Editor’s note: Answer Line was on assignment this week. Look for new questions and answers next week. In the meantime, enjoy this best-of column:

QUESTION: What is the annual earning for a middle class family?

ANSWER: This is sort of like that old adage that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It seems “middle class” also is in the eye of the beholder.

There’s no official government definition of middle class, if that’s what you’re looking for. In fact, when I was researching this, I came across a CBS article from 2010 that talked about how the government itself was having trouble defining that as it wrestled with what were then the expiring Bush tax cuts and how they would affect the middle class. At that time, government-types were throwing around numbers like $250,000 or $500,000 as cutoffs for the middle class income in terms of taxes.

Frankly, I laugh at those numbers.

In 2012, the Pew Research Center released a report that explored the topic of what it means to be middle class. The survey at the root of the report asked people how much money a family of four needs to lead a middle-class lifestyle.

“The median response among those who consider themselves middle class is $70,000, meaning that half of middle-class adults say it would take more than $70,000 annually and half say it would take less than that amount,” the Pew report says.

(I found it online at www.pewsocialtrends.org/)

“Public estimates of how much money it takes for a family of four to live a middle-class lifestyle are quite close to the Pew Research Center’s analysis based on U.S. Census Bureau data that the median income for a four-person household is $68,274,” it continues. “As expected from the varying cost of living across the country, the annual family income seen as necessary for a middle-class lifestyle is a median of $85,000 in the East and $60,000 in the Midwest (with a median of $70,000 in the South and the West).

“Similarly, the median among middle-class adults living in rural areas is $55,000; among suburban and urban dwellers, it is $75,000 and $70,000, respectively.”

Now, weigh that against some numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau. The Census Bureau says between 2007 and 2011, the median household income in Texas was $50,920, compared with $52,762 for the whole United States. In Gregg County, the median income was $44,608, and in Longview it was $43,414.

Q: My parents are both deceased. They both receive mail asking for donations, etc. Is there a phone number or an address that you can use to get them off these mailing lists?

A: Your best bet is to register your parents’ names on the Direct Marketing Association’s “Deceased Do Not Contact List,” which was created in 2005.

Visit the website www.dmachoice.org. Toward the middle of the page you will find a heading that says “More Than Just Mail” and, under that, a smaller heading for “Register the Deceased.”

I can’t guarantee this will stop everything, but all members of the Direct Marketing Association are required to remove names on the Deceased Do Not Contact list from their databases. The list is also available to organizations that are not members of the Direct Marketing Association so they can eliminate the names of deceased individuals as well.

An updated list is distributed to members at least once every three months, so you should see a difference near that time frame.

— Answer Line appears Thursday and Saturday. Email questions to answerline@news-journal.com , leave a message at (903) 232-7208 or write to P.O. Box 1792, Longview, TX 75606.