New York City is a home of transplants, of dreamers, of adventurers. It is known as a destination for many people, and Manhattan, especially, is a dream neighborhood for the most ambitious of people. This is a port city that is a beacon of life in America, and to live there is a symbol that a person has made it and is successful in America.
But what exactly does middle class look like in Manhattan?
The answer is, it doesn’t look anything like it does in any other city. People who make at least $60,000 a year and upwards of around $235,000 a year are considered middle class; in any other city in the country, these salaries would place that person in the upper-class bracket.
So how does one know whether or not they’re considered middle class in Manhattan?
How Middle Class is Measured in Manhattan
Salary determines whether or not a person lives in Manhattan, which houses over 1.6 million people, or in one of the other boroughs that make up New York City. Gothamist reported in 2013 that a person who makes $250,000 a year and lives in Manhattan is considered middle class; on the lower end, single people who live in the borough must make at least $70,000 in order to afford their life.
Housing Reigns Supreme
According to the City Comptroller’s office and chief economist Frank Braconi, real estate is really what makes living in Manhattan expensive. In fact, most middle-class Manhattanites live in the area because their apartments are rent-controlled.
A New York Times article estimates that are around 280,000 units, which is about half of the apartments available, are rent-controlled. This means that older residents, such as school teachers, firefighters, and police officers, who bought or rented their apartments in the 1980s and 1990s, cannot be legally made to pay more rent. Those tenants generally make around $70,000 a year as individuals, which is still considerably more than the rest of the country for comparable apartments in other cities across the nation.
This is compared to current rent estimates in apartments that aren’t rent-controlled; rent in those apartments averages around $3,800 a month, not including utilities. Tenants in these apartments generally have roommates to cut down on costs and have high-paying jobs, such as lawyers, entrepreneurs, and businesspeople.
While there are various ways to cut down on costs in Manhattan, the middle class is now stuck paying at least more than double in almost everything than everyone else in the country. And now Manhattan is no longer the destination, but rather a stop, on a person’s journey to find an affordable place to live.
David Milberg is a financial analyst in New York.