Dreams dictate America's definition of middle class.

"It is more emotional than scientific," says Tom Gillaspy, Minnesota's demographer.

Roughly 53 percent of Americans called themselves middle class in a Pew Foundation survey conducted during the early days of the Great Recession. Among them were people making less than $20,000 a year and people making more than $150,000. Nearly eight in 10 of them agreed that a middle-class lifestyle is harder to maintain now than it was five years ago. One in four people blamed the government. One in seven blamed oil prices. And one in nine blamed themselves.

Roughly 46 percent of self-identified middle-class Americans believe wealth comes from "knowing the right people" or being "born into it." Only 42 percent said wealth comes from "hard work, ambition or education."

However people choose to label themselves, social scientists generally define the middle class as those with household incomes within 75 percent and 150 percent of the median. In Minnesota, that would be roughly 1.65 million people living in households with incomes between $39,408 and $78,816.