the hollowed-out middle class

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Allegro molto

Senior Member
Japanese
Hello

This economic bifurcation is well worth dwelling on, particularly because it so powerfully reflects the broader ways in which, in the economically polarized United States of today, disaster affects the rich and the poor so differently. If you are a member of the hollowed-out middle class, getting sick or losing your job is a blow from which you, and perhaps your children, will never recover. For the plutocrats, bouncing back is much easier: Indeed, crisis really can be opportunity.
(from Class Divide Jumbled by the Storm, November 1, 2012, the New York Times)
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/02/us/02iht-letter02.html?_r=0

What does the 'hollowed-out' mean?

Thank you
 
  • Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    If a system is polarized it means that there is a tendency to cluster at the extremes. This means that there is a low density in the centre. You can think of this as an empty space or a 'hollow' area.

    I'm not sure if that made sense! :eek:

    NOTE
    I know exactly what 'the hollowed-out middle class' means but I don't think I have explained it well (or have I? Please let me know)
     
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    Allegro molto

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Thank you very much, Biffo

    the hollowing out [emptied of its industrial infrastructure, deindustrialization] of the domestic industry
    A Japanese English dictionary gives the above example.

    From that example, I suppose the 'hollowed-out' is used in the sense that substantially, the middle class almost doesn’t exist.
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    ... I suppose the 'hollowed-out' is used in the sense that substantially, the middle class almost doesn’t exist.
    I don't think it is that strong. We usually expect a normal distribution when collecting population data. Instead we may have a dent in the middle of the data. You can see an example of this in the fifth graph of the following text.

    It is well known that adult male heights follow a normal (Gaussian) distribution. The same is true of adult female heights. What does the distribution of adults in general look like? There are several qualitatively different answers depending on minor changes to some basic assumptions.
    http://www.johndcook.com/mixture_distribution.html

    You can imagine the graph if for example we substitute 'women' for 'rich' and 'men' for 'poor' (or the other way round). The dent (hollow) in the middle can vary in size and reflects the gap between rich and poor. It doesn't mean there is no-one in the middle - just fewer people than would normally be expected.

    Does that make sense?
     
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    Allegro molto

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Hello, Biffo

    Your explanation with the help of a normal (Gaussian) distribution makes sense.
    The fifth graph shows that it is hollowed out at the top.
    Did the term 'hollowed-out' in the phrase come from this image?
     
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