How to Tell If You're Middle Class

December 22nd 2016

Kyle Jaeger

The middle class is often described as the lifeblood of the U.S. economy, but a new analysis of economic trends from the Pew Research Center found that its in decline across the nation.

Obama to extend overtime pay

The report found that middle-income households dropped in nearly 90 percent of the metropolitan areas that Pew analyzed.  Researchers found that, "From 2000 to 2014 the share of adults living in middle-income households fell in 203 of the 229 U.S. metropolitan areas." That decrease "was often substantial," rising by six percent or more in 53 metropolitan areas, and four percent nationally.

The report's findings reflect growing income inequality. The shrinking of the middle class means that more people are falling into one of two extremes: rich or poor. Since the 1970s, lower and middle-class wages have stagnated, but those at the top have seen their net worth grow dramatically. According to the Congressional Budget Office, those in the top one percent saw their incomes grow by 192 percent since 1979, compared to just 41 percent for the shrinking middle class.

Did your household make the middle-class cut? Use this income calculator to find out.

More middle-income households are shifting to either the lower or upper-income bracket, as this chart illustrates.


These trends are making it more difficult for adults to achieve the "American Dream," as ATTN: recently reported. Slow national, economic growth — in terms of gross domestic product — in tandem with less income distribution has created an environment where the chances of earning as much or more than your parents has gradually declined since the 1940s.

"The decline of the middle class is a reflection of rising income inequality in the U.S.," the Pew report concluded. "Generally speaking, middle-class households are more prevalent in metropolitan areas where there is less of a gap between the incomes of households near the top and the bottom ends of the income distribution. Moreover, from 2000 to 2014, the middle-class share decreased more in areas with a greater increase in income inequality."