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What Homer Simpson's 100+ jobs tell us about America's middle class

In an early episode of The Simpsons, Homer walks with Marge through downtown Springfield. "Careful now," he admonishes his wife. "These are dangerous streets for us upper-lower-middle-class types."

This is Homer’s first admission to being "middle-class" — but for the rest of us, this always seemed obvious. Homer has all the trappings of a stereotypical working-class American: He lives in a modest home in the suburbs with his wife and three children. He works a factory job while his wife Marge tends to the children and cooks. He is not a college graduate. He drinks beer, loves to grill, and wears a white polo shirt with blue jeans.

And his paycheck — which is briefly revealed in season seven — verifies his self-proclaimed economic status:

According to the stub, Homer’s pretax weekly pay of $479.60 works out to $11.99 an hour, or an annual salary of $24,395. Adjusted for inflation, that’s $37,416 per year.

This falls considerably short of the national average of $48,320. But in Springfield, Oregon, — the real-life town The Simpsons is loosely based on — Homer’s salary places him squarely in the middle-class income bracket.

Of course, this is all based on his regular gig as a safety inspector at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. But Homer has held over 100 other jobs during The Simpsons’ 27-season run — and analyzing them shows exactly how much of a middle-class icon the cartoon character really is.

From CEO to mini-golf assistant: an analysis of Homer Simpson’s 100+ jobs

Over the show’s 596-episode run, Homer has had at least 191 jobs. They’ve ranged from executive positions to service jobs, and have dotted the entire economic spectrum, from ultra-rich to the poverty line.

In the list below, we’ve compiled the real-life salaries for 100 of these jobs. Seasonal jobs (like "mall Santa"), and jobs that were virtually impossible to find salary data for ("beer smuggler") were excluded, as were any repeats (he was an Army private twice, for instance). His full-time gig as a safety inspector is highlighted in yellow, for reference.

Homer’s overall median salary is $40,510 — slightly higher than his safety inspector gig, but still very much middle class.

Three of Homer’s 10 highest-paying jobs have been at the power plant, where he works his usual job. In season 13, he tried his hand as the plant’s executive VP ($377,000, based on nuclear plant salary data), before momentarily taking over Mr. Burns’s post as CEO ($980,000) the following season. Three years later, he served as the facility’s manager ($131,836).

He’s also had lucrative gigs as a multinational business executive ($389,000), the founder of an online startup ($215,000), a union leader ($142,000), and a police chief ($135,000).

None of Homer’s jobs (including "voice actor") come close to the annual salary of Dan Castellaneta, the voice actor who plays Homer on the show. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Castellaneta raked in $300,000 per episode in 2015 — good for roughly $6.6 million.

Homer’s stints as a member of the upper class were limited

Zachary Crockett / Vox

While 13 percent of Homer’s jobs paid more than $100,000, 49 percent placed him in the middle class, and 38 percent in the lower class.

For each of his six-figure jobs, Homer has worked three jobs that pay less than $35,000. At the bottom of this list are stints as a drive-thru employee ($17,900), mini-golf assistant ($18,720), and carny ($19,000). And of course, Homer has been no stranger to truly odd jobs — a local moonshine taste tester ($20,000), a cannonball performance artist ($22,000), and a walking billboard ($24,000) among them.

Homer’s jobs run the full gamut of the economic spectrum. But over time, his income hasn’t improved — and that makes him just like the actual American middle class.

Homer Simpson has economically stagnated, just like the real American middle class

I plotted out Homer’s hypothetical job salaries in a linear order, by episode number. Over the course of 597 episodes — from 1989 to 2016 — it’s clear that Homer has not climbed the economic ranks.

Of course, Homer doesn’t age in The Simpsons, but let’s assume that each episode number corresponds to the year it was produced.

While Homer’s income has seen erratic fluctuation not typical of the average American worker, there is no upward trend in his average yearly earnings. In other words, despite a few successes here and there, he has stagnated.

Homer Simpson has gone nowhere in the past 27 years — and the same could be said of actual middle-class Americans. Until the 1970s, the income of the average American family grew commensurate with national economic productivity. Since then, wages have largely been at a standstill, and have failed to keep up with inflation. Economists have referred to this as the middle-class squeeze.

Taking into account all of his jobs (and appropriately adjusting his steady job for inflation), Homer’s median income has never surpassed the median income in the United States.

Despite brief forays into the 1 percent as a top-level executive and a CEO, Homer remains a paradigm of middle-class America: Three decades later, he’s right where he started.


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