that every single person who claims to like going to museums is just deluding themselves?

To be honest, I don't know.  Do people really like those things, or have they just been told over and over that they ought to like them, and have never experienced anything different?

But lots of people like the country and classical music and you could say the same thing of them.  Heck, by the standards by which you're judging others, you can't even prove that you're not deluding yourself.  All I'm hearing are some vague terms like "whole new world", "creeks with swimming holes", "tadpoles", etc.

madgeylou

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #47 on: February 21, 2013, 08:19:45 AM »
I do make an exception for the modern "art" world.  That's nothing more than an Emperor's New Clothes type of fraud, with everyone telling each other how cool, perceptive, and hip they are because only they can see the merits of such ground-breaking work...

see, i myself have had amazing experiences with modern "art." that stuffed shark in particular is very moving to me, and that feeling was no more culturally-indoctrinated than my preference for eating messy food with a fork instead of my fingers, or for sleeping in a bed instead of on a floor.

most of who we are -- you, me, and everyone we know included -- is culturally indoctrinated. there's actually not much in our minds that hasn't been put there by outside forces. doesn't mean that what we feel or see or respond to isn't "real."
« Last Edit: February 21, 2013, 08:28:53 AM by madgeylou »

Sylly

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #48 on: February 21, 2013, 09:56:04 AM »
I'm curious, what's the difference between these types of activities and ones where you can understand other people enjoying?
Not entirely.  I do have trouble understanding "art" of the $12 Million Stuffed Shark variety http://www.amazon.com/Million-Stuffed-Shark-Economics-Contemporary/dp/0230620590 but I think any sane person does.  What I don't understand is how one gets pleasure from going to look at art in a crowded museum or gallery, where you'd better take a pair of binoculars if you want a good view. 

Likewise, if you enjoy film (I mostly don't, for a variety of reasons) then AFAIK Netflix will deliver just about anywhere.  Likewise just about any music can be purchased and listened to at your own convenience, without the numerous distractions of a crowd.

See, I think all these things just fall under, "I don't like these things myself, but I can understand that other people might enjoy them."
The key word here I think is 'understand'. Here, I don't use it in the sense that I know what the processes and reasoning that lead to people enjoying them, such as in how one would understand why the sky is blue. I use it more in the sense of, "People have different preferences, some (most) of which are inexplicable to me."

Because frankly, I don't see much difference between the types of activities in your third category and ones you say you can understand people enjoying, i.e. line dancing, skydiving, etc. It all boils down to people like different things.

I do have some sense of understanding when it comes to live concerts, watching film at a theater or similarly large screen, versus enjoying them quietly at home. Even as someone who hates to be in a crowd, I still enjoy watching some movies in the theater. I feel like there's a bit of immersion, and some things are really better seen in a wall-size screen (which most people don't have at home... yet).

Live concerts also provide a different experience than listening a CD at home, even with excellent sound system. With good performers, there's just a feel that you're awash in a great lively vibe when you're in the concert. Of course, if your preference is classical, I can see how the difference between live classical concert and recording may just be the quality of the music, and not necessarily the feel of the surrounding (as would be true in say, rock concert, for example).

jrhampt

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Re: What Is Middle Class in Manhattan?
« Reply #49 on: February 21, 2013, 11:39:06 AM »
I go to the Met on occasion in NYC, often on a week day so there are no crowds, and quite often when I go, I wander around rather aimlessly, stopping to admire objects which are very beautiful to me.  For instance, the last time I went I was captivated by a room full of sculptures and giant Tiffany windows that were absolutely gorgeous in person.  Sometimes I just want the experience of being surrounded by beauty, and you can't get that by looking at art in a coffee table book.