The Middle-Class Millionaire: The Rise of the New Rich and How They Are Changing America
by Russ Alan Prince and Lewis Schiff
(Currency, $28)

The middling rich may be the most powerful group in America, say authors Russ Alan Prince and Lewis Schiff. True, the 8.4 million families in this demographic aren’t capable of endowing graduate schools in their own names or blanketing a battleground state with attack ads against their least favorite candidate for president. Their power instead lies in their numbers. These self-made Americans, who have assets of $1 million to $10 million, couldn’t imagine calling themselves anything but “middle class.” They send their children to public schools and choose where to live accordingly. They plugged into TiVo and Grey Goose vodka early, thereby convincing plenty of truly middle-class Americans that they should, too. They don’t concern themselves much with the greater good. They don’t have time; they work an average of 70 hours a week.

Prince and Schiff contend that those left looking up at the “middle-class millionaire” households shouldn’t be jealous, said Mark Egan in Reuters. According to the authors’ surveys, working millionaires separate themselves from the herd through four traits that many middle-class Americans eschew. Besides being willing to blow well past the 40-hour workweek, these hard-chargers make riskier professional choices, brush off failures, and view personal acquaintances as a form of capital. Prince and Schiff probably hope that their study subjects see all this as flattering, said Janet Maslin in The New York Times. The rest of us won’t be fooled. Clearly, the middle-class millionaire is that aggressive name-dropper from last night’s cocktail party, “the guy who, on his daily two-hour bike ride, annoys his friends by taking constant phone calls as he pedals.”

Prince and Schiff’s “valuable if formulaic” book cogently explains why the market power of “MCMs” exceeds their numbers, said James Pressley in Because the merely wealthy are more numerous than the super-wealthy, many products and services are tailored to them. Because they rub elbows with the actual middle class, their aspirations become America’s aspirations. The biggest question—“What’s it all for?”—is never broached, said Keith Whitaker in The Wall Street Journal. “The authors hold
up Benjamin Franklin as the first MCM.” But Franklin devoted his life to science and politics after he’d accumulated his wealth. “It is hard to imagine the achievers in The Middle-Class Millionaire doing any such thing.”