Pew/USAT Survey: A Lot of Middle-Class Americans are Worried, With Good Reason

“Despite a slowly recovering economy, the proportion of Americans who identify themselves as middle class has dropped sharply in recent years. Today, about as many Americans identify themselves as lower or lower-middle class (40%) as say they are in the middle class (44%),” says a recent from Pew and USA Today.

They have good reason to worry. Previous Pew research found that “adults whose annual household income is two-thirds to double the national median [their working definition of middle class) is the only one that also shrunk in size (during the 2000s). . . .” Pew notes the 2000s were the first time since the end of World War II, mean family incomes declined for Americans in all income tiers, and the middle-income tier took the hardest hit:

“In 2011, this middle-income tier included 51% of all adults; back in 1971, using the same income boundaries, it had included 61%. 2 The hollowing of the middle has been accompanied by a dispersion of the population into the economic tiers both above and below. The upper-income tier rose to 20% of adults in 2011, up from 14% in 1971; the lower-income tier rose to 29%, up from 25%. However, over the same period, only the upper-income tier increased its share in the nation’s household income pie. It now takes in 46%, up from 29% four decades ago. The middle tier now takes in 45%, down from 62% four decades ago. The lower tier takes in 9%, down from 10% four decades ago.”

Later,

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