DSA is disproportionately working class

Early numbers on the organization's income demographics obliterate right-wing allegations of "champagne socialism."

The Democratic Socialists of America have begun their 2021 convention, and earlier this evening a presentation at the event revealed some interesting data on the organization’s demographics. In particular, it looks like we are getting some real numbers on membership household income, which has been the subject of rampant (and often extraordinarily unhinged) speculation in recent years. The data that follows, I am told, is preliminary and subject to potential revision by the end of the month — but since it is well in line with historical trends, I don’t anticipate any major changes.

Here’s the basic rundown:

Notice anything unusual? Me neither — this is an utterly ordinary income distribution. To put this into context, here’s how it compares to income among the general population:

What this chart tells us is that proportionally, while DSA may have slightly fewer poor members than the general population, it has more lower-middle and middle-class members, and fewer upper-middle class members.

These numbers should put to bed some of the more ridiculous claims circulating over the past few years about the alleged affluence of DSA. A year ago, for example, Briana Last wrote that

DSA is composed of wealthy, college-educated millennials, with few ties to the organized labor movement. Nearly a third of members (29%) earn over $100,000 a year.

Chart 2 is directly at odds with this assessment: what it tells us is that DSA has proportionally fewer six-figure earners than the general population, and that it is most overrepresented among the lower-middle and middle class. Similarly, Post Left luminary Oliver Kyeyune (also in the Bellows) writes:

It is not controversial or shocking in the slightest to point out that an organization like the DSA consists almost entirely of middle class people…

These claims about “class”, untethered from a Marxist understanding of the term, are hilariously definitional — but it’s hard to rehabilitate what Kyeyune has written here into anything resembling the truth.

None of this will come as a surprise to anyone who is actually familiar with the DSA and its membership. Show up at a meeting and you will typically encounter a pretty ordinary cross-section of the local population, skewing if anything a little poorer than usual. The old stereotype of the champagne socialist has become a popular one among pundits on the right — many of whom, ironically, are quietly very well-off themselves. But say what you will about DSA; the claim that its members are wealthy is completely divorced from reality.